Local voices sing out for Fest


With programmes spanning a wide range of genres, languages and decades, no fewer than three local choirs are presenting shows on the Fringe this year – the biggest ever local choral showing at the National Arts Festival.

Byrdsongs, a 12-strong vocal group named for William Byrd whose Mass for Four Voices was their first public performance during Festival 2017, will perform Gabriel Faure’s Requiem. One of the world’s best-known choral works – especially its Pie Jesu and In Paradisum – it is usually staged with a large choir and big orchestra. This production, however, uses just 11 singers, a string quartet and organ.

Conductor Simon Tibbs says they believe they are offering something new to Festival audiences. “Traditionally there isn’t that much classical music on the Fringe and what there is tends to be more recital-based rather than whole works. We believe there’s a huge appetite for classical music amongst festival goers, with productions on the Main stages selling out quickly, so we thought we’d add some to the Fringe. Faure’s Requiem is an exceptionally beautiful piece and we hope people will love finding this oasis of calm in the middle of the Festival frenzy.”

Saeculum Aureum is an a cappella ensemble of five singers who, last year, created Better Times to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War in November 1918. It takes the audience on a musical journey, evoking in song the people and places affected by the war – not only British and German, but also French and South African. Soprano Jessica Smith says they’re excited to be performing Better Times for a wider public. “We are so lucky to have this Festival take place on our doorstep every year. It’s is a privilege to be able to participate and bring our music to people from all around the country as well as our local audience.”

The Makhanda Kwantu Community Choir recently hit the headlines when, together with two other local choirs, they serenaded President Cyril Ramaphosa on his visit to Makhanda on Freedom Day. The choir was started in 2017 by Kutlwano “Kepa” Kepadisa with the aim of creating an inclusive choir with members from all sectors of Makhanda society. They’re taking the diversity theme into the Festival with their show, Voice Dance: Choral Music from all over the world. The programme includes music from, amongst others, Estonia, Ukraine, USA and SA.  Says Kepadisa, “We aim to take our audiences on a journey filled with the colour and beauty of the different peoples and languages of the world.  But at the same time evoking that sense of commonality that music makes possible.”

Having been silver medallists at the World Choir Games in Tshwane last year, Kwantu are hoping to uses the Festival run to fundraise for their participation in the 2020 Games in Belgium.

All three shows are in the Rhodes Chapel making it a useful venue to stay close to for lovers of this genre music.

Faure Requiem:
Jun 27 – 14:00; Jun 28 -15:30; Jun 29 -16:00; July 1 – 15:00; July 2 -13:00
Better Times: Jun 27 – 16:00; Jun 28 -13:30; Jun 29 -14:00; 30 June – 16:00
Voice Dance: Choral Music from all over the world – July 3 – 6 at 14:00.

Go to www.nationalartsfestival.co.za to book.

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