Instrumental Youthby Kim Lauren / 06.06.2013
Africa Day at the Artscape was marked with the usual pomp and praise for our beloved continent. A celebratory show was put together by Marlene Le Roux, the director of Audience Development and Education. She’s a feisty woman who knows how to get the job done. Hustling and bustling around, shouting at one person and commending another, the final dress rehearsal was arguably more interesting than the show itself. At one point she turned around and remarked quietly, “I thought, ‘let’s have a little concert’ but it’s so much work!” All the backstage drama was forgotten, however, the minute the show began.
The Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the South African Choir combined to make up the base of the performance, with the Khayelitsha Mambazo Choir and the Indigenous Ensemble taking to the stage. Ska/reggae band Trenton and Free Radical performed their hit single “Mr Mandela” towards the end and managed to get a theatre audience jumping, dancing and screaming for more! But although they were entertaining, the real stars of the show were the young choir and orchestra members.
“We recruit the choir from all over South Africa,” Phil Robinson, the choirmaster, explained at rehearsals. They tour the country and hold auditions each year to scout for new talent. About sixty odd teens are chosen to join the choir. They are given scholarships and board in Cape Town while they hone their musical craft during high school. A similar process is used for the orchestra, which is much larger and more diverse than the choir.
Every instrument imaginable was dragged on stage and used for the Africa Day performance. From unique percussions to violas and flutes, all were present to celebrate. The programme was divided into two sections. Single performances by the Khayelitsha Mambazo, the SA Youth Choir and the Indigenous Ensemble took up the first half, with the Youth Orchestra leading the beginning of the second half. All four groups then combined forces to perform well-known songs like Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata, Halala Afrika and Africa Unite.
For all of its unoriginal, typical African flavour, this concert was brilliant because of the hope it held for South Africa’s youth. Seeing so many young faces being raised in the classical music arena is wonderful. It’s hard not to get goose bumps when all that talent is crammed onto one small theatre stage. As Marlene Le Roux says in the glossy programme brochure, “In celebrating Africa Day, we have the opportunity to recognise and honour our unique heritage and rich linguistic history.” But moreover, we have the opportunity to recognise and honour our rich future, and what better way to do so than by developing and showcasing our beloved country’s youth? Let’s hope that we see these gifted adolescents creating a cultural and musical revolution when it’s their turn to lead the country – and perhaps even the continent – to success.
* All images © Kim Lauren