DIANE DE BEER
The electric Miagi Orchestra with their primary partner the German Embassy in Pretoria is hosting a Gala Concert on November 30 at 8pm in the ZK Matthews Hall, Unisa, Pretoria continuing their celebrations of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela which was part of an earlier European tour. They hope to emulate their international successes and awards locally.
Participating in the event with the orchestra is Just 6 African vocal a cappella ensemble, musician/composer/conductor and Miagi veteran Tshepo Tsotetsi as well as clarinettist Visser Liebenberg and pianist Roelof Temmingh. The conductor is young American Daniel Spaw who was named First Kapellmeister and Associate Music Director at Theater Hof (Germany) in 2017 following a successful period as Kapellmeister at the Landestheater Linz in Austria. The Nashvillian has degrees in both piano and conducting from Indiana University (Bloomington).
Apart from his young age, his truly impressive experience as conductor of opera and musicals, he has worked with orchestras such as the Hofer Symphoniker, the Bruckner Orchester Linz, the National Youth Orchestra of Germany, the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, the Rheinische Philharmonie and the Russian Chamber Philharmonic St. Petersburg.
The programme includes compositions by Beethoven, Just 6 African a cappella vocal ensemble, Tshepo Tsotetsi, Leonard Bernstein, and in conclusion, Improvisations by the ‘MIAGIcians.
Visser who has been a member of the Miagi Orchestra for the past five years and joined them for this, his second international Miagi tour, is a freelance clarinetist, who performs as a soloist, chamber musician, and an ad-hoc clarinet player for KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Temmingh, with similar credentials and viewed as one of our exciting young prospects, will join him for the the final exhilarating Riffs, in Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs
Just 6 has toured internationally together with the Miagi Orchestra in 2016 and 2018 and became popular with the larger South African public as finalists in 2017 in SA’s got Talent. They have their roots in gospel music and call their sound Afro-cal Play (African Vocal Play), a mixture of African indigenous sounds as well as smooth harmonies. They have a readymade reputation winning a best a capella award at the Crown Gospel Music Awards, a best a capella album at the Independent National Gospel Music Awards, and best religious song and album at the 2014 Contemporary A Capella Recording Awards. Two of the original members left the group but they have managed to secure two new members to allow them to continue with their Afro-cal-play.
Tsotetsi is both part of the orchestra and has conducted them often with his own compositions. Together with Austrian Jazz composer, trombonist and pianist Christian Muthspiel, he composed Out of South Africa – Symphonic Suite on Themes by Tshepo Tsotetsi which was featured in earlier concerts. He is also the founder of the “New Skool’ movement, the name that also describes his style of music which will be performed on the night. Following the Miagi ethos, it is a mix of different genres with jazz and African sounds dominant.
Over the past 18 years Miagi has developed its brand around the uniting of music genres; Western classical, jazz and ancient indigenous/traditional (African classical) and the many vibrant urban South African music styles that developed from the last century until today.
“In this process, we developed our very fine youth orchestra, Miagi Youth Orchestra playing music representing all the above-mentioned genres with eclectic results,” says executive director Robert Brooks.
During their Mandela-driven July/August European tour where, as is customary, they packed the concert halls from Hamburg to Brussels, Amsterdam to Berlin and wowed their audiences, they also. added to their international accolades. At a festive award ceremony on August 3 at the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Miagi Orchestra was awarded the prestigious Yoeurope-award (Your Europe) of the European Cultural Foundation PRO EUROPA.
The recommended motivation was that both the organisation and its young musicians stand for inspiring support of the necessary dialogue between people of different cultures, colour and religions as well as between Africa and Europe. Previous recipients included Daniel Barenboim, Placido Domingo, Mary Robinson and Mikhail Gorbachev.
I was fortunate to witness this orchestra in Berlin a few years ago and with the critical Berlin audience completely under their spell, Miagi managed to lead them all out onto the city square in front of the impressive Konzerthaus where they joined the musicians in song. It was breathtaking as this group of young South Africans held the Berlin public in the palm of their hands.
Described as the orchestra ‘with a difference’ because of their diverse backgrounds, but also playing with a youthful exuberance that is infectious and inspiring, they are the kind of ambassadors our late President would have endorsed wholeheartedly.
Inexplicably, the Miagi Orchestra have grown their reputation internationally much more successfully than back home. The reasons aren’t clear because their local performances not well attended are magical and capture the spirit of what this diverse orchestra is all about. Their musical talent and expertise are all on display and they always bring more than the music. It is their presence, their obvious joy in performance and the way they present the music which all indicates their contemporary edge which engages audiences of all ages.
The Miagi management team under the leadership of Brooks and creative manager Ingrid Hedlund are driven by a mission that states that they want to unite the power of classical, indigenous and jazz and in this way offer a key to positive social development and to deep understanding among people across all borders.
As their name Miagi so majestically flaunts, music is a great investment – not only in money but also in time.
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