If there’s someone who knows how to entertain with quality and class, jazz and classical genres, and as many instruments and musicians as he decides to introduce in a particular concert, it’s pianist extraordinaire Charl du Plessis. DIANE DE BEER shares the details:
Entertainer Charl du Plessis, knows how to keep his brand alive and evolving and this time, sparks promise to fly.
His special guest is Dutch violin virtuoso Tim Kliphuis, who will be performing in Du Plessis’s latest duo concert series presented this Spring month with works ranging from baroque and classical favourites to jazz standards.
Their unique crossover style of improvisation, combined with classical training, will ensure a musical experience of the highest level with a colourful blend of styles and personality. Concerts in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Somerset-West, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), George, Sasolburg, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Oudtshoorn are now open for bookings.
Kliphuis is one of the best-known improvising violinists in the world. His award-winning brand of high-octane gypsy jazz and classical mashups has taken him to America, Europe, and Africa. He has shared the stage with Les Paul, Richard Galliano, Frankie Gavin and Daniel Hope.
Classically trained at the Amsterdam Conservatoire, Kliphuis also learned from the Dutch and French gypsies – combining two musical worlds. Highlights include orchestral projects with The Netherlands and Tallinn Chamber orchestras and the symphony orchestras of The Hague, Omsk and Cape Town. Special appearances include Celtic Connections, a performance for the Dutch King and Queen, and a premiere performance of his new Triple Concerto for violin, cello, piano and orchestra in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
He is Professor of Improvisation at the conservatoire of Amsterdam and gives masterclasses at competitions and festivals worldwide. His two books on Gypsy Jazz Violin are Mel Bay best-sellers.
His approach, like that of his fellow musician in this series, breaks through musical boundaries. In recognition of this, he was awarded the Scottish International Jazz Award, a Woordfees trophy and the Polish International jazz prize. As a Sony Classical artist, he released two albums with orchestra: Reflecting the Seasons (2016) and Concertos (2018), which includes his Violin Concerto Ulysses.
Du Plessis, as most of us know, is a Steinway Artist and master of crossover music. His unique style of fusion piano has been heard in performances across the world and he has shared the stage with Chick Corea, Joja Wendt and has been the collaborative pianist for Nataniël for more than two decades.
He was named the youngest pianist in Africa to be named a Steinway Artist and has since embarked on an international career working simultaneously in classical and jazz genres and has illuminated the music from Bach to Billie Joel for a new generation of listeners.
For more information visit charlduplessis.com.
This season is a wonderful opportunity to catch two improv musicians at work. If you know Du Plessis’s performances, you will expect the best. His shows are entertaining, beautifully crafted and always expertly presented with more than enough heart and soul.
From 14 September to 2 October, the ten-city tour will feature music from Bach to Blues:
14 September 18:00 • Etienne Rousseau Theatre, Sasolburg • Click to book 18 September 16:00 • Old Nectar, Stellenbosch • Sold out 23 September 18:00 • Ghenwa’s Culinary Club, Lourensford Estate • Click to book 24 September 11:00 • Baxter Concert Hall, Cape Town • Click to book 25 September 11:00 • Glenshiel, Johannesburg • Click to book 25 September 17:00 • Atterbury Theatre, Pretoria • Click to book 27 September 18:30 • Cape Karoo Emporium, Oudtshoorn • Click to book 28 September 19:30 • Dias Museum, Mossel Bay • Click to book 29 September 19:30 • NMU, Gqeberha • Click to book 2 October 15:00 • NWU School of Music, Potchefstroom • Click to book
The koppies of the Klein Karoo were alive with the sound of the annual Karoo Klassique reaching across a long weekend from the Thursday evening to August 9, Women’s Day, a celebration all its own. DIANE DE BEER wallows in the bliss of it all:
For this festival junkie, it was a first of this specialised music festival and I was excited to experience the jampacked classical music jamboree with a few exclusive book discussions thrown in as a bonus.
Well think for example of one Herzog winner speaking to another? That’s enough to get me salivating … and it didn’t disappoint.
They brilliantly opened proceedings on an elegant note under the amazing guidance of José Dias who not only compiled the programme but also brilliantly accompanied the singers. It was a genius touch to start the festival in Women’s week by shining a light on female voices performing some of the most celebrated arias composed for the female voice.
On a more serious note, Poerpasledam with Handri Loots (flute) and Mareli Stolp (piano) set the tone for the rest of the series. It was my first time with both these performers and the first time I had experienced a solo flautist – ever.
That’s always fun, because you have no idea what to expect. The unexpected for me was not the performances, which were quite sublime, but rather their choice of music. I’m not a classical music specialist, but I have listened to my fair share of classical competitions and concerts and still I was surprised by the collection of composers and their music these two women performed.
The first was a female composer known as Mel Bonis and described as prolific French late-Romantic composer who wrote more than 300 pieces. I was fascinated and loved the music as I did the rest of the programme, which included Francis Poulenc, Arnold van Wyk (who also provided the title of the concert) a Piazolla arranged for flute and piano by local composer Niel van der Watt, as well as Herman Beeftink and Ian Clarke, both still living, whose compositions for flute and piano I was also unfamiliar with.
What made this such an absorbing hour of music was the accessibility. It’s not often the case that unfamiliar music lies so gently on the ear and I quickly understood that I was in for a musical fiesta.
The Gqeberha Trio with David Bester (violin), Jan-Hendrik Harley (viola) and Mariechen Meyer (double bass) also made magic in what I was informed is a most unusual trio. The double bass would more traditionally be a cello (and there were a few at the festival) and finding music for this combination was quite an ask.
For example, for Schubert’s familiar Erlkönig, they had the double bass arrangement added and again, starting with a selection from Bach’s Goldberg Variations and concluding with Handel’s Lascia ch’io Piang, the combination was quite spectacular.
The evening concluded with Megan-Geoffrey Prins (piano) and Peter Martens (cello) performing Schubert, Beethoven and David Popper’s technically challenging Tarantella. This duo worked wonderfully off one another and the audience was left smiling as they moved on to the conclusion of the night ̶ the newly established Maties Jazz Society under the guidance of Ramon Alexander, who had us tapping our feet from start to finish. It was a sassy introduction of yet another musical element to the festival.
Martens featured in two more groups the next day, with a Trio of Trios (including his wife Suzanne (violin) and Karin Gaertner (viola) joining him on the cello in an hour of intriguing music, as well as all three stepping into the joyous Celebration of Youth with Lisa van Wyk (flute), David Cyster (clarinet), and a return of the nimble-fingered Prins on piano.
The combination of exuberance and wisdom worked well and provided an hour of extraordinary music.
This was followed by the evening Baroque to the Future concert with musician-extraordinaire Erik Dippenaar guiding members of the South African National Youth Orchestra together with soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi while also playing the harpsichord.
For the young musicians as well as the audience, it was a learning experience in this wonderful world of baroque music and we are truly blessed to have someone like Dippenaar who seems to have lost his heart to this particular music genre.
The first two concerts on Monday belonged to two excellent duo combinations with Cello Splendour’s Anmari van der Westhuizen (cello) and Nicolene Gibbons (piano) followed by the only pure piano concert with Sulayman Human and John Theodore, each on their own piano, with a selection of perfect afternoon melodies to soothe the soul.
Soprano Lynelle Kenned and soprano Mkhwanazi Hlengiwe going through their notes before the show and then on show.
At the conclusion of the day, a dinner concert, Handel at Home, was presented at one of Oudtshoorn’s many spectacular venues just outside the Karoo town. Again there was the guidance of the jovial Dippenaar on harpsichord, with a second appearance by soprano Mkhwanazi and another regular soprano Lynelle Kenned, as well as musicians Cheryl de Havilland (baroque cello) and Ingo Müller (baroque oboe).
Everything came together for this unusual concert – the setting as well as the performances. It was a glorious conclusion to a truly special few days.
And still, there was a final highlight the following morning with Dippenaar, this time performing on organ in one of the many local churches. I was completely overwhelmed by the rich and diverse organ music, and he also performed a piece of improv, something I had never witnessed on organ before.
And then prolific performer Charl du Plessis drew the curtain with his marvellous performance (slightly altered from the Pretoria version a while back) of the sentimentally driven Songs of my Mother. Heck this https://bit.ly/3P2OWPO
For those attending, we were left with smiles and soul food aplenty. And pleasure because of the intimacy of the festival, the content and the approach, which presents a relaxed atmosphere where the musicians chat in between different performances about the music and the composers before they get down to serious music making. All in all, an affair to remember.
(See story to follow on two remarkable writers talking about their latest work.)
Stef Bos, Karen Zoid and Nataniël bring their individual worlds together in two unique performances ̶ AFRIKAANS IN STYL . Familiar or unfamiliar, established or experimental, almost classical or brand new, the furthest poles are explored. As honest as possible, impossibly rare personal moments, sparkling surprises, gigantic notes and the longest stories. DIANE DE BEER discovers the bare essentials:
Take three diverse artists like Nataniël, Stef Bos and Karen Zoid, put them in a huge arena and anything can happen.
Especially with these three performers completely in control of the show. “It’s about three artists with links,” explains Nataniël, and by now we all know that he will give us the broad strokes, but not the intimate details of this particular show.
Surprises are a big thing because that’s what makes a show, he believes. “We will all be singing our own music,” he elaborates. And then adds that he will be performing one cover, “because both Stef and Karen have had hit songs, I haven’t. I want the audience to at least recognise one song!”
Stripped is how they want to present this arena spectacle. “I see Adele’s show as an example,” he says. They won’t fly any space ships or other gimmicks. “It’s not a musical. We’ll have one black backdrop with the lighting creating the magic.”
It’s the time of the artists, with 80 years of experience accumulated among them. “We all have our own strengths and that’s what we will be showcasing. No dancers, no frills, this isn’t a rugby match!”
He and Stef know one another’s music and Karen, whom he has dubbed the Queen of Social Media, has performed for him on her phone. And in that instance, she went the full extravaganza with musicians and lights, he says approvingly.
Even though ̶ or because ̶ they’re complete opposites, they work well together. She loves chaos and he thrives on lists. “I’m the head girl and she’s the rebel!” They even approach song writing and their music differently. She has a memory while Nataniël learns his self-written songs as though someone else has penned them.
Luckily, they’re also talking marketing because they want this one to fly. Stef and Karen are used to singing in large stadiums, Nataniël not so much. But he loves the challenge, also putting together a 35-minute set that fits into a whole. “I’ve never done that before,” he says. He compares it to three mini-concerts within a concert.
Messing with their heads, it’s all about three artists rather than one. So one artist’s closing number will lead into the opening number of the next performer. “We have to think differently,” but then they always do.
They will also be doing some things together. This is where things get interesting. “I’m in Pretoria, Karen is in New York and Stef is in Belgium,” notes Nataniël. That’s how they’re preparing the show.
Referring to the name Afrikaans in Styl, it has nothing to do with the look -̶ but he can’t resist interjecting that even in that department, he won’t disappoint. Well, we knew that!
He identifies style as original music, theatre on grand scale, acoustic, artists with personal choice, no interval, no walk-abouts, no flashlights, short pants forbidden ̶ and an extravagant pop-up shop in the foyer.
Two unusual choirs will also be performing, with Akustika conducted by Christo Burger in Pretoria and the brand-new Voces Cordis conducted by André van der Merwe in Cape Town.
Focussing on the show, there are two factors that excite him hugely. “We all perform in theatres,” he says, which means that they can draw on that theatrical background, the intimacy of a smaller theatre recreated in a larger space, a connection with the audience.
They will also be establishing theatre rules. “There’s no walking in and out to buy drinks. In fact there’s no drink allowed inside the arena. If someone walks out, I will throw them with my mic!” Those of us familiar with his shows know he’s not joking!
He also loves that no producer is telling them what will work, and what won’t. “There’s no one shouting from the wings while we rehearse,” he adds. (Or telling them that something won’t sell.)
What worries him though is that Pretoria as a city doesn’t easily take to new beginnings. “You have to build everything from scratch,” he says. “I don’t know where our serious audiences have gone. Everything we try to do seems harder. It’s like pulling teeth.”
And as all three have proved in their stellar careers, they do shows that work for them – and then it translates to their audience.
That’s the other thing that will be fascinating – the audience. It will be my first time in this huge arena and I know quite a few fans for whom this will be the first time too. Still, Nataniël, with all his experience and knowledge of his fan base, is nervous. He describes it as the stress of uncertainty. “The five people who like me won’t come because they’re scared of a draft!”
The stage will reference what the show is about – the music. It will be filled with musicians and the solo singers. The musicians will be under the guidance of Charl du Plessis (keyboards), Juan Oosthuizen (guitar), Henry Steel (guitar), Brendan Ross (keyboards and voice), Werner Spies (bass), Rixi Roman (bass), Peter Auret (drums), Marlon Green (drums), and a string orchestra with singers Nicolaas Swart and Dihan Slabbert – as well as a few unexpected performers to complete the extravaganza.
Don’t be fooled by the word Afrikaans in the title either. Already Nataniël has written songs in four different languages – but he has made one concession; his first Afrikaans song in 10 years.
And he remembers, there’s something else that excites him ̶ no master of ceremonies. With those three personalities, who needs that anyway.
They’re also not filming the show. So the singers don’t have to worry about a camera up their nose while singing their most difficult note. “It doesn’t really work when something is staged for theatre, to put it on film.”
If you want to be part of this exciting experiment, you will have to see it live.
And if you’re a fan of any of these artists, you would be mad not to go.
It all began for me with the Charl du Plessis performance for Aardklop Aubade in collaboration with Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool on Mother’s Day titled Songs for my Mother
Not only does he create the imaginative programme for these fantastic Sunday morning classical interludes for Aardklop, but he also performs as soloist or with his trio, Nataniël or another classical performer at these magical hour-long performances once a month.
This time he made it personal as he celebrated Mother’s Day 2022 with a very idiosyncratic and sentimental selection of music which has special meaning to him. His programme was all about the influence of his family’s vinyl record collection which brought back a flood of memories for both the performer and his audience.
And because of his versatility as both classical and jazz pianist, the programme included composers like JS Bach and French chanson superstar Michel Legrand featuring alongside standards by Fats Waller and Chopin.
As always with this extraordinary talent, it was about the selection of music as well as the performance and making it this personal was a stroke of genius.
The other attraction of this monthly series is an introduction of young musical stars from Affies, which has a very strong musical department. This time it was an extraordinary acapella ensemble cleverly named A-minere!’
The next concert is on August 7 with a cello and piano duo, Gerrit Koorsen and Eugene Joubert, who will be performing musical arrangements by three composers from the Romantic period. Tickets at www.ticketpros.co.za
Watch this space for further concerts or check Aardklop Aubade online.
Realising that Pretoria has had a paucity of classical music these past couple of years, musical entrepreneur Du Plessis decided to also introduce a mini festival – Atterbury Klassiek – from July 15 to 17.
It starts on July 15 at 7.30pm with The Scullery Quintet, a new South African classical and contemporary music crossover group that is made up of a rather unusual string quintet. The ensemble features the standard string quartet configuration: first violin, second violin and viola, but the cello role is replaced by double bass, with drum set as the fifth instrument.
This multicultural ensemble was conceived in early 2020 by a group of like-minded musicians who got together to share their varied musical influences and keep their musical abilities alive during the pandemic.
They will be performing arrangements and improvising on compositions by their favourite composers ranging from Vivaldi, Dvorak , Herbie Hancock, and Weather Report to Radiohead, which indicates their repertoire is driven by passion.
On Saturday, July 16 at 3pm follows a piano recital by Gerhard Joubert. He is the 2021 winner of the Atterbury National Piano Competition and will be performing his first full length solo recital in this theatre. He is currently a piano student of well-known pianist and lecturer Francois du Toit and the youngster has won many other competitions including the National Youth Music, Pieter Kooij and Johann Vos music competitions and is completing his BMus degree at the University of Cape Town. The recital will include works by Schubert and Chopin.
Du Plessis and fellow jazz pianist David Cousins will present Double Trouble Jazz Piano on Saturday night at 7pm with favourite jazz standards, Latin classics and music by Handel and JS Bach in new arrangements for four hands and two pianos. Composers include Chick Corea and Milt Jackson and South African Jazz legends Abdullah Ibrahim and Hotep Idris Galeta. Du Plessis is a Steinway Artist and Sama Award-winning recording artist for Claves and Steinway Spirio. Cousins is a Berklee College Boston graduate and teaches jazz piano at Wits. This is their first musical collaboration.
On Sunday at 3pm, t he award-winning violinist and senior lecturer in violin and viola at Nelson Mandela University David Bester again joins forces with leading South African-based guitarist and three-time SAMA nominee James Grace in Paganini to Piazzolla 2.0 for the concluding concert of this classical season.
This follows on a sold-out performances at Woordfees 2020, with Paganini to Piazzolla 2.0 evolving around Máximo Diego Pujol’s Suite Buenos Aires – a four-movement work that sketches a musical picture of life in the South American capital city Piazzolla ultimately called home. Originally composed for flute and guitar, the violin offers a fresh perspective and distinctive sound in this intense and flavourful work.
Following the Aubade concert early in May, impresario Herman van Niekerk joined forces with the Italian Cultural Institute of Pretoria for a fantastic series of concerts starting from his special Sasolburg venue, the Etienne Rousseau Theatre and concluding with a wondrous concert with the spectacular accordionist Pietro Roffi, who joined forces with the marvellous Free State Odeion String Quartet with Samson Diamond, Sharon de Kock, Jeanne-Louise Moolman and Anmari van der Westhuizen.
Van Niekerk has previously also featured this extraordinary instrument with two accordion virtuosi, the Toeac Accordion Duo from The Netherlands, performing at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium.
Many classical followers might have been surprised when hearing of the classical bent of Roffi because we are much more familiar with the accordion in more popular genres of music.
With a special Roffi arrangement of the familiar Vivaldi Four Seasons to include the accordion, the main feature of the performance, it was a fantastic choice because even those who just dabble in classical music will be familiar with it. And that gave one the platform to appreciate just what these musicians were doing with the music with such delicacy and obvious delight.
Also included in the extraordinary performance was Bach’s Minuet and Badinerie from his Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor as well as the much loved Piazollo’s Oblivion and AdiosNonino, and an original composition performed solo to start off this remarkable concert and magnificently introducing the magic still to come.
It was mesmerising and yet another reminder of what we had been missing these past few years. For those who missed it, hold thumbs that this collaboration will be repeated again and again in the future.
If you haven’t yet discovered Van Niekerk’s extraordinary programming in Sasolburg (and sometimes repeated in Johannesburg or/and Pretoria, make a note to follow the Etienne Rousseau Theatre notices.
It is joyous that the classics are back and hopefully some of the above concerts will be supported by the pandemic-driven neglected classical audiences.
Mutant (directed and conceived by Lebogang Rasethaba and Nthato Mokgato) isn’t for the fainthearted. The Festival guide describes it as an intimate portrait of one of South Africa’s most outspoken and controversial artists and the turbulent, dangerous world he lives in.
I’m not in a position to dispute that, but I was gripped from beginning to end by what is described as an exploration of the rapper Isaac Mutant’s roots in the notorious violence-stricken Cape Flats of Cape Town, as well as his current situation.
This is an activist with a voice, articulate and angry yet reasoned when he explains that while he hates white people, he doesn’t want to kill them. “I just want to live or I would be like the evils I’m trying to fight.”
And he is coming from his reality, living in what he describes as “freedom” in a shack on Hangberg with the affluent Hout Bay and the harbour staring him in the face.
“I just want to live and I suppose everyone just wants to live,” he reinforces.
Still living in a country where apartheid determines lives, Isaac was directed by his sister, who saw him struggling with his anger, to turn to music. “Vent your anger into music,” and while many of his peers describe his lyrics as “hitting the nail too hard”, this is someone who is commenting on the life he lives and the one he experiences every day.
With his music he informs, he speaks his mind; and if democracy isn’t there to protect and nourish at least those dreams, what is the struggle for?
As another artist remarks, she doesn’t necessarily agree with what he is saying, but she admires Mutant for speaking his mind. Agreed!
And for those far removed from this world, it is an education, perhaps a harsh one, but in the separated worlds we still live in today, it’s invaluable. Are we just going to push people who are suffering away and hope the problem resolves itself, or do we at least engage and listen and hopefully understand and embrace?
As a representative for farmworkers explains: When one farmer dies, the world takes notice, but the deaths of farmworkers on a weekly basis are ignored. “Whose life is more valuable?” she asks.
And that is what Isaac Mutant is fighting for. He might say things that those of us who are privileged don’t want to hear, but the least we can do is listen.
Or, as the man himself notes: “Let’s not talk, just give it back, give it all back. Everything that was taken away.”
We’re talking about a system which classified people along racial lines. And in those times, this mixed race man was considered black. It’s something he has identified with all his life.
But now, in this new country, he feels he is being shifted along racial lines once again. No longer is he considered black, now he has to identify as coloured.
And these are just some of the issues on the line. And the reason that Mutant has to be watched and Isaac Mutant has to be listened to.
The film is still on a festival run and has recently been submitted to Netflix and Comcast for potential licensing deals.
The next festivals to screen it are: Blackstar Film Festival (USA); Rock This Town (France); and
Musical Ecran (France).
On a very different note yet with many of the same issuesDie Ongetemde Stem takes a hard and uncompromising look at the Afrikaans music industry and the racial imbalances that still persist almost 30 years into our democracy.
Fraser Barry, Jolyn Phillips and Churchil Naudé, all who have been sidelined.
One would think that especially when people have a language in common, inclusion would be a given particularly with our past. I was shocked, for example, to hear that someone like the articulate Churchil Naudé who uses his music to express particular feelings, still feels side-lined.
Even if his music is not going to slot into some sections of Afrikaans music, that’s true of many singers, black and white, or are we still in this new century going to judge on colour? Surely not?
In this new era, rapidly becoming old, everyone writing and performing in a particular language should be embraced. And as the documentary points out, this battle was fought many decades ago by Johannes Kerkorrel and the Gereformeerde Blues Band when they broke through the boundaries of traditional Afrikaans music, which was often translated from European songs and determined by a self-imposed vanguard of elders.
But let Riku Lätti tell the story: “It came to us almost completely by accident while we were busy filming interviews and live performances by a multitude of mostly, but not exclusively, Afrikaans singer-songwriters as Die Wasgoedlyn.
“Die Wasgoedlyn was a project that originated because I realised that the Afrikaans music that I liked and the Afrikaans music that received airtime and public attention could not be further apart. I discovered, partly by virtue of being an Afrikaans music creator myself, connected and known to many other creators of original Afrikaans music, and partly because I started the investigation, that there is a magdom (please let’s submit that word to English dictionaries) decent Afrikaans music that for the lack of a better term could be referred to as Alternatiewe Afrikaans.
“So Alternatiewe Afrikaans becomes a huge category from hard rock, punk, industrial, electronic, to all the way gritty folk and darker country, hip-hop, Goema, Afrikana (think old-school (and thought of as inappropriate by the Afrikaans music police) boeremusiek like Die Briels en Koos Doep). Basically every kind of Afrikaans music that you wouldn’t hear on commercial radio stations. Those are all the styles that I have a personal affinity towards, but never got to hear unless you actually go to the concerts of these musicians and go to see them personally.
Some of the vocal participants in the documentary.
“Many of my favourite Afrikaans artists I set out to go see personally. I asked them if I could record their music with my mobile recording studio sommer at their homes or wherever we had the good fortune to be. I released hundreds of these tunes and you can go listen to them if you search for Wasgoedlyn on youtube or itunes, or spotify. Basically, wherever you listen to music online.
“These recordings by the original artists have a stripped down quality to it, a rawness, a cut- to-the-bone grainy atmosphere, that the environment provides, since these tunes where not recorded in pristine soundproof studios (Go listen to Wasgoedlyn Volume 1 – 3 online you will hear what I mean).”
As David Kramer also reminded us in the documentary (and live as part of the too small audience), Afrikaans was appropriated by the white elite while the origins of the language lay within the brown communities. And again, that was the problem for those who had the power to decide what would be played at the SABC.
Either way, the thing that should in this new millennium be the motivator, is the riches that the different communities bring to the language. We are a country that should be embracing all our artists because our diversity adds to the richness that will then emerge on our stages, in our literature, in our music and on our canvasses or in our sculptures.
We have tried separating and proved that it doesn’t bring solace to any particular group. It is our diversity that brings strength as this documentary shows so magnificently! And even the recent Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees again showed how the diversity on the stages added to the stories and songs that enveloped and enchanted audiences.
And that is what Die Ongetemde Stem celebrates.
It will be shown at a South African, Australian, New Zealand film festival in May in Melbourne but also online at:
What joy to attend the first of the arts festivals with the re-opening of the annual Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) on 29 March 2022. The programme was fantastic in spite of short notice with the pandemic holding everyone to ransom and artists and audiences alike seemed to trip the light fantastic in what felt like new-found freedom. DIANE DE BEER reviews her best of the best ̶ because of course, there was more…
PICTURES: HANS VAN DER VEEN
It was when watching the magnificent Karatara that I truly realised the impact of the past couple of years without live theatre.
Personally, live theatre is where the emotional impact of a performance can truly take me to another place – and that’s magical. Karatara is one of those, a production of the KKNK.
It is all about the feeling and the way the story about the catastrophic fire in Knysna in 2018 is told. In this instance, artist Wilken Calitz came up with the concept and handed that to actor/director Gideon Lombard. They have a strong working relationship, and it shows.
It’s the choice of performers (dancers Shaun Oelf and Grant Van Ster and actor Dean Balie, all who show their versatility brilliantly), the soundscape put together by Lombard that envelops and tosses you this way and that, and the combination of the powerful choreography, text and lighting.
The devastation of a fire that completely destroyed communities had huge impact at the time – and then disappeared like lightning from the consciousness. Not only does the piece play critically with the way the powerful manipulate the limitations of the powerless, but it also reaches back into the past to tell a very particular tale about the grotesque greed that determined and devastated the lives of others, and which still has consequences today – as was so damagingly laid bare by this particular catastrophe.
As we have come to expect, director Marthinus Basson produced two very different plays, both with extraordinary theatrical reach. Terminaal 3 would have played at the cancelled 2020 KKNK and was revived with Basson introducing us to the Swedish playwright Lars Noren.
It’s the originality of the piece that delivers the knockout blow. It takes a while to get to the crux of what is happening in this particular waiting room with two couples, one young (Carla Smith and Edwin van der Walt) and waiting to deliver their first baby, the other older (Anna-Mart van der Merwe and Stian Bam) waiting to confirm that it’s their son who has died.
The couples don’t interact, but their stories hauntingly reflect and bounce off one another. The puzzle is revealed as the four individuals all seem to be fighting for their particular lives – not in unison but uniquely alone.
Again it is the way the story is told and played with remarkable aplomb, the discomfort of the viewer as specific dilemmas are discussed and discarded, and the almost clinical way in which life and death are juggled. It’s the way we think we can plan our lives, the curve balls that have to be manoeuvred and manipulated, and in particular how both writer and director scramble our thought processes.
And then there’s the homage to Pieter Fourie, a founding member of the KKNK with Ek, Anna van Wyk. This is Basson’s second time round with this play and as someone who celebrates the courage that Fourie displayed with his writing, which first appeared in the darkest days of apartheid, he also acknowledges the durability of the work, which is as relevant today as it was then.
A fearless Tinarie van Wyk Loots plays the title character surrounded by a fantastic cast starting with Carlo Daniels, Dawid Minnaar, Geon Nel, Wilhelm van der Walt, Gideon Lombard, René Cloete and Albert Pretorius as the interrogator.
Patriarchy is being explored and exposed, something that hasn’t shifted all that much since the play was written – and not because many of us haven’t tried. In this instance, Anna has no choice – and we can point to many examples in our daily lives that show similar patterns.
It happens to be the horror of the Afrikaner male in this instance, but we all know this is a universal issue and many of the ills in today’s world are the result of those previously all-powerful men refusing to let go – and whom the world enables … still.
The emotional breadth of Tinarie van Wyk Loots.
It’s a magnificent production from the Basson vision, the performances led by a heart-wrenching display by Van Wyk Loots and valiantly supported by the rest of the cast. I could watch it on a loop … over and over again.
As she always does, Antoinette Kellermann enchanted with Antjie Krog’s engaging poetry in die oerkluts kwyt. Compiled and directed by Frieda van den Heever who previously had such success with Die Poet, Wie’s Hy?, and again showed her delightful sensibility and approach, which seems to hold everyone on stage as well as the content in the most delicate balance.
Kellerman and Krog both celebrate their threescore years and ten in 2022 and this is not their first coming together on stage. Krog has translated a couple of texts with Kellermann in the lead, Koningin Lear being the last. But these are truly her own thoughts and words as she describes a life lived in a topsy-turvy world. She is a woman from this harsh but fabulous continent and she speaks her mind, yet often in jest even when speaking hard truths.
Kellermann shifts all the theatrics aside as she engages with the text in almost conversational tone. She allows the words to drive the performance with Krog’s poetry taking centre stage.
With what is fast becoming her trademark ingenuity, Van den Heever added a musical element and one that magnificently enhanced rather than detracted. Ancient Voices, consisting of the duo Lungiswa Plaatjies and Nimapostile Nyiki, was one of my discoveries of the Festival. They also participated in the experimental Lucky Pakkie (Lucky Packet) with music and instruments that are from Africa, and with content that is performed in a way where meaning is self-explanatory.
But also their presentation and personalities are reflected in their performance and colourful presence.
On the art side, curator Dineke van der Walt has become hot property for the festivals and it is easy to see why. She has a contemporary touch and is innovative with her presentations, which offer a wide range of art often unfamiliar even to those of us who try to keep in touch.
Two installations by the towering Mary Sibande as the Festival Artist set the bar high, but exhibitions like that of Karin Preller’s Beyond Memory (in which she uses family movies and portraits as her starting point), the fabulous use of fabric in the Van der Walt curated Rich in Fibre and Nkensani Rihlampfu’s magnificent display of An Orchestrated Reality (with ropes made from canvases) all held their own.
It also proved Van der Walt’s majestically illustrated point that art can emerge in many different ways and mediums – quite extraordinary.
Though very different in style and performance, Nataniël and Emo Adams both soared in their professional approach not often achievable when presenting musical shows on this grand scale at festivals.
Stories and songs combined powerfully in the fabulously sparkling showman’s Prima Donna, the KKNK’s celebratory opening production showcasing Nataniël’s wit often laced with wisdom and some of his favourite songs with his original arrangements.
The Adams onslaught comes in silky-smooth style with music through the ages as he captures and gently spoofs musical favourites in cunning combinations to capture a real South African flavour – with a huge wink at everyone.
Both of these acts – pure class!
And staying with stylish voices, if you ever spot the name Sima Mashazi on a musical programme, catch this woman with the spectacular voice. She brings emotional depth to music sung in a local language you might not understand but the feelings tell it all.
I haven’t even touched on the hugely successful Lucky Pakkies which was an extension of the previously popular Uitkampteater. In similar fashion, these short experimental plays gave especially young artists the chance to play and audiences the opportunity to fast-track if they wanted to see a selection in different variations. It can easily be extended for a few years.
And watch this space in the not too distant future for more on Karoo Kaarte, which is a fascinating exploration of Oudtshoorn and its people … one that could and should be replicated around the country.
Here are this year’s nominees for the Kanna Awards which will :
Best debut production (music or theatre)
Die halwe huis
Ek, Anna van Wyk
Best theatre production
Ek, Anna van Wyk
Op hierie dag
Best music production
Emo Adams and Take Note
Nataniël: PRIMA DONNA
Anna Davel: 21
Best contribution to the visual arts
Karin Preller for the exhibition Beyond Memory
Dineke van der Walt as curator of Rich in Fibre
The artist Nkensani Rihlampfu for the exhibition An Orchestrated Reality
Slurpie Prize: best upcoming artist
Janion Kennedy for his performance in Op hierie dag
Marinda Ntantiso for her performance in Op hierie dag
Conradie van Heerden for his performance in the short-piece Om skoon te wees
Adriaan Havenga for his performance and text in the short-piece Om skoon te wees
Antoinette Kellermann for die oerkluts kwyt
Tinarie van Wyk Loots for Ek, Anna van Wyk
Carla Smith for Terminaal 3
Anna-Mart van der Merwe for Terminaal 3
Marlo Minnaar for Die halwe huis
Wessel Pretorius for Kiss of the Spiderwoman
Stian Bam for Terminaal 3
Edwin van der Walt for Terminaal 3
Best supporting actor
Carlo Daniels for Ek, Anna van Wyk
Wilhelm van der Walt for Ek, Anna van Wyk
Geon Nel for Ek,Anna van Wyk
Albert Pretorius for Ek, Anna van Wyk
Best supporting actress
The Ancient Voices: Nomapostile Nyiti and Lungiswa Plaatjies for die oerkluts kwyt
René Cloete for Ek, Anna van Wyk
Marinda Ntantiso for Op hierie dag
Neil Coppen and Tiffany Saterdaght for Op hierie dag
Marthinus Basson for Ek, Anna van Wyk
Gideon Lombard for Karatara
Marthinus Basson for Terminaal 3
Best theatre design
Op hierie dag – Zietske Zaaiman, supported by the company
Ek, Anna van Wyk – Marthinus Basson
Karatara – soundtrack and design by Gideon Lombard
Excellent literary contribution
Frieda van den Heever for adaptation of die oerkluts kwyt from the work of Antjie Krog
Ricardo Arendse for the newly written text Die halwe huis
Tiffany Saterdaght and Neil Coppen, with contributions from Janion Kennedy, Hannes Visser, Theo Witbooi and Danny B, for the text of Op hierie dag
With Covid-19 still a part of our lives, the uncertainty of live events is constantly hovering. Will it or won’t it? That’s the question on everyone’s mind as each event or festival comes into play. And while dates have to be juggled and last-minute plans put into play, this year’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees has come up with an exceptional programme in any circumstances – but especially now. DIANE DE BEER spotlights some highlights of this year’s KKNK which starts at the end of the month:
I can still remember hearing the news about the first Covid-19 lockdown at the 2020 Woordfees and while all of us were devastated and slightly bewildered, none of us realised quite the impact it would have on our lives – and the arts.
This was to be our last arts festival in a couple of years and the effect of that on the lives of artists who need live audiences has been disastrous.
There have been brilliant innovations in the intervening years and the word hybrid will fortunately become part of the festival landscape to broaden their audiences as well as capturing theatre on film for those who cannot attend a festival but would love to see productions.
And yet, nothing will compare with the real thing, which is why the announcement that 2022’s Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) will be happening from 29 March to 3 April was received with such joy.
Not only are they back, but the programme is something to cherish, especially in these haphazard times where everything has to happen almost on the trot. But as they suggest in their big reveal, “even in its slightly smaller format, the festival acts as a fuse for the explosion of productions and experiences to be presented by heavyweights in the South African arts industry!”
“This year’s festival is truly overflowing with exceptional programming in celebration of the KKNK’s return to Oudtshoorn, while retaining the quality that makes festivalgoers get in their cars and drive to Oudtshoorn annually,” says Hugo Theart, Artistic Director of the KKNK.
He isn’t just boasting – two of my personal favourites, Nataniël and director Marthinus Basson, are leading the way with their productions.
Nataniël’s Prima Donna, a debut show, will be opening the festival on Monday evening (March 28) and part of the excitement of the production is that he will sing a bunch of his favourite covers, all of which he has arranged himself. Add to that a collection of his fantastical tales, and those attending will be starting their festival with a bang.
Basson will be presenting two plays, Ek, Anna van Wyk, in memory of, and to honour Pieter Fourie (the first CEO of the KKNK), who recently passed away, starring Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Dawid Minnaar, Albert Pretorius, Carlo Daniels, Wilhelm van der Walt, Geon Nel, Gideon Lombard and René Cloete, and internationally acclaimed playwright Lars Norén’s Terminaal 3 with Anna-Mart van der Merwe, André Roothman, Edwin van der Walt, Carla Smith and Stian Bam. Both will delight festival connoisseurs.
Three iconic female artists further enhance the star line-up with the internationally acclaimed Mary Sibande this year’s Festival Artist and the double celebration of Antoinette Kellermann and Antjie Krog’s 70th birthdays in 2022 with Kellermann creating magic in the words of Krog in die oerkluts kwyt.
Other new scripts at the festival include Die halwe huis, a one-man show written by Oudtshoorn resident Ricardo Arendse, with another Klein Karoo local, Marlo Minnaar, in the lead, with Lee-Ann van Rooi as director; the promising Agulhasvlakte by young playwright Herschelle Benjamin with Kanya Viljoen as director and Wilhelm van der Walt, René Cloete and Kay Smith on stage; while another Oudtshoorn production Op hierie dag forms part of the KKNK Karoo Kaarte project, which will be the heart of the festival this year, showcasing Oudtshoorn residents’ various talents. Theatre couple Lida Botha and Johan Botha, who have relocated to this region, will be directed by the exciting playwright/director Neil Coppen and visual arts curator and facilitator Vaughn Sadie.
Nêrens Noord-Kaap, following its success on television, returns with Geon Nel, Albert Pretorius, and De Klerk Oelofse; while the Sylvaine Strike production Kiss of the Spiderwoman featuring Wessel Pretorius and Mbulelo Grootboom; Spertyd honouring deceased Elsa Joubert, with the phenomenal Sandra Prinsloo in the lead and the return of Oscar en die pienk tannie, directed by Lara Bye, complete a very strong line-up.
Looking for something unusual, dance enthusiasts can book for Karatara with dance group Figure of 8 – the 2020 KKNK Young Voice Prize recipient, who joins forces with Dean Balie and director Gideon Lombard.
If you’re in the mood for something light, comedies include Transpirant with Bennie Fourie and Schalk Bezuidenhout – who can also be seen in Schalk sing sleg; motormouth Marc Lottering in his stand-up comedy show Uncle Marc; Adriaan Alfred in Adriaan Alfred Live; Lizz Meiring in her solo show Kameras,konserte en kleedkamers; Marion Holm returns with Holmruggery; while Koos Kombuis, Dana Snyman and Erns Grundling, as well as Pietman Geldenhuys and Lyntjie Jaars from the Oppiestoep TV series, entertain audiences with their storytelling ingenuity.
Making music, David Kramer Vanaand, a solo show for Kramer, and Amanda Strydom with Nostalgie are the two evergreen performers who have performed at every KKNK.
Kombuis, Dana Snyman and Erns Grundling, as well as Pietman Geldenhuys and Lyntjie Jaars from the Oppiestoep TV series, entertain audiences with their storytelling originality.
Coenie de Villilers and André Schwartz, both on piano, team up for a celebration of their work. Karen Zoid followers will be thrilled that she performs in an acoustic and more intimate show, and Emo Adams and Take Note bring the flavour of Cape Town entertainment to the Klein Karoo.
Six of the country’s well-known guitarists will be together on one stage in Kitaarkonings, with the gentle muso Louis Mhlanga playing in Afrika Blues.
Another highlight is The Music of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber with Lynelle Kenned, André Schwartz and the Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra presented on the Celebratio pomegranate farm outside Oudtshoorn, where Spoegwolf 10 Jaar also takes place. Other contemporary shows include Elvis Blue, Luna Paige, Rocco de Villiers, and Anna Davel.
For classical music enthusiasts a special recital of Beethoven and Beyond with the well-known American pianist Gustavo Romero is included on the programme.
Those familiar with the “out of the box” theatre concept will know that this is something to watch. This time it is called Lucky Pakkie Theatre, which means you will be going for a lucky packet stage version of the popular musical chairs game… Be ready for loads of fun. Three Lucky Pakkie packages will cater for all ages, from younger viewers (Melkbaarde) to older viewers (Sagtebaarde), and adult viewers (Hardebaarde). Each mystery round of entertainment will last 15 minutes.
Last but not least is the Visual Arts programme, curated by the innovative Dineke van der Walt, which for example includes the colourful Mapula creations, all of which can be viewed in the familiar Prince Vincent building.
The festival has honoured individuals in the industry since its inception, and this year’s four exceptional people include playwright Jolyn Phillips receiving the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for a Young Voice (she can be seen in the debut production Bientang); Nic Barrow, one of the founders of the KKNK and the individual who planted the seed for a festival in Oudtshoorn, is honoured for his contribution to the KKNK; and the ever-popular and exceptional Frank Opperman (to be seen in Ek Wens, ek wens) who is awarded the Kunste Onbeperk Prize for Interpretation.
Interested festivalgoers can get more information by subscribing to the KKNK newsletter, following the KKNK on social media, or visiting www.kknk.co.za. Feel free to contact the festival office on 044 203 8600 or send a WhatsApp message to 065 285 2337.
The KKNK will follow a vaccination mandate, but terms and conditions for exclusions apply. More information is available at www.kknk.co.za.
THE fun of a Nataniël interview is always the unexpected. DIANE DE BEER shares some of the fairy dust he always has in his pocket:
Being the journalist, one would expect that I would come up with some surprises when doing yet another interview, especially as we have had to do so many through the years.
But Nataniël is so entertaining – whether on stage in a packed hall or with an audience of one – it never occurs to me.
Of course, I always forget about the masses of creativity coursing through his veins, and his ability to turn anything into a moment of magic – both for himself and those he has to entertain.
So this time, when discussing the time and place to chat about his latest show, he suggested we dress up and meet in one of his wardrobes where he stores only a fraction of his costumes and accessories from decades gone by.
It’s an apartment now packed with Nataniël costumes and other valuable mementoes from his unimaginably busy life.
Always in the mood for play, I selected one of my brightest outfits, sent through the colour scheme so that he could clash or subtly enhance the picture we were planning to produce from this working meeting – not party mind you, even if you see tea and cakes!
It’s a new time for an artist who has been producing his life on and off stage, mostly very publicly but with a private side that is fiercely guarded.
As for many around the globe, his world was flung into orbit with the pandemic and everything that came tumbling down around our well-ordered lives.
Especially as he marches to what many might see as the latter stages of his career, there had to be a quick turnaround to adjust expectations and to reset future plans from those that had become improbable.
Re-ordering and remaking his world started with scaling down, which meant, amongst other things, cleaning up both his personal space and, as is his wont, also the greater planet out there.
Nataniël has been stripping his life for quite some time, but now there is an urgency which doesn’t allow for single-purpose plastic̶ – ̶̶ or over-used costumes for that matter.
Repurpose and recycle is what drives him today and as far as he goes, he spreads the message. None of his disciples would dare venture on a shopping trip without their personal shopping bags and everyone who watches his lifestyle programmes on kykNET will be aware that this is someone who as much as he loves food, has also trained his body and mind into a healthy way of being – to his and the planet’s benefit.
With his costumes sorted for the moment, in a place that allows for all the right conditions, he visits this apartment high up (“so that no insects can get to them”) making new plans. For the future, he dreams about a fashion museum and a setup that allows for art installations.
“We don’t have a culture that cares for the past,” he muses, but what he wants to display is the artistry of true technicians trained in fields that are hardly nurtured anymore and might disappear in the future.
And when I start looking through the costumes, most of them still trigger memories of past shows. At the same time, their details are overwhelming and were rarely seen from the auditorium. And still, not a sequin or button was left out because it was all part of the bigger picture.
For Nataniël it is about the inspirational, the way he has been dressed by designers as kings, disciples and prophets for example, always in period in a manner that isn’t visible in today’s world.
Some of these costumes can be reshaped and modelled into something different and new because, as someone who in the past was passionate about shopping, discovering new delights (usually to dish out to friends), what kept him enthralled was the creativity and novelty that he could find in many unique and treasured Aladdin’s Caves.
This type of lifestyle was anathema to the Covid era and Nataniël, true to type, also shifted in his head and discovered his own way of dressing his world. Once he started scratching around and asking his designer (for example) what he had been doing with all the left-over fabric of past seasons and found they were all carefully stored, he discovered endless drawers and rooms in his own house filled with every type of fabric and accessory he could hope for.
He was also driven by the lack of travel, as well as the fact that distribution hassles meant the sudden halt of novelty items. He knew he would simply have to create his own and he could do this in a sustainable way. No more buying needlessly. The motto driving him is to use imagination and innovation, something which has always been his loadstar.
His latest stage creation, LOVESICK TIM, will be presented at Pretoria’s ATTERBURY THEATRE from 11 to 14 February 2022. Four nights only, ending on Valentine’s Day and sadly it has already been booked out. (But check the latest dates still available below).
And because he is guided not by the obvious, the name of the show was determined by his passion for the word “lovesick”. “I have always had problems with love songs because the lyrics are so awful!” but with lovesick, he thought it would allow him a certain latitude. “I will feature love songs from the earliest of times to the very latest of trends, the jazz of the 40s, the crooners of the 50s, the freedom of the 60s, the heartbreak of the 70s and the never-ending evolution of love and chaos in pop culture,” he says.
He searched for songs containing the much-loved word, but also wrote a love song himself and discovered some music that boasts a narrative rather than a repetition of silly love lyrics.
As always ,the stories will steal the thunder because Nataniël has a way of meandering in magic and melancholy which few others can achieve.
He will be accompanied by Charl du Plessis (piano), Werner Spies (bass) and Peter Auret (drums).
Costumes are by Floris Louw, with the added flourish that they will be ‘green’, repurposed and recharged from carefully stored fabrics and vintage collections. They have been declared a feast for the eye, but made with a reworked responsibility.
It’s time to make music in the capital city says the CEO of Aardklop, Alexa Strachan, as she gathers a coterie of classical contributors to lead the charge. DIANE DE BEER reports:
Following a critical call from Nataniël about a crisis in Pretoria’s classical music world because of the closure of yet another venue, CEO of Aardklop Alexa Strachan knew she would have to take action.
With designated classical venues diminishing in the city and classical musicians finding less and less opportunity to perform, it was time to act.
“I know that our audiences hail mostly from Pretoria and Joburg and the Jacaranda city has always had a strong classical music following. It suddenly felt as if we were being presented with an opportunity in what have been tough times for especially performers and festivals,” she notes.
There aren’t many venues with grand pianos and that was the first priority, with funding also a head scratcher. “But I was willing to take the risk with the first show,” even before she had all her ducks in a row. She turned to classical musician Charl du Plessis and together they approached Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool with the hope of finding a new home for the birth of their new brainchild, Aardklop Aubade (morning love song) – which they duly did with great success.
Their aim is to present monthly Sunday morning concerts in Pretoria at a venue that is both familiar and easy to access. With their youth drama projects, Aardklop has forged a relationship with the school and it wasn’t too much of a stretch for them to step in as partners with Radio Sonder Grense (RSG), a media partner.
What appealed to Strachan was that music is an universal language which also broadens their base which is a bonus in tough times. “It’s always better to have more than one basket,” she points out.
For Aardklop, as for many others, 2020 has been a year of dread and disappointment which has forced them to take a long view but even more specifically, to think creatively – something that’s part of being an artist.
Their first show will be presented on December 13 in the AHS Potgietersaal at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool at 11am. “I wanted to end the year on a more optimistic note,” says Strachan.
With Du Plessis her classical contact and compiler for the future, she wanted him to be part of the first concert and they decided on Carols and Chords with Du Plessis on piano, Lizelle le Roux on violin and Ockie Vermeulen on organ. The focus is on specially arranged Christmas music of the past 300 years from Silent Night to Bethlehem Ster and Somerkersfees and many more.
Accompanist to Nataniël, Du Plessis is a solo artist in his own right as a classical pianist who also performs regularly with his own jazz group, the Charl du Plessis Trio. Vermeulen, who is currently the university organist for Unisa as well as the organist at the Pretoria East Ned Geref Church while Le Roux is a lecturer in Law at the University of Pretoria and also launched her first solo CD last year which earned her a Ghoema for best solo instrumental album. It’s a formidable combo stepping out for this debut concert.
They will also be joined by an Affie saxophone player, Rohan Grobbelaar (gr 10) who will perform Jean Baptiste Singelée’s Concertino, accompanied by Dr Jannie le Roux on piano.
“We’re hoping music fans will make a morning of it because snacks and wine will be available with seating in the shade before or after the 60 minute show,” says Strachan who believes these first steps will herald small new beginnings.
Du Plessis is thrilled with this new venture, excited about the future and the planning of a series of classical concerts.
“It’s also exciting to discover and explore a new space with an already established tradition. Acoustically it is sound and a beautiful auditorium,” he elaborates.
And Strachan loves the expanded gallery which guarantees good viewing as well as listening.
They hope that this will be viewed as a gift for classical music lovers.
Because he works fanatically on so many different levels, it’s surprising to hear musician Charl du Plessis say that his jazz trio hasn’t released a CD for two years. He is someone who fast-tracks everything.
But this one wouldn’t have happened at this time either if they hadn’t been approached to record with Swiss speaker company as part of their Stenheim Acoustic Sessions which give artists the chance to record original tracks in unusual places and in exceptional acoustic conditions. “We were fortunate to record this project with their world-class acoustic treatment to ensure the most organic and powerful listening experience,” explains Charl about the sessions recorded at the Espace Consonance in Saxon, Switzerland.
These days with music recordings so problematic, no one is going to disregard this kind of invitation, but what really excited the trio was the quality inherent in the full process. Stenheim’s quality products are the guarantee of a superb recording in a state-of-the-art studio.
This is the first recording by the Charl Du Plessis Trio in its new format, following the departure of the former drummer for China. Peter Auret, one of Gauteng’s most sought-after jazz drummers, joins original members Charl on piano and Werner Spies on bass.
“It’s been invigorating,” says Charl, who with this album wanted to include tracks that share their respect for the original score which has always been their strong suit – a crossover between jazz and the classics, with Charl a master in both genres.
And he emphasises that with Peter joining their team, imaginative moves have been flourishing. One needs change every once in a while and when it is as positively organic as this one was, it can also be hugely beneficial. “We all work together extremely well,” adds Charl.
It also helps that Peter is an award-winning recording engineer and producer with his own studio while Werner adds techno buff to his skills. Charl, always someone who keeps adding yet another string to his bow (see Episode 2 of Toegang on kykNET), also recently added piano tuner to his repertoire. “One often battles to find someone at specific times,” he says and as the owner of two Steinways (being a Steinway musician), he can now do his own when required.
They say you have to know the rules before you can bend and break them. That truly applies here and you will hear that immediately as you start listening to their music which seems to have taken on a world in trouble while offering an easy escape – for just a while.
Their music reflects their passion. These are musicians who travel the world with their special brand of music, something that translates well and appeals to both jazz and classical audiences – and that isn’t always a given. Think of the way classical or jazz music has sometimes been dumbed down for a more general audience. This is not that.
It’s about combining and infusing all their multiple influences but in a way that is smart, honours the original music and delivers a sound that is both fresh and refreshing. Included in the lineup, which should have you smiling, is Mozart’s Magic Flute, Beethoven’s Für Elise, Ode to Joy and the Adagio cantabile from Sonata Pathetique, Bizet’s Seguidilla from Carmen, Verdi’s Va Pensiero from Nabucco and to conclude, John Lennon’s Imagine!
They’ve been at it for 12 years and in that time while not stagnating, they know what works and how to keep it challenging. They wouldn’t have had this recording if that weren’t the case. This is a difficult area to make your name – and a living. You have to deliver for it to work and they do.
They have won major music awards including a Fiësta, two SAMA awards and a Ghoema for Best Instrumental Album. They frequently perform in Europe and Asia as well as at major music festivals in South Africa. Highlights include Grachtenfestival – the Netherlands, Musikdorf Ernen – Switzerland, and Standard Bank Joy of Jazz – Johannesburg as well as most recently digitally as part of the National Arts Festival platform.
This launch of their new album Imagine will be held at the Atterbury Theatre in Pretoria on November 1 at 3pm. Tickets can be booked at iTickets. It’s all about familiar music with “daring textures, exciting rhythms and lush harmonic landscapes” which come together in their unconventional arrangements.
And if you’ve never attended one of their shows, this is an ideal time to sit back (in controlled circumstances) with music that will be a balm for your soul.
The trio is constantly evolving in their quest to explore uncharted musical terrains in an imaginative manner and, like the title suggests, this is not borrowing from the extraordinary John Lennon but rather paying homage.
That’s the kind of music they make and I easily recommend. For those who cannot attend the concert (and I predict there will be more around the country as things start opening up in the new year), get the album. It’s one to cherish.