When Ballet Meets Jazz

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Ballet lovers are constantly being told that ballet is an aging Eurocentric art form with little relevance to general South African audiences.

In contrast jazz music is recognised as an art form which spans the many gaps between South Africans, black and white, rich and poor, older and younger, as long as their tastes run to the sophistication of jazz.

Well, now Dirk Badenhorst of Mzansi Ballet and Aymeric Peguillan from The Orbit (jazz club in Braamfontein), bring audiences of both ballet and jazz an exciting collaboration in which the classical ballet and contemporary dancers perform works together with a sextet of jazz musicians directed by pianist Andre Peterson.

The unfamiliar collaboration allows one to “discover the rich heritage of South African jazz and how its unique voice marries exquisitely with dance”, according to Dirk Badenhorst.

The concept first saw the light of day in October 2016 when it premiered at The Orbit, and When Ballet meets Jazz now finds itself on the boards at the Pieter Toerien Main Theatre at Montecasino for four nights only – 24 to 28 October 2018.

Choreographed by John Motebejane Tsunke, Natasha Ireland and Dirk Badenhorst, the music comprises mainly South African and international jazz standards composed by Abdullah Ibrahim, Bheki Mseleku, Alan Silinga, Moses Molekekwa, Andre Pietersen, Pablo Lapidusas, Leo Espinosa, Anthony Newly and Leslie Bricusse.  These are performed by Andre Petersen, Siya Makuzeni, Mthunzi Mvubu, Neville Nhlanhla Radebe, Lwanda Gogwana and Sphelelo Mazibuko. There are some of the more classical pieces as well, just to highlight the versatility of South African artists.

The dancers are drawn from Mzansi Ballet and the Carstens Ireland Ballet Studio and feature Tayla De Bie, Veronica Louw, Michaela Louw, Angela Revie, Nehanda Peguilla, Aaron Smyth and John Motegejane Tsunke. Ballet newbies can look forward to ballet highlights like the famous Cygnets from Swan Lake and Saint Saens’ The Dying Swan.

Booking at Computicket for When Ballet Meets Jazz at the Pieter Toerien Main Theatre, Montecasino, for four nights only – 24 to 28 October 2018.

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The Woman in the Blue Cloak

The latest offering from Deon Meyer is a novella, The Woman in the Blue Cloak.

Set, as usual, in Cape Town, our hero, Captain Benny Griessel, takes on a top-priority murder of an American/English tourist.

The storyline spans the centuries, two continents, and our hard boiled cop’s personal desire to marry.

Filled with suspense and surprises right up until the very end, this book is an excellent “whodunit”.

I read this in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down.  Deon Meyer is always readable and The Woman in the Blue Cloak is no exception.

The Woman in the Blue Cloak

  • Title: The Woman in the Blue Cloak
  • Author: Deon Meyer
  • Date: October 2018
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (Local – JonathanBall Publishers)
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781529309263
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Suffer the Children

Special Assignment “Suffer the Children” Episode Synopsis for 14 October 2018 at 21:00

Special Assignment

Six children have lost their lives as a result of the lack of service delivery to Soshanguve’s informal settlement of Marikana in Pretoria. In spite of this, life seems to be carrying on as usual in South Africa with nobody being held accountable for these senseless deaths.

After years of empty promises to be supplied with basic services including electricity, the community of Marikana is seemingly caught between various arms of the state failing to take responsibility. While Eskom claimed it could not get involved because the area, which is owned by the government, is supplied by the City of Tshwane, the City insists that Eskom is liable.

In what is a ubiquitous problem in South Africa, the people of Marikana in Soshanguve have resorted to illegal electrical connections, making the area an exposed and dangerous tangle of high voltage wires.

While criminals charge community members a lot of money to make illegal connections, at times, at the expense of human life, state institutions like the police and local government are found wanting.

How many more children must lose their lives as a result of this crime?

Watch Suffer the Children broadcast on Special Assignment, Sundays on SABC 3 and the News Channel 404 at 21h30. 

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Celtic musical pleasure

Christine and the Kilts

Christine Weir wearing the Weir tartan sash.

Some friends and I headed out to the Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Sandton to see “Christine and the Kilts” on Friday evening, 20 September, 2018.

The Cape Town based performer, Christine Weir, also known for “Not the Midnight Mass”, a Scot herself, has assembled a cast of musicians for this outstanding production.

Beautifully researched, Christine herself tells most of the Gaelic tales, but she saves one for her son, Matthew Weir on base and vocals, to tell us himself.  Other musicians are Rayelle Goodman on violin, Duncan Robinson on acoustic guitar and Skumbuzo Qamata on percussion, and finally, Leon Oosthuizen on what is billed as a “traditional Celtic accordion” and which provoked much discussion on the way home where a Google Search proved once again, that Christine Weir knows her stuff.

This is toe tapping and hand clapping stuff and the audience is ever eager to participate, not least when a bottle or two of whisky is up for grabs.

There will be some Celtic songs, Irish and Scots, ancient and modern, like the opening song, the words of which are by no other than Robbie Burns himself, or “Over the Sea to Skye” which are familiar to everyone and some written by Christine Weir in response to various moments of revelation in her own Celtic studies, such as the Glencoe Massacre, evocatively narrated in background and beautifully sung by Christine Weir, telling out the story of how dozens of MacDonalds were slaughtered  in the beds (yeah, the Scots have no great reason to love the English either).

One doesn’t need to feel intimidated by the Celtic mystique as it is all explained along the way (ok, as much as can be in one evening show). It is very accessible and quite delightful.  The whole show is friendly and intimate, almost like a family gathering.  Audience members are encouraged to wear their own kilts or tartan bits, and to sing along, and also to enjoy a “wee dram” with the cast after the show.  It is only on for one more week, so don’t delay in getting tickets and taking your Celtic friends along.

Christine and the Kilts

Christine Weir wearing the Weir tartan sash.

Christine and the Kilts

Christine Weir wearing the Weir tartan sash.

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Be good or stay home

The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra Spring Concert series is well under way, but tonight was special.  The orchestra members were all in fine form under the baton of Perry So, the soloist, Alissa Margolis on violin, was superb in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in e minor, and the programme which started with Smetana’s Overture to The Bartered Bride and ended with Tchaikovsky’s last symphony, No 6 in b minor, also known as the “Pathetique” was a delight.

Audience

Not our actual audience.

But it was the misbehaviour of some (adult) audience members and the lesson in tardiness from the conductor which will make this concert one of the most memorable ones, not only of the season, but of all time.  After interval, after the orchestra had tuned and the conductor already on the podium, there were still audience members streaming in from all sides. Our lovely conductor, Perry So, politely and pointedly waited until everyone was in and seated.  The orchestra sat, poised to play, for the several minutes that the late audience members needed to settle.

So the first lesson in concert etiquette must be:  Don’t be late either at the start of the concert or after the break.  Of course, if the door attendants simply denied entrance to those who are late it would help to reinforce the lesson. Perhaps they should be granted this power.

I was rather pleased that the audience members remembered, after some verbal prompting, not to leave their mobile phones on.  This was much appreciated.  So the second lesson in concert etiquette is to turn mobile phones and other electronic devices off.  It should go without saying that it is not acceptable to record the performance or take photographs, especially with a flash.

Also with some educative prompting, the audience got it right not to applaud between the movements. Some people started applauding before the conductor put his baton down and turned around, but they were subdued into compliance and the applause really began when the silence at the end came to its respectful end. Wow!  That was really well done.

The orchestra members are all dressed to a specific code.  They look elegant, even formal, they have no jangly jewellery which accompanies the music whenever they move.  Audience members are not on display, but it is good to see that our local audiences usually dress appropriately in business smart attire. Our audiences are usually pretty good about not smelling of anything – neither body odour nor perfume.  Rattling bracelets and neck chains are also not usually a problem in our particular audience.  However, it is a lesson worth thinking about.

Again with some educative announcing before the performance, audiences are reminded that drinking anything but water during the performance is inappropriate.  The announcer neglected to ask audience members not to eat during the performance. Most audience members are not inclined to take their fast food takeaways out and eat it in the concert hall.  The thought of burgers and fried chicken seems somehow obscene during a classical music concert – well other than the picnic concerts specifically designed for that. For this reason, the “oversight” of the announcer can be forgiven. However, the audience also does not want to hear paper rustling, with excruciating slowness, as someone takes a packet of sweets out and opens it, passes it along to their friends and each of them takes some sweets and then proceeds to eat them before repeating the entire process.  So … NO EATING.  And the wrappers on your lap or in your hand still make a noise.  Put them in your handbag or on the floor.

The audience gets dressed, moves through traffic, pays money for tickets, arrives on time, puts their mobile phones on silent or off, reads the programme to know when to clap and then sits down to listen to the eighty or so professional musicians who have studied for about fifteen to twenty years and then practiced for the rest of their lives, give a performance.  The next lesson should be fairly obvious.  The audience don’t want to hear you hum along to the bits you know, or watch you beat time to the bits you like, or chat to your neighbour (and, yes, between the movements is not interval – it is still part of the concert).  Keep your comments for interval or the way home.

Applaud if you loved it.  Stand up if you want to really show the performers how much you liked them. Stay absolutely still if you hated it. While it is often considered to be wrong to whistle or shout approval or otherwise after the concert, my feeling is that one can shout “Bravo/brava!” or even “Boo” at the end of concert.  However, everyone should stay until the end.  The concert is not over until the orchestra members stand up to leave and the house lights come on.  Then audience members can run to get to the parking and leave before anyone else.

Seriously, a lot of work goes into each concert by the musicians, the venue management and support staff, and a huge investment of time and money is made by the audience.  Respect that.  Be nice.  Enjoy and let everyone else also enjoy.

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Succulents (Book Reveiw)

  • Title: Field Guide to Succulents in Southern Africa
  • Authors: Gideon F Smith(Author), Neil R Crouch(Author), Estrela Figueiredo(Author)
  • Photographers: Mostly authors
  • Cartographers: Authors
  • Publisher: Struik Nature, imprint of PenguinRandomHouse
  • Year: 2017
  • Format: Paperback 464 pages
  • Genre: Non-fiction:  Flora
  • ISBN: 9781775843672

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With 850 photos and entries in families and other reviews which say how easy this work is to use, I felt like a bit of an idiot when it failed to talk down sufficiently to make it user friendly to the average gardener in South Africa.  With only one page of information for gardeners and no zone maps with lists of all plants likely to be found in that zone, this book is aimed at the more academic user.

It is sumptuous and informative if one has a base from which to start, but simple classification for novices is difficult, if not completely inaccessible.

The book is heavy which makes it an unlikely companion for hikers and picnickers. While I take a veritable library with me to the various national parks, this is not the one I am most likely to pack.

So this is a specialist book, magnificently illustrated with a wealth of clear and informative photographs. Local and common names are given where these exist.  My favourite section was the one on aloes, and if this is the only section which initially tickles one’s intellectual curiosity, the modest price for such a generously proportioned book is still worth it.

The Field Guide to Succulents in Southern Africa deserves its place on the bookshelf of lovers of South African flora.

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Ratels on the Lomba (book review)

In the words of Lewis Carrol in 1865: ’You are old, Father William’, the young man said …

I feel old, at least as old as Father William, when I read or hear stories of the war fought on the South African borders and “Ratels on the Lomba, The Story of Charlie Squadron” written by Leopold Scholtz and published by Jonathan Ball Publishers in 2017 hasn’t proved to be the exception.  It seems so long ago, yet most of those who fought there are still alive and were directly interviewed in the preparation phase for writing Ratels on the Lomba.

I blossomed into womanhood at a time that our (mostly white male) youth was being sent into battle on our borders against (mostly) black men, often from this country, but supported, equipped and trained by Cuban and Russian military experts.  Some of them didn’t return.  The ones that did return returned changed.  Only the amount of change varied.  That change was dependent on their characters and what these young men experienced “out there” where no mere female civilian could follow them.   The “troepies” (troops) were largely traumatised, cynical and damaged by their experiences.  Only the fortunate few who managed to get essential service military jobs within the Republic during their military service escaped the horrors of war, although they far more informed about the realities than civilians were.

“Ratels” is an Afrikaans word meaning “honey badger”.  The honey badger is a small, but very aggressive, enterprising, determined and brave animal.  It is somehow fitting that our tanks were named after these nocturnal creatures.

This book details only one small segment of that Border War, the story of one battle.  However it unpacks the huge theme of a war of shame and heroism, a war fought by men often still in their teens, led by “experienced” officers in their early twenties.  As stories go, this one is gripping.  If the mantra of the Charlie Squadron is to keep moving, so too does the reader keep reading.   It’s a story of training, of discipline, of camaraderie, of fear, fighting and death.  The war might have been nasty, but the read is superb.

Whatever your political affiliation, you will find this book an eye-opener into the psyche of the ruling party of the time and the brain washing of the soldiers serving in the South African Defence Force of the Apartheid South Africa.  Not all the brain washing in the world could erase the emotional substance of this story, both the good and the bad.

Lance Corporal Dion Cragg of the Charlie Squadron wrote a poem of remembrance just three days after the Battle of the Lomba and this is quoted at the beginning of the book.  War poets are so graphic in their retelling of the tales of “glory”.  He writes “I’ll show you a land so tranquil and green, see how it burns under man and machine …”.

In 2014, at a Charlie Squadron reunion, Captain P J Cloete said in a speech: “War is a futile exercise, conducted for nefarious purposes by those who wish only to serve their own interests.”

May the stories of war be the only experiences thereof that our young men and women ever know.

Ratels-on-the-Lomba

  • Title: Ratels on the Lomba
  • Sub-title: The Story of Charlie Squadron
  • Author: Leopold Scholtz
  • Publisher: Jonathan Ball Publishers
  • City: Cape Town
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre: Non-fiction:  War, History
  • ISBN: 978-1-86842-748-2
Posted in Books, Uncategorized, War | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment