Renowned pianist and academic at Wits University, Malcolm Nay, met with me at the wonderful new Italian deli in Parkhurst, Casa Marani, to discuss the 2017 series of Wits Music Concerts. I will be doing MANY interviews at this wonderful deli with a real Italian Mama, Grazielle, in the kitchen and her lovely daughter, Dani, front of house. I had a sandwich there which was the best sandwich of my life.
There are two main divisions for these Wits concerts. First, and most important, are the concerts of the students themselves. There are two concerts for first year students, one of which is the enormously popular Dean’s Concert. Then there are two Motswako concerts for the rest of the music faculty. Finally there are the concerts for Masters and Doctoral presentations. Then, secondly, there are the professional concerts, often showcasing the work of the teaching staff at Wits Music School.
The first of these professional concerts was on Friday 10 March 2017 at the Wits Theatre, with a superb group of jazz musicians under the title New York Round Midnight. It was very well attended with the Wits Theatre being respectably full and I was there to enjoy it. This production has been extensive peformed internationally. It is now being performed for the first time in South Africa with an all-South African cast of nine led by South African jazz saxophonist, Karendra Devroop. (It was presented at The Orbit in September 2016 with international artists in South Africa for the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival).
The narration and video takes the audience on a ninety minute journey through the story of jazz in New York City. It introduces audiences to the legendary jazz musicians of the time such as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald and features some of the most recognisable jazz compositions ever written.
The artists for this concert were Karendra Devroop (sax and narrator), Roland Moses (piano), Mageshen Naidoo (vocals and guitar), Marc Duby (bass), Ntabiseng Motsepe-Notyesi (vocals), Lehlononolo Ntsoko (sax), Rob Watson (drums), Ntsikelelo Jack Ncwabe (trumpet), Lethabo Kgoadi (trombone).
New York Round Midnight was fabulous.
Later this month we will have From Sea to Shining Sea (Christian Bester, a South African born baritone now living in the USA) on at the Wits Atrium on the 22 March at 19h00. This is an unusual concert in that it is a vocal recital featuring American art songs old and new, a genre all too rarely tackled in Gauteng and one which Wits University considers very important. One of the features of the program is Simon Sargon’s A Clear Midnight and poems by Walt Whitman, for baritone, piano and horn.
Addison Frei is a jazz pianist who came to the attention of South Africans when he won the 2016 UNISA Jazz Piano section of the International Piano Competition. He is a young and brilliant pianist undertaking the South African tour which was part of his prize. He will be playing at the Wits Great Hall the 7 April at 19h00.
Another jazz concert, this time with a uniquely Pan-African sound, is The Andre Petersen Quartet featuring award-winning jazz pianist, and recently appointed Wits lecturer, Andre Petersen at the Wits Great Hall on the 11 April at 19h00. Kesivan Naidoo, a former winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year for Jazz will play drums, with Sisonke Xonti on sax and Romy Brauteseth on bass. Look out for sounds influenced by Cape Ghoema, classical, post-Bop and many more styles. The Andre Petersen Quartet will play at Wits Great Hall 11 April at 19h30
In August The Wits Trio will perform on the 20 August at 15h00 at The Wits Atrium. Featuring Malcolm Nay (Piano), Zanta Hofmeyr (Violin) and Maciej Lacny (Cello), The Wits Trio delivers an unforgettable music experience. Since they started on their chamber music circuit in 2012 they have developed a loyal following and this event is a much-anticipated part of the Division of Music Concert Series.The Wits Trio, The Wits Atrium, 20 August at 15h00.
September sees Dizu Plaatjies – Ibuyambo Ensemble will perform at The Wits Theatre on 19 September at 19h00. Based in Cape Town, the Ibuyambo Ensemble, is a traditional ensemble lead by former Amampondo leader, Dizu Plaatjies. The five-piece group performs traditional, neo-traditional and original African songs. Virtually all instruments are handmade out of wood, animal skins, seeds, hand beaten metal, etc. Joburg audiences will have a rare opportunity to experience some of the best performances of marimba, mbira, akadinda, umrhubhe, uhadi, and African drumming. Dizu Plaatjies – Ibuyambo Ensemble, The Wits Theatre, 19 September at 19h00
If the student programme is the most important of all the concerts, then you must not forget the very popular free Wednesday lunch hour concerts at the Wits Great Hall from 13h15 to 13h50. These concerts are open to students and public.
Wednesday Lunchtime Concert Dates: First Quarter ( – 24 March): 8, 15 & 22 March; Second Quarter (3 April – 19 May); Third Quarter (24 July – 8 September):; Fourth Quarter (18 September – 31 October).
Bookings can be made for all events online at www.webtickets.co.za (All performances are R 80, or R55 for students/pensioners) or at the Box Office (full = R 85.00; discount (students/pensioners) = R 60.00). These details are subject to change. For further information visit our website: www.wits.ac.za/witstheatre
Safe parking for concerts at Wits Theatre and Great Hall in Senate House, the entrance is on Jorissen Street and open parking after 5 through Station Street Boom Gate. Parking from Yale Street available for Great Hall and the Atrium