Thursday, July 18, 2013

Grahamstown Arts Festival Day 1

There is something about the Grahamstown National Arts Festival that can only be described as the pulsing of hundreds of musicians, Thespians, artists hearts. 

On the 28th May I drove down on a bus to Grahamstown with my orchestra. We had 5 performances on our schedule, 2 of which were charity and one was a surprise (wink), but of course, who goes to the Grahamstown fest without the intention of sucking the marrow out of life and seeing every possible play, jazz band and art exhibition possible? Not us! 15 hours later (eish, might I say?), we arrived. This was it. The Grahamstown fest.

Waking the next morning to one of the most exquisite sunrises I have ever seen, we woke ready for a day of rehearsal, wedged in between our array of other fantastic shows.

First off, it was flash mob practice (grins). Indeed, we were going to do a flash mob, but we first had to get used to not being able to hear each other. Eek, not an easy task, but soon it came together.

We then headed off to the Grahamstown Monument to go and see the National Youth Orchestra. Many of our own members from our orchestra were part of the National, so we naturally went to go and support!

What a stunning theatre?

They played incredibly, wow, but lets give credit where credit is due. The trumpets were the stars of the show. Their sound was clear, sharp and they cut right across the orchestra. Piece after piece, I lept out of my seat to applaud them. Fantastic players!
The woodwinds, flutes in particular and oboes also, were sublime too. They had quite a sprightly tune to play, and they didn't miss a single flutter tongue. The entire orchestra was just excellent.

On our way out to leave afterwards, a lady approached me and my friends and told us there was a play upstairs and that she would love if we would go and see it. So we went! That's the thing about Grahamstown. 90% of the shows you see, you hadn't planned or rather, heard of an hour before.(Chuckles)

Transition was a play set at a rehab centre, where two patients meet, the guy a bible-clutching attempted suicide, the girl a crass-sarcastic coke addict. Very well staged, and the dialogue was excellent. The girl was slightly over acted, but I still really enjoyed the play. We found out afterwards that the actress was also the playwright and that this play was written in response to her boyfriend being a coke addict. Applause to her.

Next it was rehearsal time, and we found ourselves in St. Christopher's Cathedral in the centre of Grahamstown. Little did we know it was to be our performance haunt for the next three days.

After rehearsal, we packed up and drove back again to the Monument, this time to see the Kwazulu Natal Philharmonic.

I want you to guess where I sat. Guess, really. Look at the photo. Guess. Front row, right in the middle. 
To say I was blown away would be the greatest understatement any musician could make, ever. The program was the same as their Sarah Chang Concert, and sorry guys, I still didn't like that first piece. The second though, well, I think you all are aware of my affinity to the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Now who actually played it this time? Her name is Joanna Frankel, and remember this name. She is another Julliard graduate and she was the concertmaster -lead violinist- for the KZN Philharmonic for the Sarah Chang Concert. Her runs were precise, and I could hear her every note articulated and clear. The music just dripped off of me. 
It was magical. 

A comparison of Joanna and Sarah, they both had their own style. 
I preferred Joanna's beginning, but I found Sarah's grit with her bow work more thrilling to the ear. After the interval came the final piece, which I adored through and through -especially since I was so close. Again, the cello section was brilliant and their deep, earthy sound was like an earthquake, rumbling and shifting continents at its will. The performers of the evening within the orchestra though were without a doubt, the lead second violinists. Those two ladies put every inch of gusto they had into the music, and they smiled! They were enjoying themselves so much, and they made us enjoy ourselves too. Now that is the kind of performance that I leave thinking, "Ah, when I'm in a professional orchestra one day and I play pieces like those, I'm going to play it with as much chutzpah as those two ladies!"

The day had come to a close, but I knew this was only the beginning. 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sarah Chang, Sibelius Maestro

Sarah Chang is what you call a child prodigy. An American Korean, her debut on the classical violin came at the age of 8 when she played as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Graduating from Juilliard (Big name peeps), Miss Chang has played all over the world in countries like England, France, Germany and China, and most recently, South Africa.

A few weeks ago Sarah Chang was in Johannesburg, and undoubtedly, I went to go and behold her amazingness. Boy, was it a concert. She played the Sibelius Violin Concerto, accompanied by the Kwazulu Natal Philharmonic -allow me to add that they were just phenomenal. Sarah's technique was absolutely incredible and I loved her flair. As recording of the performance was illegal, I shall share today with you all the much less illegal, okay, totally legal YouTube video of her Sibelius Violin Concerto. Enjoy.

Are your eyes the size of mine after listening to that? 
As a violinist, it's such an inspiration to me to see professional violinists play. It honestly makes me want to arrive back home after the concert and practice through the night!