Goosebumps galore with Breen and Beethoven

2018-08-26 08:11
Xolani Mootane conducts alongside the Minnesota Or

Johannesburg - Those who didn’t get the chance to hear Goitsemang Lehobye singing Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s new work, Harmonia Ubuntu, accompanied by the Minnesota Orchestra, should be kicking themselves.

Joburg residents got a double dose of magnificent music last week at Soweto’s Regina Mundi church and in Joburg’s City Hall, where Lehobye, the Gauteng Choristers and the Minnesota Chorale performed under the baton of Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä to mark the centenary of Nelson Mandela.

Ndodana-Breen’s new work, which had the Ga-Rankuwa-born soprano Lehobye soaring through the upper register, was moving and a fitting inclusion on the programme for the cultural exchange.

The orchestra and choirs performed a number of other works too, most notably Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – the magnificent and enduring almost 200-year-old anthem to the fellowship of humanity.

(Soprano Lead singer Goitsemang Lehobye shared the performance stage with Minnesota Orchestra during their classical music concert tour which took place at Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church, Soweto. Photo: Mpumelelo Buthelezi)

Those who know the seminal work can tell you that the solo and choir parts are murderous to sing. Beethoven wrote the piece towards the end of his life and he was almost totally deaf and could only faintly hear the high notes. As a result, the soprano and tenor parts are extremely high and difficult, and Lehobye and tenor Siyabonga Maqungo acquitted themselves brilliantly.

All four soloists – including mezzo soprano Minette du Toit-Pearce and bass-baritone Njabulo Madlala, whose part opens the final chorale part of the symphony – were South African. And, as a great fan of the work, I can tell you that they were up with the best in the world.

But the biggest revelation for me was the Gauteng Choristers, whose magnificent voices brought the house down. Nobody does massed choirs quite like we South Africans do – and these singers caused waves of goosebumps.

The last time I saw Beethoven’s Ninth performed live was 25 years ago, also at the Johannesburg City Hall, when the London Philharmonic Orchestra came to visit.

It isn’t performed very often and I grabbed the chance to see it. Those who didn’t, well, I’m really sorry for you.

(Gauteng Choristers opens the Minnesota Orchestra musical concert tour with the National Anthem of South Africa rendition arranged by Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph at Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church. Photo: Mpumelelo Buthelezi)

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