Held in the Lookout Hill Hall, pictured here with the hill of “Lookout Hill”, we spent the public holiday providing coaching sessions for young singers as part of the Wecma Oratorio Singing Competition. The competition is open to High School learners. Rounds were held in various sectors and I was brought in before the final round to give honing and coaching on matters of style, technique and interpretation. I totally respect this model. Competitions evaluate so many things other than the competitor: access to learning, quality of the teaching, the environment etc. So to have a component whereby the young singers can get access to some level of intervention form skilled practitioners in the music business, is of vital importance.
Sadly the staircase to the top of “Lookout HIll”was closed to the public. It must afford a spectacular view of Khayelitsha.
I wish I could go to the top. I’m not sure what the problem is with the staircase…
My trusty keyboard stood in for a real piano.
Civic centers in the Townships is where all of this kind of work happens.
Khayelitsha sprawling towards the mountains.
What a perfect day, with a glorious view of Khayelitsha.
A set of mellow-voiced Mezzo-sopranos presenting Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”. Learning it simply by ear, it is incredible the level or acheivement these young people manage to reach.
Isn’t there always a friendly, interested young person around? This young man was my technical assistant: he took pics and found plug sockets and helped me translate a few terms I battled with. He also helped me prove a point of two when I asked him to chose his favourite rendition of an aria.
Stunning Sopranos. Zodwa Njolo, me and Ntombesizwe Hallam. Zodwa, in particular, has a silver thread in her voice that is perfect for baroque music, and she sang with such purity and natural musicality. Ntombesizwe had breath-control that was very impressive. Without having been taught it, she seemed to uderstand the physiology of singing technique quite instinctively. Hearing the raw talent in these voices brought tears to my eyes.
Teethy Tenrors singing Haydn’s “The Creation” – in English. A trickier aria than one expects at first, but these guys really went for it. A great sense of cameraderie filled the room and smiles and compliments were warm and genuine.
The Big Boy Baritones. Wow, some real power here. Some more “Elijah”. Pure respect from these men, learning virtually by ear and putting so much heart and passion into it.The surge of operatic repertoire in the last decade in the competition repertoire has boosted interest in the genre tremendously, bringing with it some risk to voices or the temptation to over-dramatise. But even in these young voices, there were deeply-felt and intensely moving performances. I was genuinely moved by the level or engagement by some of these young men, with the material at hand. Great discussions ensued about Elijah’s state of mind!
We had a little visitor too. Hearing the older ones sing, I am sure he is learning by osmosis!
In a cement desert, a leaking pipe provides a little oasis for indefatigable African birds. I feel like that is what we do. In the midst of great difficulty, the surrounding shacks and poverty, we find an opportunity to connect, to make music, to make friends, to build dreams. An Oratorio competition. Here. Haydn, Handel, Mendelssohn. It is simply extraordinary.
Great signs of optimism and creativity everywhere!
Spasa shops and houses along the road, built with anything you can imagine, and more.
People going about their business. Always quick with a smile.
Food prepared and sold on the pavement. Smiling faces wave and get on with their business. I get offended on behalf of these hard-working ordinary every-day fellow South Africans, when people ask me “is it safe there”. My answer is, “Go see for yourself”.
Khayelitsha, a most unlikely venue for an Oratorio Competition, and yet, how perfectly fitting for Freedom Day.
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