Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Grahamstown, and Back Again

So it seems that Grahamstown is strangely void of internet, except at the KFC on one of the main streets, which I unfortunately did not have the inclination to visit.

In any case, we are back in sunny warm Durban, after a wonderful, chilly week at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.  Very early last week we met at the Playhouse in Durban and sleepily piled into a large bus that would take us to the airport.  A flight and a two hour drive later we arrived in the tiny college town of Grahamstown, and donned our coats, hats, scarves, and gloves (and for me several layers of leggings) since the weather there is hardly the picturesque Durban Beach weather - it rained quite a bit and temperatures were in the low 40s, if not colder at night.  The trip was quite an experience - since there are simply no hotels in Grahamstown (if you're wondering where the 100s if not 1000s of people stay when they come to this festival, I cannot tell you; I am wondering the same thing...) the entire orchestra was housed in a dormitory of Rhodes College, one of the premiere Universities in South Africa.  I met some people from other African countries, too - Zimbabwe (or Zim as natives call it, highlighting Africans' propensity to shorten everything to the utmost) and Ghana as well.  The dorm (or "res") was very typical, and I found it amazing that everyone seemed to more or less go about their business, bundling up in blankets while sipping sherry at night, and utilizing the one bathroom per floor as little as possible because it was, as you might expect, not amazingly comfortable and somewhat drafty.  An entire symphony orchestra housed in little quaint dorm rooms, sharing bathrooms, hanging out in the "top common" at night, drinking loads of tea all day to keep warm, hot water bottles under the sheets at night - I think more than anything else I got to know the personalities of the orchestra, which are varied and quite fascinating.  I was happy to have the chance to do so, and once the Wimbledon matches were over for the day, there was little else to do but hear all of these musicians' stories, drink their whisky, and come up with a few stories of my own.

I got to know a bit where people were staying and expected to see certain faces in the hallyway, at the dining room for breakfast (although my coffee needs seemed to surpass what was served there - I got up early and walked the five blocks to town for my double cappuccinos daily.)  We found a few consistent restaurants that were reasonably close to the dorm, our favorite being The Rat and Parrot, which as you can expect was a great dark paneled drinking pub with its own microbrewery and great pizzas and burgers.  For coffee there was haricots with amazing huge muffins, and for bigger breakfasts there was Cafe D'Vine, which humbly offered up a pretty atmosphere, white wood and white tables, ham, eggs, and croissants. 

When the festival started, we really had our work cut out for us, since many orchestra musicians were playing something like seven shows in three or four days; luckily my responsibilities included three Swan Lake shows and one opening symphony concert, both of which were housed in a hug theater on a hilltop.  The theater was so cold that I wore every black thing I owned every time I went into it, since I have trouble staying warm anyway.  We rubbed our fingers constantly to maintain some warmth in them and we even went on an expedition to buy fingerless gloves that I learned to play in expertly well during those mammoth ballet rehearsals and concerts.  Thankfully I love rooibos tea which was on hand at intermissions to warm us up, and as we huddled around the hot water jug we looked out upon the many crazily attired dancers that were running around the backstage area with makeup and feathers and capes and worn toe shoes.  We laughed a lot, about anything, about everything, and I am sure it got us through.  Tough conditions can really help you get to know people.  I am pretty sure that I am now best friends with the violinist that sits directly behind me, but she speaks no English, only Bulgarian, and kept taking my picture in the pit, completely drowning in scarves and hats and fingerless gloves.

When the festival started I didn't have much free time to see all the shows happening, and there were hundreds!  I did make it to the huge marketplace, where artisans were selling all kinds of beautiful clothing, jewelry, scarves, woodwork, antiques, food, and traditional crafts.  People were everywhere and the spirit was so interesting - cold but so busy.  I'd never seen such a huge festival in such cold drizzly weather.  But once I was in a cafe drinking my doppio when I overheard a South African woman say on the phone, "Yes, it is terrible that I am sick!  Just when we got to the festival, since it is so cold here!  But, you know, it just feels like Grahamstown..."  I began to understand the pride people have in this country and for this event.  We did make it also to a spellbinding magic show.  The young man performing was beautifully slick with his hands, and ran the full gamut tricks, without a miss.  Coins, cards, mind-reading and volunteers filled our happy minds for over an hour, and we left mystified.  Just a tiny show in a tiny blackbox theater and the quality was stupendous.

When we gathered our belongings to leave, the rain was falling again, and we piled once more onto the bus that would drive us the two hours from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth from where we'd fly to Durban.  We were all ready to go, but I was realizing that if we'd been in Durban the whole time we would not have found out such things about each other, and I believe I am happier for it.  If I ever go back to Grahamstown, I will personally bring the entire city some heaters at no charge.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Greeting the Bochabelas
Leading the KZN Phil
Playing for the students

Concerts, Concerts and (it seems...) More Concerts

We love Kwa-Zulu Natal.  And we really don't want to leave.

It has been a busy week!  We will travel with the KZN Philharmonic to Grahamstown next week, and the departure date is fast approaching.  We leave Sunday at 5 am.  We will open the Grahamstown Music and Arts Festival with Brahms' Second Symphony, and do three shows of Swan Lake, in collaboration with the Cape Town Ballet, throughout the week.  We've been told that this festival is really something to be seen - many productions of theater, music, jazz, and markets appear in the village during this time, and we are really excited to get to walk around the town and see everything.  It will be awesome to be part of such a happening festival in South Africa.

This beginning of this week was spent in a practice room at the KZN rehearsal hall, hours and hours rehearsing just string quartets in preparation for our performance this past Wednesday night.  (Was that last night?)  The quartet recital took place in a beautiful and intimate chamber music hall at Howard College, at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, whose foliage resembles a jungle atmosphere and whose architecture boasts an open air meeting place right outside the hall.  We had a thorough dress rehearsal, and were especially excited about performing our 20th Century homemade "Suite" of movements - a piece we created ourselves out of five different 20th century composers: Bartok, Kevin Volans, Villa-Lobos, Ives, and Jennifer Higdon.  The Suite comprised many textures and styles but we ordered the movements in such a way that the whole work felt cohesive and sensitive, as a modern string quartet might sound.  We thought the most interesting transition was from the Villa-Lobos movement (which screams of the Rio streets at night) to Ives (which is an advanced take on the church hymn.) It was physically so momentous to finish the Villa-Lobos that we had to breathe a bit before starting the church movement form the Ives quartet.  We felt like it really showcased a raucous Saturday night in Rio before ending up in church the next morning - a typical Sunday morning in New England.  Many supportive and amazing KZN Phil members graciously attended our show, and the standing ovation we received at the end of the concert made us feel so welcomed as part of this talented community.  It was so much fun to perform in such a warm environment.  The night was chilled as we waited for our cab to take us back to the hotel, and there we toasted our last big chamber music performance in the SunCoast's dining room.  We eat here a lot - the staff is great and the food is great.  And we don't have to go anywhere at all.  The hotel staff is definitely getting to know us!

Today we've been resting after a morning rehearsal, and tomorrow hope to go the beach and pool before we leave for an 8 hour rehearsal day - we will perform with the KZN Phil as part of the festivities for the International Olympic Committee event on July 5 back in Durban, and for that rehearsals start tomorrow.  We also hope to read a young composer's string quartet during our dinner break!  We are looking forward to that. 

In other news, our fabulous violist, Brenton Caldwell, turns 30 tomorrow!  We will celebrate all day with candy, music, pizza and movies at David and Alison's house.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRENTON!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The quartet on Durban Beach, June 13
Just before our first rehearsal with the KZN Philharmonic, June 13

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 16, 2011 - Maestro Lyk and KZN Collaborations

All week we've been in Durban, whose traditional name is 'Kwa-Zulu Natal,' from which the city's powerhouse symphony derives its name: KZN Philharmonic.  We arrived quite happy as we drove up to our hotel on Durban Beach on Sunday.  We had to hit the ground running, and literally jump into new surroundings, new faces, and new music - not to mention our immediately getting acquainted with a fiendishly talented 'call a spade a spade' conductor who would triumphantly lead us in the Youth Day Concert (which is now in about 3 hours and counting.)  By the way, that quote is verbatum - at our splendid dinner with Maestro Lykele Temmingh on Sunday night, he remarked, "Just so you know, I don't sugar coat anything.  I call a spade a spade."  I think we were all thinking that we had our work cut out for us, and simultaneously lifted our wine glasses for a toast.

We arrived for our first KZN Phil rehearsal early Monday morning, with enough time for our trusty guides and hosts David and Alison Plylar to show us around the facility where we would rehearse.  We took our seats at the front of each section, a bit wary at how things would play themselves out.  The room looked typical for an orchestra of this size - huge, bright, and with little comforts save a water cooler that sometimes had cups around it.  We started going over our passages and warming our fingers, and in a few moments, the advanced Bochabelas made their entrance.  I've never been so happy to see the familiar faces of the talented youths we'd coached in Bloemfontein!  As the students and Peter Guy, their director (also an accomplished and excellent double bass player who used to be the principal bass in KZN) made their way into the room, the quartet literally flocked to the group, and the chatter began - hugs and pictures, and "where are you staying?" and "when did you get here?" and on and on.  Eventually things simmered down, and everybody took their seats in the orchestra as the time approached 9 am and rehearsal commenced.  I met loads of smiling KZN Phil members, and was so thankful for how friendly and open the players were to invite us into their great orchestra, considering they'd just met us.  My stand partner was especially sweet, and we all felt quickly at ease in leading our sections inside this mammoth ensemble.  Lyk (as the players called him for short) dove into the repertoire, his indefatigable spirit barreling down on us as we read through Holst's Planets, and only guessing what would come next - dancing, singing, a little Afrikaans here and short, eventually we made it through the first day of rehearsal, and I felt heartened to think I only had to turn my head behind me to see my Bochabela kids smiling back at me from the middle of the second violins.  I was so proud of them, and so honored to be included in this orchestra.  I mean - for all intents and purposes, Holst isn't easy - for anyone!

On Tuesday we had our first nighttime rehearsal with members of the KZN Phil for our collaborative chamber music concert on Sunday.  We will perform George Onslow's beautiful chamber Nonet, (violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, oboe, horn, and bassoon) and Beethoven's renound Septet,(violin, viola, cello, bass, clarinet, horn, bassoon) on Sunday at 11:30 am for one of the symphony's smaller chamber concerts.  I was so excited to get to know some players from the KZN more personally in this endeavor, and everyone sounded really beautiful.  We came home to the hotel on Tuesday night exhausted but happy - and starving.

The rest of the Youth Day rehearsals rolled by, and we are about to leave for the pre-concert lecture where we'll speak a bit about our musical training in the US, and the Bochabelas will perform a piece from their repertoire for those in attendance.  

It will be sad to say goodbye to Peter and the Bochabelas.  Their love for all kinds music is very inspiring.  I can't imagine that I'll see a group like them again for a very long time.  And now...on to the Youth Day Celebration at City Hall.

You can check out a press release about our residency here:

You can also check out an article about Bochabela and Peter Guy's Mangaun String Program here:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cheetahs, Clarens, and Durban Beach

On Friday morning, our trusty clan donned hiking shoes and jeans, and made our way (including a few wrong turns) to see wild cats in person.  I was very nervous (of course) because not only would we be seeing these animals - we would be basically hanging out with them, touching them, talking to them...I assumed they'd be mostly babies (what harm can a baby lion do?) - but I was quite wrong on both assumptions. 

An amazing woman named Suzette ushered us into the sanctuary, and explained to us that no matter how comfortable we felt around the cats (I guess she wasn't talking to me) we should never let our guards down because a wild cat is a wild cat.  The main purpose of the sanctuary is to help repopulate the world with the endangered cheetah, but also raises other species for game parks in order to deflect cost.  I simply couldn't believe it as we entered the park, and sneaked closer and closer to two 1-year old sleeping lions.  They seemed docile enough, but we were reminded time and again that one must never turn her back on a lion - it will jump up on your shoulders, and grasp you with 2 inch long curved nails, which Suzette showed us by pulling back the lion's fur around his paws.  We were encouraged to come up on the animal quietly, two at a time, and stroke his downy fur, which was at the same time smooth but strong, and I'm pretty sure that I didn't breathe throughout the entire thing.  But then we crossed the yard and approached the cheetahs.

I assumed that there was a fence between us and the two cheetahs - Fila and Bibi.  We got closer and closer, and the cheetahs started to become leaner, clearer and more defined as they paced up and back along the fence.  There was no fence between us.  I froze for a few seconds...Fila had been teased by some children and had therefore developed an aggressive character - we were warned by Suzette not to look Fila in the eye, or touch her.  Bibi, on the other hand was more passive, lying in the sun and unaffectedly looking up at her visitors.  The sheer beauty of these cats was astounding.  Extremely lean and fit, the cheetah has a silky spotted skin and golden eyes.  The long curved tail is used for turning while running without losing a second, since the cheetah can maintain an enormous speed.  Most terrifying, the shoulder blades ooze up and down as the cheetah slinks around the yard; slowly, Fila started walking back toward us as she saw us approach her friend, and we were told to back up, don't look her in the eye.  We couldn't touch Bibi at all then because Fila was just too close.  Pretty sure I didn't breathe during that one either.  I thought Suzette must be slightly mad...

We proceeded to see a plethora of new species - wolves, leopards, grown lions, and smaller cats that apparently can be very nasty. No matter how hard you try, it seems one cannot tame a wild cat, but Suzette pours everything she has into caring for these beautiful creatures, and the experience was quite exceptional.  Four string players repeatedly putting their fingers inches from razor sharp jaws is something I don't think I'll ever see again. 

On Saturday, we made our way half way to Durban from Bloemfontein, traveling over the top of another tiny sovereign country in the middle of South Africa: Losotho.  It's very complicated to pass through the country so travelers mainly avoid it if possible, especially foreign nationals.  After about three hours, our troupe arrived in a miniature mountain town called Clarens, which at once conjured images of mountainous villiages we'd all remembered in the States - Santa Fe, Aspen, was a breathtaking chalet village, and as threw on our sweaters and coats, we meandered to a wood burning cafe that could have been in Germany - we drank beers and ate steaks and schnitzel, and finished with a delicious desert called a milk tart.  Red checkered table clothes covered the wooden tables and from each chair hung a cozy Aztec looking wool blanket to  warm our legs.  Everywhere arose the aroma of wood burning and I couldn't figure out where I was - with frosty fingers in mid June, smelling smells I only usually remember from Christmastime.

Finally the next day, Sunday, we arrived in Durban Beach, and checked into our Art Deco beach palace right on the water.  I mean - I'd call it something else but that's really the only way to describe it.  Interestingly, I was just in Miami Beach, and most of the buildings look exactly the same.  Wiseman, our guide, driver, friend, and choirmaster, said that the beach front was actually modeled on Miami Beach.  Markets of crafts and clothing line the beach, and each of our white rooms are filled with glass, porcelain, mirrors, and a huge window that frames the sea.  I swear - there are palm trees here...

Now I am going for a walk on the beach.

More Photos: Bloemfontein

Tuning at St. Mary's - June 7, 2011
Performing Bartok for the students- June 9, 2011
Composing a piece with the students - June 9, 2011

Mangaun Strings and Ensemble ACJW - June 9, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

June 10, 2011 - The Week with Mangaun Strings

Greetings from Bloemfontein!  Here the locals call it simply "Bloem," which is nice because it means just "flower."  The students in the Mangaun String Program directed by Peter Guy continue to amaze us.  This week we have been teaching private lessons, hosting Interactive Performances, holding masterclasses, and running sectionals.  It's fascinating to see such an ambitious and self-sustaining music program, and I have to say that it rivals many that I've seen in any country.  The most unique part of this string program is its model of learning.  In Mangaun, students that have become advanced players, namely the students who are finishing high school and entering college, actually are hired to teach the young beginners.  This happens because there are just not enough teachers, and Peter told us that it is staggeringly effective for the students to learn from someone who grew up in the Mangaun program, and have probably grown up in the same neighborhood as their own as well.  We saw a spectacular example of a group beginner violin class at St. Mary's school one morning. 

We arrived early, and saw the sprawling low buildings that form St. Mary's; it was raining so we did our best to avoid the bug mud puddles that had collected around every entrance.  In South Africa, schools seem to be open air - that is, the schools are a collection of connected classrooms, one story only, with outdoor sidewalks that allow passage from one room to the next.  It is strange to see children sprinting around from class to class outside, with their violins held firmly in a tiny little fists, and I wondered how many violin casualties had been encountered this way.  But no matter - older students in the program also step up and learn how to fix instruments as well, so it's not rare that I saw an older violinist or cellist carting around four bows and several violins while fixing them up, or for a student to ask to leave a lesson because he heard that a cello endpin wound up in the body of the cello...and he must at that moment go take care of it...all I could think of was how firmly I insisted that my students at NYC Queens' PS 63 never even move without putting their violins in "rest position," and how adept these youngsters were at maneuvering at such lightning fast speeds so as not to break anything at all.  Usually you just see streaks of maroon or green uniforms tumbling about the quad.

The little ones stood in a circle and waited expectantly as their teacher made sure each violin was correctly lodged underneath each tiny chin, and then counted off (in Sotho, of course, not English or even Afrikaans) to begin the lesson.  These children plucked the strings only, for it seemed that the bow technique was taught after knowledge of all the strings.  I was amazed at watching a lesson in such an extraordinarily foreign language.  When a student made a mistake, you could feel the energy and silliness in the room, as the tiny eyes sparkled and darted to whomever had made a misstep, but always the children helped each other, somehow intrinsically knowing that the further the group could go together, the more everyone would learn.  This supportive and communal nature seemed apparent with all the students, grade 2 through college, and Peter explained that he found it a cultural norm in this area of Bloem.  It was very beautiful to watch. 

As our time with the students came to a close today, there were frantic photos being taken left and right, and one girl even took my camera for awhile, and I had no idea where she'd gone with it.  When I got it back there were photos on it of possibly every child in the school yard, grinning ear to ear and striking poses.  The older kids shook or hands and told us they'd see us in Durban, and the younger ones gathered for numerous hugs and group shots, trying to delay the departure before they climbed aboard the brightly painted bus that would take them all home tonight.  As we left, I hoped only that they would continue this culture of community and music, and that they would find that it leads them to many, many possibilities.

P.S.  Today we petted cheetahs.  (Real ones.)  More in the next post...

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6, 2011 - Getting to know the Students in Bloemfontein

On Saturday the string quartet met the oldest group of string players, the Bochabela Strings.  They'll travel with us to Durban next week to perform with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.  The first day we played for each other - and this group of players has the best rhythm I've ever heard. They danced when they played, cued each other, and grinned ear to ear.  I couldn't believe it!  All with no conductor.  Peter Guy, the group's founder and a bass player himself said, "I used to conduct them but they never paid me any attention so now I let them play without me!"  I was really fascinated by the instinctual rhythm and creativity of the boy playing the congas during the performance - he really seemed to be the pulse of the traditional music the group was playing.  Needless to say, I was shocked then to see this young man sitting in my violin sectional - he said that his name was Morena, "But you can call me Renzo."  He is also an excellent violinist, but right now he is getting a degree in engineering.  When I asked him if he would keep playing after he finds an engineering job, he said, "Of course!"

It seems a daunting task that Peter's pulled off - moving halfway around the world and setting up a complicated network of musical instruction, hundreds of children involved in private lessons, orchestra, and for the most advanced, touring Europe for concerts.  Peter used to have a bus driver to pick up all the children and bring them to the school, but after the driver quit, he took on the job himself.  We saw first hand today just what that means - he does an hour long loop of all the schools in the area, piling instruments and children into the huge painted stick-shift bus, navigating tiny dirt roads around neighborhoods and schools and somehow always managing to get everyone back and forth safe and sound.  The bus jolted and shook, vibrating with children speaking at least five different languages, and jumping back and forth so easily it makes my head spin.  At least four children crowd in around him on a platform in the front of the bus and think nothing of it, their violins serving as places to temporarily rest their heads for the trip to the music school.  Peter has to wear a lot of hats in this program, but he seems not to mind, as he's very content to do simply what needs to be done.

Today we taught some lessons to the younger children and I even got some to start improvising.  Then they really wanted to hear me say something in another language, so I taught them the Latin phrase "Ave Caesar.  Moreturi te salutant," which I explained to them means "Hail Caesar.  Those who are about to die salute you."  It was the necessary greeting of the gladiators in ancient Rome.  It was a hit, and then we talked about how to say hello on Sotho, but there are simply sounds in Sotho that I cannot pronounce.  The kids have been very kind to tell me nicknames that I can call them, which are easier for an American...

When I told the girls that I was from New York, one said, "Can you put me in your luggage and take me back with you?"

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bochabela Strings Hard at Work

Rehearsal of 'The Planets,' Holst, which the students will perform with the KZN Philharmonic in Durban next week.

Friday, June 3, 2011

So we made it to the African continent, and to Bloemfontein, "The City of Roses," (although Brenton, our violist says that Tyler, where he's from in Texas, is the "Rose capital of the US" so maybe he has the most experience with the roses...) Honestly I'm not sure what hour it is.  All my mechanical devices say something different. It feels like Amsterdam - light colored buildings, lots of English, and nothing too tall, as if it's all kind of in miniature. And the language I've never heard before sounds strangely familiar....Dutch like. 

We entered the small puddle-jumper aircraft that would bring us from Jo'burg (the diminutive of "Johannesburg" that I learned from the sailor in row 42 during the previous 15 hour flight) to Bloemfontein, and we began to realize, as Caitlin, our cellist, and Betsie, our manager, had to do the cello-is-not-allowed-explanation-thing for awhile, that there were quite lot of very tall men on the plane, and that furthermore they were all wearing the same navy and white striped polo, which, while a fine polo would have seemed unusual on two fellows at the same time, let alone several rows of fellows.  Of course, that realization took me personally awhile because I didn't know what time it was even then, and I am always loaded down with way too many pounds in my carry-on and a violin that can't find an overhead for itself.  Anyway.  Finally, I did start to notice the team mentality when some of them started shouting "let's go" and "leave the guitar alone" as the cello negotiations delayed things, and I started having flashbacks to when I saw one of those high school buses fly by with slightly overzealous lacrosse players making quite a racket, and as I was never very sports oriented, I guess I never gave the hullabaloo much thought, until I saw something similar on this tiny aircraft in middle of South Africa.

So when we were about to get out in Bloemfontein, and we were unloading our funny shaped luggage cases and bags, one of the guys asked what we played, and I said we were a string quartet and that's two violins, viola and a cello (obviously) and they asked us if we had any shows in Bloemfontein and we had to ask each other because we just couldn't remember exactly what was going on (jet lag.)  But then we eventually said no, since we're not playing any actual "shows" until Durban.  So we thought that was the end of the team.  And on the van ride to the hotel, which ended up being a beautiful space with back doors in every room overlooking the pool and courtyard, we tried to figure out what sport they must play, and our consensus came to rugby since they, who must have numbered at least 20, all weighed at least three times my weight and towered over me at least a foot each.

So you can imagine our surprise when the rugby team's tour bus took a slow right, just in front of us, directly into our hotel driveway, and entered our hotel, one car in front of us.  And the huge party made quite a scene unloading huge bags and huge suitcases, and the lobby was a mess, with rugby-ers eating tiny melon balls on sticks that had been laid out for arriving guests, and drinking the tiniest hot chocolates in espresso cups that you've ever seen - even more so when the giants were sipping them - everybody bumping into everybody else - and the clerks at the desk telling us that the rugby-ers don't really sleep...ever...but they all seemed jolly enough, and after much miscommunication we all ended up in our sweet little rooms.  Tomorrow - Haydn D Major and meeting the Bochabela String Orchestra.  Tonight - at dinner we met the wonderful David Plylar, who told us everything we need to know for now about getting around Bloemfontein.  For now!

And, as Angie earnestly pointed out, the water does drain backwards here.  It is not a myth-I saw it.  But they also drive the other way, too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30, 2011 - Getting Ready to Fly to South Africa

This week I am in New York, and preparing lots of music with the string quartet - Angelia, violin, Brenton, viola, and Caitlin, cello - our fearless project manager.  We're going to play a lot in South Africa!  Two full string quartets, five individual movements of 20th century works, plus orchestra, opera, and more chamber music we'll play with KZN Philharmonic musicians.  We are rehearsing, planning work to do with various youth orchestras, including the amazing Bochabela String Orchestra, packing for the five week tour, and buying LOTS of bug spray... We leave around 11 am on Thursday, June 2, and after 15 hours, we'll arrive in Johannesburg on June 3, and then take another hour long flight into Bloemfontein.  You can check out the Bochabela Strings here: