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 there...in 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: