There are few things that can overwhelm the senses like a brilliant combination of poetry and song, and that’s exactly what BTE VO1SS (the revamped Black Ties) and actress Isadora Verwey hope will happen next weekend with their latest show.
They were invited to the Stellenbosch Oude Libertas Summer Concert Series to present an Afrikaans concert called Kyk, Hier Staan ’n Nuwe Mens earlier this year which was so well received they decided to repeat it in Pretoria at the State Theatre Drama on May 25 and 26.
The production combines Afrikaans compositions and poetry by well-known South African artists from the past 20 years and more, including Chris Lamprecht, Koos du Plessis, Chris Torr, Coenie de Villiers, Johannes Kerkorrel, Lucas Maree, Amanda Strydom, Lize Beekman and Nataniël.
These much-loved songs are entwined with poignant and funny poems and limericks cherry-picked and performed by Verwey. Eight members of BTE VO1SS will be accompanied by an ensemble of piano, guitar, double bass and percussion.
Verwey described her discovery of poetry through the years. “I became aware that poets come from vastly different backgrounds and cultures and are finely tuned about how people think about the world and about themselves.”
It follows then that what they write is relevant to people’s lives and to their experience of the world, on an everyday as well as more spiritual level.
And while she knows that in a world that sometimes feels hostile to everything we hold dear, poetry can seem irrelevant, and as hard to defend as it is to define, this passionate poetry buff wants to share the glory of experiencing the spoken word.
When you have heard someone like Verwey who understands how to compile as well as perform a programme of poetry (and I have witnessed many of her sublime performances), all the questions and mind games disappear.
As she says herself: “I have to admit that I don’t always under-stand the technical complexity of a poem, but that’s not why I read poetry. I read it first for the experience of the poem itself, then reread it to see how its effects are achieved.
“Just as I would go back to the same paint-ings when visiting a gallery, I keep revisiting a poem that had an effect on my imagination.”
It is that particular voice that captures those listeners when she shares her favourite poems linked to particular songs. She is some-one who understands poetry and knows how to share it with her audience, and that’s a rare thing.
For this series, she was given songs which for her immediately generate images which makes her think of specific poems.
She instantly chose between four or five poems and the trick, she believes, is to make a selection that “in conclusion forms a whole so that it doesn’t just become a kind of Liquorice Allsorts”.
“The power of their music should guide you to a given poem,” she concludes. And if anyone isn’t sure about the combination of poetry and song, what more, asks this poetry prophet, do you need than linger on this phrase: “I want to do to you what Spring does to the cherry trees.”
• The programme is presented in collaboration with the South African State Theatre and funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.
• Kyk, Hier Staan ’n Nuwe Mens runs on Friday, May 25 at 8pm; Saturday, May 26 at 3pm at the South African State Theatre. Tickets are available at Computicket at R130 a person and R100 a person for pensioners. There is also a discount of 10 percent available on block bookings of 10 people and more. Safe parking is available at the State Theatre at R13 a vehicle and Afro Lounge in the State Theatre prepares meals before the performances.