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A double take of a celebration

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TO NDR Bongani Thembe.

THE KZN Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO) has reached a milestone as it celebrates 30 years of musical excellence this year.

And to add to its sweet success, the Netherlands’ Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s (RCO) first South African tour will take place as part of the RCO’s 125th anniversary world tour that will see it visit six continents in a year.

Tonight spoke to the chief executive and artistic director of the KZPO, Bongani Tembe (pictured), about the exciting double anniversary celebration. “I am elated, and think it’s an important and historic achievement. It’s the first time that an orchestra in South Africa post-1994 has achieved this milestone.”

In terms of the RCO gracing our shores this year, Tembe says he is extremely excited about this: “Gramophone magazine has rated the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as the world’s greatest orchestra. And for the KZN orchestra to establish this solid relationship with the Royal Concertgebouw – it’s fantastic!

“This partnership with them will have many spin-offs.

“In addition to performing in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria, they will also travel to Umlazi township, and do educational and development work in Soweto, as well as coach a youth orchestra in Cape Town.”

TO NDR Royal concertgebouw orchestra1

What’s impressive is that in the KZNPO’s 30 years of existence, Tembe has ably led the orchestra for 19 years. As an accomplished Julliard School graduate, he joined in October 1994 at the dawn of democracy and has done an impeccable job of portraying the KZNPO as South Africa’s premier orchestra and is lauded for helping to raise more than R200 million for the orchestra to ensure its survival and stability.

“Today, different types of orchestras relate to the KZNPO, they claim it as their own and I think that’s a fantastic achieve- ment. The orchestra is starting to play a role that is more than in just music, but in terms of social cohesion and economic develop- ment, and also in terms of helping to brand our province positively in South Africa and throughout the world.”

Asked what he would like to see achieved for music in South Africa in the next 10 years, Tembe said: “We want to explore different styles and choirs. We’ve come a long way and have worked with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ernie Smith and so on, so different people are attracted to what we do.

“The Royal Concertgebouw is going to townships, will tour South Africa and will showcase excellence. So we attract a lot of people and people like excellence in life. I would like to see music getting more integrated into the legacy, especially of our children. There are many good qualities embedded in music that our kids can learn from.

“When kids pursue music or sport, one important quality is discipline. You need to practise constantly and they learn the skill of discipline. You have to listen, and these are all great skills we all want our kids to have.”


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