The KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra has wrapped up another year on a good note.
Having celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, the orchestra has been touring nationally and internationally, spreading the importance of music through education and development programmes, and continuing professional classical music-making in South Africa.
In an interview with Tonight, chief executive and artistic director Bongani Tembe (pictured below) spoke about the highlights of the past year and what can be expected from the orchestra this year.
“Last year was a historic year for us because we celebrated our 30th anniversary. We pulled out all the stops to ensure its success. In February we featured the World Orchestra, which consists of 80 young musicians from around the world, in a national tour of South Africa.
“In March we hosted the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which is regarded as the best orchestra in the world over the past few years.
“As usual, we went to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown as the resident orchestra there. Afterwards, we undertook a tour of France as part of the France South Africa Seasons. It was a highly successful tour.
“On July 18, we presented an international Nelson Mandela Day in Paris, with South African choirs and soloists. More than 5 000 people were among the audience, and we opened the Republic Square in Paris, which had been closed for two years.
“So, basically, we undertook national and international tours during the year, hosted the featured cream of South African and international artists, and we started to expand.
“Also, we obviously didn’t forget our local audience here in KZN and Durban, and we continued with concerts, undertook rural residencies, and visited townships and other areas to spread the word of music and to foster musical education.”
With the death of Mandela, the orchestra, at the request of the family, played at the funeral.
Tembe said: “We ended the year on a sad note. The moment was sad, but it highlighted many positives in the country, and what we have achieved over the past 20 years.”
Last year, the orchestra featured in West Side Story at the Playhouse.
“First, I must congratulate the Playhouse on featuring world-class musicals like that. West Side Story attracted thousands and thousands of people from around Durban and the rest of the country, and was hailed as one of the most successful festive season musicals last year.
“It featured the orchestra, because of course it’s composed for orchestra and dancers, but we were very much delighted to be a part of it. It was world class.
“So this idea of promoting excellence and community engagement through the arts and using the arts to brand our city and province are the major things for us going forward and the idea of cultural diplomacy is very important.”
Tembe said that this year the orchestra would continue its World Symphony Series, which features the best of South African and international artists.
It would also continue its education and development programmes, and would be at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown to celebrate the event’s 40th anniversary.
“Also, next month, we will go to Pretoria to play for the International Flute Competition. So we will have more tours and more concerts, but our focus is on education, which is very important.
“We will continue our national cadet programme, which is designed to groom young South African musicians for careers in orchestras.”