The Minnesota Orchestra on tour in its home state during Mandela Month ahead of a South Africa visit.
Durban - Local audiences will be able to hear Harmonia Ubuntu - commissioned as a tribute to Nelson Mandela - when the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra performs in the city next month.

It is written by composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen and will feature soprano Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye.

The orchestra’s South African tour will follow one in its home state this month and will be the first visit to South Africa by a professional US orchestra.

“A highlight of the tour will be a piece specially commissioned as a tribute to Mandela by Classical Movements,” said the concert tour organisers.

“The 90-member ensemble will perform music by Bernstein, Beethoven and South African composer Ndodana-Breen, among others.

“Its visit follows a tour to Cuba,” said its president and chief executive, Kevin Smith.

“We recently became the first American orchestra to tour Cuba after a 2014 thaw in diplomatic relations.

“The experience was so uplifting for us we decided to forge similar cultural exchanges with other countries.

Music director Osmo Vänskä performed with the SA National Youth Orchestra in Cape Town and Soweto in 2014. “And the moving experience of that event persuaded us to tour South Africa next.”

The Minnesota Orchestra on tour in its home state during Mandela Month ahead of a South Africa visit.

The tour aims to showcase music from South African, American and European musical traditions, and will draw together South African and US performers, offering musical exchanges with student groups and large-scale performances in colleges, city halls and churches.

“Music plays a central role in South African culture, both choral music and a growing orchestral tradition, and we are excited to experience and be part of this movement,” said Vänskä.

The musical tribute to Mandela forms part of nearly 50 projects planned by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to commemorate the Mandela legacy. Sello Hatang, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said: “Madiba’s centenary is about helping build a values-based society.”

In 2014, the Minnesota Orchestra won the Best Orchestral Performance Grammy Award. With multiple nominations under their belt, Vänskä and the orchestra have just received a further nomination for the 2018 Grammys taking place at the end of January.

The ensemble is highly acclaimed for its performances on the world’s great stages.

Ticket prices for the Sunday, August 12 show, at 5pm in the Durban City Hall, range from R100 to R600 and bookings can be done through Computicket at

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The Independent on Saturday