Minnesota Orchestra under the baton of Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä.

Johannesburg - For Nelson Mandela’s centenary year, the acclaimed American Minnesota Orchestra, in partnership with Classical Movements, will embark on a five-city tour of South Africa in August.

Conducted by Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä, the tour marks the first-ever visit to South Africa by a professional U.S. orchestra.

A highlight of the tour will be a piece specially commissioned as a tribute to Mandela by Classical Movements. 

World-acclaimed composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen is writing the tribute, titled Harmonia Ubuntu, which will also feature soprano Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye.

World-acclaimed composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen is writing the specially commissioned tribute, Harmonia Ubuntu.

The piece will be performed at concerts in Minnesota in July, after which Vänskä and the Orchestra will travel to South Africa to perform in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, as well as at the historic Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church in Soweto.

Speaking about their reason for travelling to South Africa, Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith said: “We recently became the first American orchestra to tour Cuba following a 2014 thaw in diplomatic relations. The experience was so uplifting and enlightening for us that we decided to forge similar cultural exchanges with other countries. 

"Our Music Director Osmo Vänskä had performed with the South African National Youth Orchestra in Cape Town and Soweto in 2014, and the moving experience of that event persuaded us to tour South Africa next," added Smith.

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

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, with The Times (Richard Morrison, London) referring to the ensemble as “a superstar band with a maestro to match” and The New Yorker (Alex Ross) calling it “the greatest orchestra in the world” following a 2010 performance.

African News Agency/ANA