After attending 19 shows, five rehearsals and singing in a 20th, I’m back on a post-festival high, hot on Hifa’s heels. To partake of both such fabulous festivals fully demands a massive amount of stamina, especially with only two weeks between — but it just has to be found!
With a glittering line-up of visiting stars from the UK, Australia, Serbia and South Africa, many of them no strangers to this country or this particular delight of a festival, all of them, world class, and an incredibly varied programme of classical and contemporary music, there was something to please every musical taste. Several hundred Zimbabwean schoolchildren and adults also performed in shows, held in the Music Academy’s intimate Robert Sibson Hall with unrivalled acoustics in this country, the pleasant outdoor setting of the academy grounds, and, for one musical extravaganza, The Song of the Carnivores featuring 500 performers, most of them primary schoolchildren from Bulawayo’s high-density suburbs, the Large City Hall, packed to capacity for both performances.
Creating new, youthful audiences for the classical music genre is never far from the festival organisers’ minds, in much the same way Hifa strives to expose diverse audiences to many artistic genres, for some of which they then develop a taste. Classical music is being enthusiastically and actively promoted and encouraged in many schools across the country, and the Bulawayo Music Festival in particular with its strong classical focus is the ideal medium through which to expose large numbers of people of all ages to the genre.
With young classical instrumentalists and singers coming up through the ranks, one can hope that this festival will continue for decades to come, with audiences swelling more each year.
This festival is an intimate, very friendly affair, and no one stands on ceremony!
Under Mary King’s expert guidance, Carmina Burana was packed to the rafters, with more seats out in the foyer to boot, held the audience completely rapt and received a standing ovation. The vast range of classical concerts were of world-class quality and as always, the visiting performers enthused continuously about both the festival and this country.
The very enjoyable outdoor contemporary programme dubbed Celebration Concerts was spearheaded by environmentalist Netty Purchase who also conceived and steered to fruition The Song of the Carnivores. Specially composed by Richard Sisson, this show saw its world premiere at the festival and will soon be taken elsewhere. An amazing conservation focused production with a cast of 500, it deserves its own story next week. Huge accolades to the indefatigable Michael Bullivant and his team for another amazing festival.
International stars at the festival
The festival featured the inimitable world-renowned pianist, composer and Liszt expert, Leslie Howard, a many time visitor here; the extraordinarily talented Australian pianists Coady Green and Leigh Harrold, who both graced Hifa last year, and Coady, Hifa 2010 and Bulawayo Music Festival 2008 and 2010; rising young British pianist Christopher Smith; delightfully endearing, talented guitarist, last at this festival in 2008, Mexico-born Morgan Szymanski; the glamorous, gifted Serbian soprano who performed on Hifa’s Main Stage over at least six consecutive years, Alenka Ponjavic; South Africa-born honey-voiced baritone Njabulo Madladla; British opera singer and actress Mary King who conducted Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (in which I had the joy and privilege of singing soprano and my brother Dave, tenor); the utterly delightful British composer, arranger, pianist, comedian and compère, Richard Sisson; outstanding British flautist Juliette Bausor; from South Africa, all of them magnificent, violinist Sharon de Kock, the Amici String Quartet whose very talented cellist Peter Martens performed at Hifa last year, the Junior Odeion String Quartet, and conductor Piet Moolman, current manager of Free State Symphony Orchestra, who expertly conducted the excellent final orchestral concert.
Also attending the festival was British classical music commentator Petroc Trelawny, who volunteered to act as compère for some shows. Add hundreds of excellent Zimbabwean performers including the Hellenic School Orchestra and Prince Edward School Jazz Band and you have a veritable feast of glorious music, not to mention a festive ambience and a great deal of happy socialising, brought by the imported stars.