Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Modern Music and Messiah

- Ailsa Tudhope -

There is always something on the go at St John’s. During March Dutch opera singer Bernadette ter Heyne of Stichting Bergwater Musiek, returned once again to teach singing classes.

This time she was accompanied by Zenja McCray of The McCray International Studio of Vocal Arts in the Hague. Bernadette headed for Prince Albert Primêr and Zenja for Hoërskool Zwartberg and after ten days training the youngsters performed at a concert at St John’s on the 14th of March.

The little church was packed to capacity with more than twenty performers and all their friends and families. Many Bo-dorp residents, remembering previous performances, had turned out too. This evening was a little different from other Stichting Bergwater concerts in that the children had been working on songs they knew, rather than learning an operatic or light musical piece.

The enthusiasm of both performers and audience was clear. The performers had dressed for the occasion and they sang their songs with aplomb, many expressing their sentiments with appropriate gestures. It is quite amazing how much can be learnt in just ten days. Riotous applause, whistling and stamping followed each rendition. The old church must have wondered what was happening.

The judges had a hard job identifying the youngsters who should receive the prizes which were awarded by Bernadette and Zenja. To end the evening Zenja’s “Angels from heaven” sang a blessing to thank Bernadette and Zenja for their encouragement and hard work. The Prince Albert community is richly blessed in Bernadette’s continued support for our children. Our thanks go out to her and Zenja for showing them that there is a wider world filled with opportunities for those willing to work hard and discover it.

Bernadette's visit delighted Hoërskool Zwartberg in another sense too, she handed over an envelope packed with Euros to purchase a sound system for the school.

This will give the children opportunities to practice using microphones and will be a tremendous boon for the Kultuuraand, Sports Days and other occasions when a sound system is absolutely essential. Thank you Bernadette and Stichting Bergwater Musiek.

St John’s echoed to other voices on Good Friday when a handful of people met to listen to Handel’s Messiah.

The church was bare, the altar stripped, just as Our Lord was stripped to be nailed to the cross, the crosses draped with dark cloth, no flowers, no candles, as we remembered the gloomy hours between his crucifixion and the brightness of Easter morn.

Yet the simplicity of the space was filled with the most glorious sound. Not live music, but the excellent acoustics made sure that we appreciated every nuance of the CD performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, under the baton of Georg Solti.

Having the libretto to follow enhanced the experience and I was reduced to tears when we all stood for the Hallelujah Chorus, which brought back memories of a performance at Kirstenbosch when Yehudi Menuhin turned to conduct the audience at that point in the score.

Thank you Renee, for suggesting we experience Messiah at Easter, it was a joy that we shall definitely repeat

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