Classical Real talent, real practice, big rewards

Real talent, real practice, big rewards

The conductor raises his arms. Bows are poised over violins, lips wait at the mouthpieces of saxophones, and fingers rest on the strings of a guitar. The conductor lowers his arms sharply, and the show begins.

But this is not your average orchestra. For a start, the average age is under 16. And they make a magnificent sound. The Affies Orchestras consist of a swing ensemble, a concert band and a symphonic orchestra – all comprising pupils from the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool and Afrikaanse Hoër Meisieskool.

Movie themes, swing numbers and Abba tunes follow. And the classical repertoire. Surprisingly, it’s the latter that really lights their fire.

“The kids enjoy the classic stuff more than anything,” says Eddie Clayton, conductor of the swing ensemble and symphonic orchestra. “We once did Beethoven’s Fifth and I watched 60 kids instantaneously fall in love with Beethoven.”

Music is a compulsory subject for pupils at these schools and, after their first year, they can audition to be part of the orchestra. Floris Smith conducts the concert band. “It’s hard work,” he says. “But there is so much talent. We get such positive feedback.”

Matric pupil Michal van der Walt joined the orchestra in Grade 10.

“Music has made me well-rounded,” he says.

“Sometimes it’s chaotic, but we always pull through,” says Albertus Malan, also in matric. “It’s a privilege to be part of this exceptionally talented orchestra.”

There are even a few Grade 8 pupils with the orchestra.

Jurgens Venter is one of them. He watched the orchestra perform while he was still in primary school and knew instantly that he wanted to be a part of it. He has been playing the bassoon for two years. “Sometimes I feel intimidated by the
older kids,” he smiles, “but mostly they are all really helpful.”

18-year-old Agathe Dagutat has been playing the violin for 12 years, more than half her young life.

“I express myself through my music,” she says. “The people here have really influenced me. I came to a love for music through (conductor) Eddie Clayton that I don’t think I would otherwise have found.”

Hans Zimmer’s theme from Gladiator rises to the roof of Commemoration Hall and, as the strings sing out, it’s hard to believe these are 14-year-olds. It restores your faith in talent, and the power of practice

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