Gala Concert captures the essence of South Africa

The Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra perform at the National Arts Festival Gala Concert. Photo: Shraddha Patnala/Cue

A firm favourite of the National Arts Festival calendar, the Gala Concert performed by the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (ECPO) and conducted by Richard Cock, drew a full-house on Sunday afternoon.

Having been to this performance in 2017, I knew it would probably be aimed at older audiences with a real taste for Western classical music, but this year’s performance defied the stereotypes and certainly changed my mind. The show captured the essence of South Africa, incorporating the country’s diverse musical talents and cultures into one impressive performance.

The concert was divided into two parts, where the first half featured the Standard Bank Young Artist awardee, Guy Buttery and continued the show with student artist and vocalist Asemahle Tsholoba, along with renowned pianist Charl du Plessis who featured in the second half as well.  

The ECPO collaborated with four other phenomenal South African artists this year. Buttery performed on the guitar and sitar featuring two of his own compositions with an arrangement for the orchestra. Buttery’s On Saturday Afternoon in 1998 gave audiences a fresh perspective on classical music by performing an Indian inspired sitar piece.

Tsholoba gave the concert a Miriam Makeba make-over by performing Ntjilo Ntjilo, followed by a ‘Makeba Medley’ after the interval. The audiences were treated to an exciting reinvention of normally serious and traditional music by du Plessis, featuring Bach, Grieg and Lady Gaga.

The ECPO’s Gala Concert was enjoyed by music enthusiasts and Festival goers alike. Photo: Shraddha Patnala/Cue

Titled Reinvention Suite, du Plessis worked the traditional with the modern, making it a memorable performance – and it definitely was the highlight for younger audiences who could relate to both original composers in this collaboration. 1812 Overture was performed with audience participation as the grand finale. Conductor Richard Cock instructed the enthusiastic audience on how to play their parts, using paper bags as the cannons, for the end of the piece; which the audience gave a standing ovation.

The performances were so well received that the performers treated the audience to an encore, and brought the concert to an uplifting end.

By Shraddha Patnala