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Academy Alumni in South Africa, Part 2: Collaborations with the KZN Philharmonic

The Academy’s relationship with fellows continues after they complete the program. Alumni return to perform with Ensemble ACJW, lead professional development for current fellows, and participate in community engagement programs and residencies in New York and around the world. This summer, some alumni have traveled to South Africa to work with students there. Joanna Frankel shares her experiences as a traveler, teacher, and performer in South Africa. 

All week we've been in residency in Durban, which has a traditional name of Kwa-Zulu Natal, from which the city's powerhouse symphony derives its name: KZN Philharmonic. We had to hit the ground running straight from our hotel on Durban Beach, ready for new surroundings, new faces, and new music—not to mention our fiendishly talented conductor who would triumphantly lead us in the Youth Day Concert. At a splendid dinner with Maestro Lykele Temmingh, he remarked, "Just so you know, I don't sugar coat anything. I call a spade a spade." We all lifted our wine glasses for a toast!

The quartet on Durban Beach, just before their first rehearsal with the KZN Philharmonic. On the right: Joanna Frankel. 

We arrived for our first KZN Phil rehearsal early Monday morning, with enough time for our trusty guides and hosts David and Alison Plylar to show us around the facility where we would rehearse. We took our seats at the front of each section, a bit wary at how things would play out. The room looked typical for an orchestra of this size—huge, bright, and with few comforts save a water cooler that sometimes had cups around it. We started going over our passages and warming our fingers, and in a few moments, the advanced Bochabelas made their entrance.

I was so happy to see the familiar faces of the talented youths we'd coached in Bloemfontein! As the students and their director (Peter Guy, an accomplished bass player and former principal bass in KZN) made their way into the room, the Bochabelas flocked to us for hugs and pictures. Eventually things simmered down as rehearsal commenced. I met loads of smiling KZN Phil members, and was so thankful for how friendly and open the players were to invite us into their great orchestra, considering they'd just met us. My stand partner was especially sweet, and we all felt quickly at ease in leading our sections inside this mammoth ensemble.

  Maestro Lykele Temmingh leading the KZN Philharmonic.  

Lyk (as the players called him for short) dove into the repertoire, his indefatigable spirit barreling down on us as we read through Holst's The Planets, and only guessing what would come next—dancing, singing, a little Afrikaans here and there. I felt heartened by my Bochabela kids, smiling back at me from the middle of the second violins, and proud of all of us. I mean, Holst isn't easy. For anyone!

The rest of the Youth Day rehearsals rolled by, and we are about to leave for the pre-concert lecture where we'll speak a bit about our musical training in the US, and the Bochabelas will perform a piece from their repertoire for those in attendance. It will be sad to say goodbye to Peter and the Bochabelas. Their love for all kinds of music is very inspiring.

Next week, we will travel with the KZN Philharmonic to Grahamstown to open the Grahamstown Music and Arts Festival with Brahms's Second Symphony, and do three shows of Swan Lake in collaboration with the Cape Town Ballet. We've been told that this festival is really something to be seen—many productions of theater, music, and jazz take place, and markets appear in the village. We are really excited to get to walk around the town and see everything. It will be awesome to be part of such a happening festival in South Africa.

'Til then,

Adventures in South Africa
Academy Alumni in South Africa, Part 1: Getting to Know the Students in Bloemfontein 
Music Makes Their World Go Round: The Bochabela String Orchestra


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