Regina Mundi Catholic Church to host world-acclaimed orchestra in August
The historic Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto will swell with the sound of the Minnesota Orchestra, who will be joined by the Gauteng Choristers and the Minnesota Chorale for a once-off concert to mark the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.
On Friday, August 17, the Grammy award-winning Minnesota Orchestra will hold one performance on its five city tour in the iconic church, which was built in 1964, and became known during the apartheid years as one of the churches that opened its doors to anti-apartheid groups and activists. In those days church services often ended up as political rallies, and the church, one of the largest in Africa, continues to play a vital role as a spiritual haven for thousands of Sowetans, while attracting tourists from around the world.
Former President Nelson Mandela visited the church to mark its restoration in 1997 describing it as “a church that refused God’s name to be used to justify discrimination and repression”.
The Minnesota Orchestra under the baton of world-renowned conductor Osmo Vänskä will play a varied programme including Sibelius’ En Saga, Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s Harmonia Ubuntu (a piece especially commissioned by Classical Movements for the tour), Bernstein’s Overture to Candide, Beethoven’s Symphony No.9. Choral, and a medley of traditional African songs including Akhlala Amaqhude Amabili, Bawo Thiso Somandla, Ruri, and Usilethela uxolo.
The church seats 2,000 people and is expected to be packed to the rafters for the Minnesota Orchestra.
The acclaimed American Minnesota Orchestra, in partnership with Classical Movements, will embark on a five-city tour of South Africa in August 2018.
Conducted by Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä, the tour marks the first-ever visit to South Africa by a professional U.S. orchestra.
A highlight of the tour will be a piece specially commissioned as a tribute to Mandela by Classical Movements. World-acclaimed composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen is writing the tribute, titled Harmonia Ubuntu, which will also feature soprano Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye.
The piece will be performed at concerts in Minnesota in July, after which Vänskä and the Orchestra will travel to South Africa to perform in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, as well as at the historic Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church in Soweto.
Speaking about their reason for travelling to South Africa, Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith said, “We recently became the first American orchestra to tour Cuba following a 2014 thaw in diplomatic relations. The experience was so uplifting and enlightening for us that we decided to forge similar cultural exchanges with other countries. Our Music Director Osmo Vänskä had performed with the South African National Youth Orchestra in Cape Town and Soweto in 2014, and the moving experience of that event persuaded us to tour South Africa next.”
Said Vänskä, “Music plays a central role in South African culture today, both choral music and a growing orchestral tradition, and we are excited to experience and be part of this movement.”
Minnesota Orchestra under the baton of Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä
Photo: Greg Helgeson
In 2014, the Minnesota Orchestra won the Best Orchestral Performance Grammy Award. With multiple nominations under their belt, Vänskä and the Orchestra have just received a further nomination for the 2018 Grammys taking place at the end of January. The ensemble is highly acclaimed for its performances on the world’s great stages, with The Times (Richard Morrison, London) referring to the ensemble as “a superstar band with a maestro to match” and The New Yorker (Alex Ross) calling it “the greatest orchestra in the world” following a 2010 performance.
The Minnesota Chorale will join the tour for performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Johannesburg and Soweto, singing beside local Gauteng Choristers and soprano Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye, mezzo Minette du Toit-Pearce, tenor Siyabonga Maqungo and bass-baritone Njabulo Madlala.
The tour aims to showcase music from South African, American and European musical traditions, and will draw together South African and American performers and a mix of music, offering musical exchanges with student groups and large-scale performances in colleges, city halls and churches.
The musical tribute to Mandela forms part of nearly 50 projects planned by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to commemorate the Mandela legacy. The Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation Sello Hatang said, “Madiba’s centenary is about helping build a values-based society. Music has over the years played a key role in helping deliver democracy in South Africa. We hope that this initiative will play a role in highlighting the plight of the poor and the marginalized, and thereby build a more equal society.”
Classical Movements President Neeta Helms said, “After working in South Africa since 1994, Classical Movements is very grateful that one of the top orchestras in the United States will make this historic, first-ever tour to South Africa. It is an enormous undertaking and a statement of the importance of Africa and the growth of orchestral music in this most choral of countries. This dynamic and visionary Orchestra is exactly the right musical ambassador to pave the way for others to follow.”
Ticket prices range from R100 to R600 and bookings can be done through Computicket at www.computicket.com/music.
For more information, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/satour
- Friday, August 10, 2018, 8pm: City Hall, Cape Town
- Sunday, August 12, 2018, 5pm: City Hall, Durban
- Thursday, August 16, 2018, 7:30pm: Aula Theatre, University of Pretoria, Pretoria
- Friday, August 17, 7pm: Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church, Soweto
- Saturday, August 18, 3pm: City Hall, Johannesburg
Main image: World-acclaimed composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen is writing the specially commissioned tribute, Harmonia Ubuntu. Photo: Supplied