Classical Madiba

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

Former president Nelson Mandela is poised to be celebrated in a classical way by classically trained children from the townships of Cape Town on November 15 at the Cape Town City Hall.

The children and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a piece called A Mandela Portrait.

The music is a special tribute to Mandela and has been composed by Michael Hankinson.

"The idea of incorporating the speeches of an outstanding person into music is not original. Aaron Copland did this in 1945 with his Lincoln Portrait, a tribute to then US president Abraham Lincoln.

But perhaps there are very few people in any century that are worthy of such a tribute. Nelson Mandela is certainly one of them and worthy of an even greater tribute.

"I used as my starting point the sound of uMrhube, a traditional Xhosa bow. This most intimate of instruments has an amazing range of sounds.

"In order to incorporate the magical sound that the narrator describes in his text, I recorded Pops Mahomed playing uMrhube, using a modern Western violin.

"This gives a sustained, rhythmic pattern that is looped and is used to open and close the piece," said Hankinson.

The narrator of this work is musician Primrose Mrwebi.

Mrwebi was born and raised in Cape Town, acquired a diploma in teaching and performing of speech and drama at the Trinity College of Music. She is a poet, writer, actor and drama teacher.