Minnesota Orchestra to perform SA tribute to Madiba

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Image: FILE PHOTO

The Minnesota Orchestra will perform a specially commissioned tribute by globally acclaimed South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen to honour Nelson Mandela's centenary year.

"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‚" said Minnesota Orchestra president and CEO Kevin Smith.

“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.”

The orchestra will next month stage a five-city tour of South Africa.

Ndodana-Breen’s new work‚ Harmonia Ubuntu‚ setting words by Madiba‚ premiers in Minnesota on July 21. It features soprano Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye.

Also paying tribute to the former statesman was Madiba's favourite choir‚ the Imilonji KaNtu Choral Society that performed at a Soweto church that was home to anti-apartheid activists.

For the group and particularly its founder‚ George Mxadana‚ the occasion was poignant given the long relationship they had with the legendary statesman. It was a relationship that was born on his doorstep in Orlando West in Soweto‚ upon his release from prison. The group arrived unannounced to welcome him with song.

“I think one of the things that significant for me and the choir is the fact that on the first day he arrived at his house in Orlando West following his release from prison‚ we were there‚” said Mxadana. “We were not invited‚ we just went there to sing and welcome him back. He said: ‘After listening to this choir‚ I am feeling at peace with everybody. I do not hold any grudges’.”

The group‚ which turned 36 this year‚ went on to perform at Mandela’s inauguration and the ordination of archbishop Desmond Tutu as Cape Town’s first black archbishop. It performed during the 1995 Rugby World Cup final‚ while Mxadana arranged the iconic Shosholoza for the 1995 rugby World Cup film Invictus.

Madiba’s first granddaughter Ndileka said the musical tributes to the legendary statesman were “befitting”. “He loved music‚ especially choral music‚” said Ndileka.

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