Music and theatre review: Music in Miniature

Posted: January 20, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
Tags:
Festival in miniature for music lovers.
First published in the Cape Times 18 January ‘10 
 

How does one go about conceptualising a week-long, live, lecture series to include music from the Renaissance period – musicologists have placed its beginnings from around the 1300’s – right through to the modern music of today?  

Flutist Bridget Rennie-Salonen is one of the performers at Music in Miniature

 

 “Well, that’s a very interesting question,” remarks Dr Barry Smith rubbing his chin.  Smith is one of the twosome that has created this year’s UCT Summer School’s Music in Miniature lectures.  Smith holds a PhD at Rhodes University and has studied at England’s Royal School of Church Music. He was also the Organist and Master of the Choristers of the St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town for a record 42 years.  Rodney Trudgeon, who presents Classic Breakfast on Fine Music Radio, and the other half of the creative team, is quick to jump in, “Barry’s reply is typical of a person that needs to buy a bit of time to think about the question,” Trudgeon’s 30 years as a broadcaster has awarded him with an instantly likeable, and rather demonstrative, disposition.  “It’s far more challenging deciding what to leave out,” He answers Smith’s question.    

As part of the University of Cape Town Summer School’s 60th birthday celebrations, the school has asked Smith and Trudgeon to come up with an extra-ordinary music lecture series for 2010. During Smith and Trudgeon’s previous partnerships they used slide shows and recorded music. “This year we’ve decided to break the budget and introduce live singers, choral groups and instrumentalists,” says Smith “The concept behind Music in Miniature is to illustrate how small scale drawing room music has evolved into larger recitals, church presentations, and concert halls. It’s really is a mini music festival.”    

The first two evenings will be presented by Smith, followed by Trudgeon’s lectures, and the last evening will be hosted by the duo.  The lectures will be accompanied by live performances from around 20 musicians and singers.  The week’s events will kick-off with music from the Renaissance, illustrating the social importance of forms such as the madrigal – a type of secular vocal music – and early religious pieces.  The Baroque evening will highlight composers such as Bach and Handel, and will be followed by a night with the Romantics; foregrounding Schubert, Brahms and Mendelssohn.  This will be followed by a focus on the 20th century with its revival of folk song and its emphasis on innovation and individualism.  Finally, the course will highlight some of the landmark ‘miniatures’ and celebratory music that have featured in the centuries since the Renaissance.     

One of the artist’s featured during the final evening is American composer of avant-garde music, George Crumb. His composition, Voice of the Whale will be performed live.  Smith describes this composition as an expression of a new-age ecological consciousness.  For the clearly devoted Smith this is a very important part of the magic, “You can’t really teach people to appreciate music,” he says, “You can only introduce them to the music, explain some of its origins, intricacies, and the artist’s vision.   What make this year’s lectures exceptional are the live musicians.  Watching them interact is a visual feast and very much part of the larger experience”  

Dr Barry Smith

 

For Smith the lectures’ purpose is served not only through engaging the audience with music that they would rarely be able to experience live, but it is also an opportunity for working musicians to keep supporting themselves in their chosen careers, and the chance for them to perform rare pieces such as the Voice of the Whale.  

Some of the week’s performers include a string quartet (The Michaelis Players); Quentin Crida (violin), Grant Bräsler (harpsichord); Bridget Rennie-Salonen (flute); Peter Martens (cello); Albie van Schalkwyk on piano, and soprano Lente Louw.  

Trudgeon says the Summer School has a large and loyal following, and the lectures are well booked.  The pressure is on for them to put forward an exciting and stimulating programme. “People want to walk away from the lectures feeling that they have genuinely learned something new and that they have been part of an exceptional experience,” he says. “For me it is all about making music accessible to everyone, de-mystifying it, and making it more user-friendly.”   

Music in Miniature will be presented at the Baxter’s Concert Hall from 18-22 January, starting at 20h00.  Music lovers can attend the entire week’s lectures at a cost of R400 per person, or they may select their chosen period of music and attend a single evening at R105 per person.   For bookings and enquires contact the UCT Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, tel. 021 650 2888, fax 021 650 2893, e-mail ems@uct.ac.za.  The centre also presents a range of lectures in disciplines such as Arts and Humanity, History, Science, The Art of Writing, and limited free lectures.  These are all open to the public. For more info visit their website -www.ems.uct.ac.za.  

The End  

Astrid Stark

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