Showing posts with label Zimbe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zimbe. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Zimbe! review in the Listener

Zimbe! Come sing the songs of Africa! a new work by Alexander L’Estrange was given its New Zealand première under the direction of David Burchell. The combined forces of City of Dunedin Choir, St Paul’s Cathedral Choristers, Southern Children’s Choir and dancer Ojeya Cruz Banks accompanied by jazz ensemble of Graeme Perkins (piano), Nick Cornish (alto saxophone), Sam Healey (bass), Robert Craigie (drum kit) and Justine Pierre (percussion) packed out the stage. This infectiously joyful and energetic community show had the audience clapping along and won all performers a standing ovation.

L’Estrange, known for his creative versatility and for the music he wrote for the TV adaptation of McCall Smith’s book The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, describes Zimbe! as “coming from the seeds of my affinity with African music and the gospel tradition”. The Oxford graduate has collected 15 traditional songs, backed them with jazz. The collection reflects the role of music in everyday life in Africa - from sun rise to sun set, or as the song “Ilanga libuya, ilanga liyaphuma” more optimistically puts it “the sun sets… the sun rises”.

The collection is in two halves, bracketed with slightly altered versions of the refrain “Njooni!, Zimbe!” (Come sing the songs of Africa!). Two children’s games “Sansa Kroma” (Sansa the Hawk),  “Pete, Pete!” (Vulture vulture!) and two wedding songs “Wai Bamba “ (You’ve got her!) and “Hamba Lulu” (Go Lulu)  highlight the lighter side of the African experience while “Thula Mama, Thula” (a lullaby for mothers of imprisoned sons) and “Vamudara” (in which a drunken man dances himself to death) highlight the everyday pain. The second section opens with the funeral song “Aleluya/Thuma Mîna” accompanied by a section of the choir offstage and danced to most lyrically and sensuously by Banks. Anthems and prayers make up the remaining collection, reflecting the importance of maintaining hope in dire circumstances. “We shall not give up the fight”, “Siyahamba”, “Freedom is coming/ Hamba vangeli” were sung with vigour and joy.

The combined choirs gained momentum as they warmed to the music and warmed the music as they gained momentum. While individual members were obviously not natural-born sing-and-dance people, or at ease without their scores, they were aided by the majority who did enter the spirit of the songs, albeit with elbows firmly wedged to their sides. The overall performance lifted markedly when the scores were put aside and the choir projected the life in the music, imperfections and all, out to the audience.

Zimbe! could be successfully performed by smaller groups less inhibited by a lack of space to move, but a huge crowd singing at full throttle is tremendously exhilarating and a sight to gladden the world-weary.

By Marian Poole, New Zealand Listener, 18 September 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Words from the Zimbe! audience

Here are the views from a few members of the audience at the Zimbe! concert, held on 4 September 2010 in the King's and Queen's Performing Arts Centre:

Colin Campbell-Hunt was in the audience and this is what he had to say:
"Well I thought Zimbe was great. Huge energy. Huge enjoyment from the choir (and conductor) and so infectious for the audience. The children were wonderful, casting their beautiful clear voices over the earthy rhythms of the choir. The dancer was of another world. The band was wonderful: ethereal sax, cascading drums, pulsing piano. The two young friends who were with me from Wellington are both good singers (National Youth Choir in their day) and went home vowing to encourage their parents (who sing in the Orpheus) to do it there. Bravo"

Diane Wales reports:
“My totally impartial niece from Wanaka loved it! Very impressed by the children. Thought they looked and sounded great.  She did think the dancer could have moved more to the other side instead of always to the right.  She didn`t realise there was a standing ovation going on behind her or she would definitely have joined in!”

From Pete Hodgson, MP:
“I thought it was a really good innovation and one that was mostly but not fully pulled off. The first bracket of spirituals was weak. Perhaps because they were too complicated. Perhaps because the bass in the choir was not bass enough. The Argentinian bracket was quirky. The  pianist was a delight. The soloist less so.
The rest of the programme was just great. White men can't dance and white women aren't much better. But we already knew that and besides which they sure as hell can sing. And have fun. And cause us to. Lots of fun. Very different experience. Great jazz contribution.
Thank you.”

Deborah Dons reports:
"David Skegg offered his congratulations and said how much he and his wife enjoyed the concert.  Graeme Perkins 'loved it'."

Pam Elwood says:
"I was in the Zimbe audience last Saturday - a most enjoyable change from the usual fare. The smaller venue was excellent, tho' the stage was a bit of a squash. I thought perhaps the children could have been dressed differently from the adult choir, to make them stand out more.

The spirituals at the beginning were a bit slow to take off, but as the choir warmed up and got into their stride and the audience responded, it was great. (I wonder if the spirituals were an appropriate choice, maybe something more identified with rest of the material would have been a better fit?)

(Haven't got a programme, so can't remember what was what...)

The offstage "alleluia" after a more energetic piece was brilliant and very effective.... as was the singing accompanied by dance...
There was a point at the conclusion of some songs when the choir really got into the performance  and were clearly enjoying themselves where I began to hope the choir would start to sing Wimoweh (The lion sleeps tonight)...
The musical accompaniment was excellent too - would have like some more African drums.

I'm sure you would have got a full house for a repeat performance... maybe put it on again sometime, perhaps to coincide with the biennial Arts Festival? I'd definitely go again.

Jeanette McQuillan gives her views:
"I didn't have a particularly good seat. Right at the far left hand side of the hall and consequently may have had a distorted version of the sound and the action. However, I really loved the music, the harmonies AND the action. From where I was sitting the stepping didn't seem to be particularly coordinated but I don't think it mattered for the style of music. I think it's probably better to have spontaneous movement as long as people look as if they're enjoying themselves and as long as the clapping is synchronized. Anyway as far as I could tell most people were doing just that. There were lots of smiles!

The funeral dance was really beautiful... so graceful.

Sadly, I didn't think that the solo soprano voice fitted in with the choir at all and that moment on the CD is so beautiful in the " Aleluya, Thuma mina", it really didn't work from where I was sitting.

One advantage of being in the front row was the chance to watch the jazz group at close quarters. They were fantastic. I could have listened to Nick Cornish all night and the drummer was spectacular!!

I really liked the venue as well, and think that David did an impressive job as conductor. He was a show on his own!!!"

Donald Cullington reports:
"I was in the audience, sitting a few rows back in the centre, and was most impressed with the vivacity and confidence with which the performance of Zimbe! was imbued.

Two qualifications, which could also be points to bear in mind for the future:
1) the percussion was sometimes too loud for the choir's singing to come through;
2) the impact made by the choir was noticeably less than it would have been in the Town Hall with its raked choir seating.

Of course, these two points are linked, and I might have heard a better balance and greater choral volume if I had sat further back, but where one sits should not make much difference, and the quirks of an unfamiliar performance space have to be taken into account in order to keep every member of the audience happy."

Helen Edwards says:
"Comment from audience members:

To be honest, I cried during the 'Halleluyah'. (South African man)

I was surprised there weren't more Africans in the audience. And I was disappointed that the audience didn't get up and dance. (Zimbabwean woman)

The spirituals were spoiled by a few prominent voices.
The instrumental group held Zimbe together. The performance was respectable, despite the choir being white and mainly older. Some spots needed a bit more gusto and exuberance. The children's choir was impressive. (Dunedin man, 30s)

Personally, I'd love to sing it again.  But the accompanying items need some thought so they provide a better match with the expectations of the audience e.g. items from the jazz band, or something tuneful  and vibrant from the choir."

John Hale gets his high:
"First of all, the acoustics. I sat at the middle back for the Sinfonia's recent performance (Stravinsky ... Mendelssohn), and heard a big full sound, which I *didn't* hear though I was sitting just behind the conductor for Zimbe. Anyway, from that closer-up position, the singing sounded smaller.  It's been my impression from hearing Messiah performances where some choruses are sung from memory, others from the the score, that the memorised ones are almost twice as loud, and full-blooded.

Bigger sound for Zimbe than for Tippett, though. The spirituals sounded a little uncertain at some openings, and unduly decorous for such music.

On the whole I agreed, for the first time ever!, with the ODT reviewer.

AND the whole evening just got better and better, through to that rousing long encore. I got my high by the end. It was a great night out."

From Rosalind Horsman:

"One friend sent by email: 'FANTASTIC!!! WHAT A BRILLIANT EVENING'
I have had several other very positive comments from friends who were there. Here are some: 

'LOVED it'  (that was a text message)

'We really enjoyed the concert tonight.  Great toe-tapping music.'

'All that work and only one show!  I would happily go again.'"

ODT Review:
The review by Marian Poole is posted on the City of Dunedin Choir website.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Zimbe concert photos

David Burchell (conductor) receiving a floral tribute at the end of the Zimbe! performance on 4 September 2010, King's and Queen's Performing Arts Centre. Photo credit John Roxborogh
Photo credit Ian Thomson
Photo credit Ian Thomson
Photo credit Ian Thomson