Stories from the Choir
Stories from the Choir
Stories from the Choir
Where there is music-making every person is affected.
Words can all too often imprison deep spiritual realities within their limitations. And it takes inspired music to release the truths locked within words. Words can also be decidedly exclusive, whereas music is inclusive, all-embracing.
And, more especially so, when our human words attempt to express Divine understandings which become formulated by mortals into doctrines and dogmas which the faithful of all religious persuasions feel obliged to subscribe to.
Last evening’s concert in the chapel at the Diocesan College (Bishops) under the conductorship of Alexander Fokkens held soloists, choir, orchestra and audience in a tangible bond of unity as the words of the Rossini Stabat Mater and the Schubert Mass in G Major were brought to life in a way that spoke to the heart with truths contained within the words of both liturgical texts. And what a privilege to have performed these two works with such a fine band of orchestral players and soloists under Alexander’s superb direction.
The joy of being a performer in such wonderful works is hugely enhanced by hearing how the concert has affected lives in the audience.
And so I share three particular responses because of the impact the music had on these persons:
At interval, after the Schubert Mass, I fell into conversation with an old friend (older than me) who owned to a longing to die, but was depressed and frightened of death, and heard how reassuring and comforting the Schubert Mass had been to him, especally the closing Agnus Dei – ‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace’. And then finding himself contemplating an eternally loving Presence awaiting his arrival!
After the Rossini Stabat Mater another friend, from Namibia, who had sung with the choir at a time when her daughter was in hospital in Cape Town and had died, told how she was able through the music to relate to the deep grief of Jesus’ Mother standing at the Cross witnessing her Son’s death, and yet had that deepdown knowing of not being alone, imbued with a deep peace beyond mere words.
And then, when we were leaving the chapel, hearing how tears streamed down the cheeks of a fellow bass as the Stabat Mater came it its conclusion – the deep and profound joy of the Quando corpus movietur resonating with his spirit – ‘When my body dies grant that my soul is given the glory of Paradise. World without end. Amen.’
My own deep and abiding joy was not only in the singing and being part of the performance, but in savouring the spontaneous and heartwarming response of the audience, and the sense of joy that filled the chapel at the conclusion of the concert.
For me it was the joy that Jesus promised would be with and in us regardless of the circumstances of the world in which we live, and regardless of the triumphs and tragedies – no matter how minor or major they may be – that go to make up our ordinary daily lives. I suppose its the joy that at the inevitable end an all-embracing Love awaits us, and that there are many mansions – room for all!
In conclusion: all praise to Alexander whose musicianship continues to mature and seems boundless with an intense humility allowing the music a control and freedom that makes each succesive concert the more meaningful and spiritually rewarding. Not forgetting wife Margaret whose accompanying patience on the piano at rehearsals is limitless as she, together with Alexander, enables the choir to master the inticacies and dynamics of the works being prepared for performance.
24 October 2016
What this performance meant to me:
It is some twelve hours later that I now write, and I am still feeling overwhelmed with joy at the spontaneous standing ovation our performance of the Mozart Requiem, under the masterful baton of Alexander Fokkens, received in the Bishop’s Chapel last night. It seemed to me that all involved in the making of this marvellous music – soloists, orchestra, choir – were totally immersed in the spiritual intensity of this hope-full acclamation of the indestructibility of love and life, and that the all-embracing human event of death leads on naturally to something more.
In this afterglow of the performance it seems good to reflect on the overall experience of being part of such a dynamic body of singers and musicians bringing to life this brilliant Mozart score, aware of the deep understanding and spiritual perception of conductor Alexander in crafting and shaping this work with the musical resources at his disposal. It was truly a performance that overwhelmed one and all with a tangible joy and gladness. Continue reading
A REFLECTION ON THE CONCERT
Venue: The Baxter Concert Hall
Wednesday 4th March 2015 at 8.15p.m.
There is nothing quite like the joy of experiencing an audience standing to applaud and cheer at the end of a concert. Such was the joy experienced in the Baxter Concert Hall at the conclusion of our performance there last night under the baton of Alexander Fokkens – our Musical Director.
I have never been one for taking things apart to see how they work. And so I have no intention of posing as an analyst of the many facets and dynamics that go into the performance of concert items. But I feel I can share some understanding of how much such an enlivening and soul-enhancing concert came to be such.
By choosing, out of the three works on the programme, to give first performances of two in Cape Town, was in itself an act of daring – knowing just how conservative Cape Town audiences can be. The two first Cape Town performance items were: Mendelssohn”s Piano concerto in A minor and Cape Town composer Grant McLachlan”s Cantata Darius and the Den.
Pianist Reese Barkhuizen and the orchestra gave a hugely satisfying reading of the Mendelssohn, as did the orchestra with choir and soloists of the McLachlan Cantata.
I suppose the “bait” for the audience was the inclusion of the Beethoven Choral Fantasia for piano, soloists and orchestra with Reese Barkuizen again at the piano, and with soloists Levi Alexander, Janine Abrahams, Grant McLachlan; and Amanda Osorio, Marco Titus and Riaan Hunter – who were also the solists in the Darius Cantata.
Now, to comment on the music-making:
At the heart of it all was heart! – the heart of the conductor Alexander Fokkens.
He was not only knowlingly and creatively bringing each composition to life via the orchestra and the pianist and the singers, but, aware that an integral part of any public performance is casino online the audience, he achieved that most desirable of achievements – the bonding of the audience into the framework of the whole through every note brought to life by way of his conducting.
The centrality of his musicianship held both performers and audience in an amazing and tangible unity as each work unfolded to the final climax of joyful sound at the conclusion of the Beethoven Choral Fantasia.
Concerts such as last night”s do not just happen.They are the outcome of hours of hard work. And Alexander is no stranger to hard work.
Alexander would be the first to acknowledge that the success of the eveninng would not have been possible without the co-operation of each and every individual on stage.
It requires a huge amount of patience and humility to work with such a diverse body of individuals and to be able to mould them into a unified performing body of musicians.
This he achieved. I believe it was for all an incredible joy to feel such a deep sense of belonging together as we made the evening”s music under his baton. And to feel the very essence of the compositions performed come to fruition as from a heart pumping life-blood into every note.
No mean expression of the audience”s appreciation was evident in the amount they donated at interval towards a fund for the fire-fighters who have so valiantly been confronting the tragic fires raging through the Pensinsula over the past few days. An amount of over R8600 was collected.
FOR ALEXANDER FOKKENS –
time stands still
as he stands in silence
at one with the silence
of the Universe
Some personal reflections on the performance of Rossini”s MESSE SOLENNELLE in St. John”s Church, Wynberg on Sunday 15th June 2014
Basking in post-concert euphoria, it seems appropriate to pen some personal response to the performance of this work that was so enthusiastically embraced and received by an almost full house in St. John”s Church on the past Sunday evening.
The solo parts were wonderfully rendered by four youthful singers – Nomsa Mpofu (soprano), Bongiwe Nakani (mezzo-soprano). Willem Bester (tenor), and Martin Mkhize (bass) – brilliantly accompanied by organist Erik Dippenaar and concert pianist Albert Combrink. Along with these dedicated musicians, our conductor Alexander Fokkkens led the Symphony Choir of Cape Town with throrough sensitivity through the hour and twenty minutes of Rossini”s score in a performance infused with his own dynamic spirituality. Continue reading