Sunday, March 04, 2018

The 2018 RMB Starlight Classics concert at Vergelegen

This Afro Symphonic tribute to our beautiful country brings together a collection of diverse musical talent and incredible singers and instrumentalists, under the legendary baton of Maestro Richard Cock. It was founded 20 years ago. It is held each year at the Johannesburg Country Club and at Vergelegen estate in Somerset West (founded in 1700) and we were delighted to receive an invitation again this year
The pass which was delivered to us gave us access to secure parking on the estate from which we could proceed to the welcome area, where they were pouring glasses of two of our favourite MCC bubblies, Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut and Brut Rosé
Canapés were circulating like these tiny Asian fishcakes topped with sushi ginger
or bocconcini mozzarella on a cheese biscuit, topped with cream and a dehydrated strawberry
Morsels of beef topped with gherkin, pepperoni and mayo
They need a LOT of glasses for the huge invited crowd
and there is also a large paying audience enjoying their picnics under the famous 300 year old camphor trees or on the lawn
It is an annual outing for many, who bring their supper and sit with their friends enjoying the evening and the concert to follow
We were then directed through the famous rose garden to collect our picnic hampers, blankets and some wine
Hampers for the invited guests. Each hamper is for two people and this year ours (tailored to adjust to our allergies) contained tiny pink lamb koftas, rather dry rice paper rolls with chicken and shredded vegetables and herbs, a quinoa and roasted vegetable salad, a relish of baby tomatoes, olives and peppers, biltong, nuts, cheese and biscuits, and fruit leather
This year they had some very good entertainment from pupils at local schools before the concert began. This was one of the very talented school big bands
You are given Vergelegen wine with your picnic supper
The concert is about to begin
with everyone standing to sing the National Anthem 
More crowded in front!
Maestro Richard Cock leads the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra in the rousing allegro from Rossini's William Tell Overture 
He told us how he went to RMB 20 years ago to ask for funding for the National Symphony Orchestra. He spoke to Laurie Dippenaar, Co-founder of Rand Merchant Bank, who suggested that they sponsor an outdoor concert for RMB clients and thus the Starlight Classics concert was founded
James Formby, chief executive of Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), a division of FirstRand Bank, opened the concert and told us it was going to be a tribute to many people, and would celebrate anniversaries, most importantly Nelson Mandela’s Centenary; that we would have local and international performers and that there would be some traditional elements
This was very traditional; we had our own Praise singer/Mbongi, named Prelude, who worked up the crowd in praise of Madiba
Then it was the turn of the vibrant Mzansi Youth Choir, recently returned from a very successful performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where they attended the International Youth Choir Festival. They are truly a magnificent choir. This young lady sang like an angel
They sang and they danced in perfect unison
and they sang us a prayer for rain
The Cape so needs water, we hope it works
Chopin's Étude Op.10, No.5 is known as the "Black Key Étude" as its right-hand part is entirely on black keys, except for one note. It was played by 13 year old piano prodigy Qden Blaauw who has already put his name into the South African history books. He only started playing the piano 5 years ago
We had video on the big screens, filmed from the top of the proscenium arch, showcasing his finger work
Then it was the turn of classical South African soprano, Cecilia Rangwanasha, who performed One Fine Day from Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly. A lovely mature voice for one so young; she is 24. She is currently a member of Cape Town Opera
  Dutch child star soprano singer – Amira Willighagen, a singer we have seen before, but when she was much younger. She won the sixth season of Holland's Got Talent in 2013 at the age of 9
The Typewriter by Leroy Anderson, played by Magdalena de Vries with the Cape Town Philharmonic, much to the amusement of the audience
She is a great comedienne
The jazz trio of Tim Kliphuis, Roy Percy and Nigel Clark played Duke Ellington's song Caravan... 
while we were entertained by belly dancers Marissa Cuènoud, Shahra Sattar and Nicola Spurdens from the Soma Dance Studio
Afrikaans musical icon – Riana Nel
The star of the evening was South Africa’s Afro-Jazz-Soul Diva, Lira and the audience loved her
Paxton Fielies, 2017 SA Idols winner, singing with Lira
One of our top classical lyric tenors, Sunnyboy Dladla, who has performed in many European Opera houses. He sang Ah! Mes Amis from Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment” which has nine top C's; very impressive
Lira and The Voice SA 2017 winner Craig Lucas brought us all together with this song Different Colours
They were joined by other performers including Riana Nel and the Mzansi Youth Choir. It was a rousing performance
Time for interval, where there was a rush for hot coffee, not so necessary on this absolutely perfect balmy evening with no wind, and other refreshments
and, of course, it's a comfort break, so one has to find the luxury portaloos in the woods
Back to the concert and a performance by Cecilia Rangwanasha and Amira Willighagen, who sang the famous and very beautiful Flower Duet from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé, well known as a theme in British Airways advertising
The Tim Kliphuis, Roy Percy, Nigel Clark Trio played songs from the 1930s, very much in the style of Django Reinhardt
Then it was time for us to light our candles and All Sing Together to Paul McCartney's Frog Chorus song for Rupert the Bear, "We All Stand Together". The audience participation is always wonderful and such fun. And they help us by putting the words we are to sing on the screens. And the words are very appropriate in South Africa at the moment with our new government
It was very beautiful to see everyone holding up their candles
and singing along
This concert was recorded and will be broadcast on 29th April on M Net
And then a tribute to the late great Bra Hugh Masekela by a superb flügelhorn player Lorenzo Blignaut, who started his playing career with the Delft Big Band, an upliftment project in the Cape flats
Lira leads us in a rousing song
Craig Lucas sang Chris de Burgh's Lady in Red emotionally and well to his mother, Jenny Lucas
Cecilia and Sunnyboy in a duet
Riana Nel with an Afrikaans song “Dans”, which she said she had written for her wedding but played at many others before she could afford her own! It received a roaring reception from the audience
The finale with everyone on stage
and of course there had to be at least one encore. So we all sang O Sole Mio. With phonetic wording
And finally we stood and applauded after a really special concert this year. Thank you RMB
While those wanting to rush home quickly in their cars clogged up the surrounding roads, we were ushered into the marquee for dessert, coffee and little glasses of port
There were two vast tables covered in sweet delights: macaroons, cream stuffed profiteroles covered in white chocolate, carrot cake, chocolate puddings and cakes
On the way out, those beautiful camphor trees turn into mythical Tree Ents in the lights. We booked ourselves into an AirBnB just a few minutes away as we hate driving back to Cape Town on the N2 motorway this late

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