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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Press Room: Press Releases

Minnesota Orchestra to embark on first tour by professional U.S. Orchestra to South Africa, performing in five cities in honor of Nelson Mandela Centenary, August 2018

  

Tour to include world premiere of Harmonia Ubuntu by South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen

Minnesota Chorale to join tour for performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Johannesburg and Soweto, singing alongside South Africa’s Gauteng Choristers  

Minnesota Orchestra’s July 2018 Sommerfest in Minneapolis to feature “Music for Mandela” theme


Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith, in partnership with Classical Movements, announced today that Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra will embark on a five-city tour to South Africa this summer—the first visit by a professional U.S. orchestra to the country—and offer a specially-themed Sommerfest in 2018, all in connection with a worldwide celebration of the late Nobel Peace Prize-winning South African leader and human rights advocate Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birth.

Minnesota audiences will be the first to experience the “Music for Mandela” project as part of the Orchestra’s annual Sommerfest, which will explore musical expressions of peace, freedom and reconciliation in ten concerts at Orchestra Hall from July 13 through August 1, 2018, including an International Day of Music. Vänskä and the Orchestra will subsequently depart for a five-city tour of South Africa (August 8–19), featuring performances in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Soweto and Johannesburg. The tour will bring together South African and American artists performing large-scale concerts in colleges, city halls and churches, as well as offering musical exchanges, residencies and side- by-side rehearsals with student groups.

“This is our chance to musically honor a great leader and to share music and goodwill across international borders and right here in Minnesota,” said Smith. “It is a unique opportunity to bring cultures together through music, and we are honored to play a role in the Nelson Mandela centenary celebration.”

The tour will showcase music that derives from South African, American and European musical traditions, ranging from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to a world premiere by South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen, commissioned by Classical Movements and written in tribute to Mandela. In Soweto, the Orchestra will perform the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the historic Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church, joined by South African soloists, members of the Minnesota Chorale and the South Africa-based Gauteng Choristers. Classical Minnesota Public Radio will present a broadcast of this program.

The centenary of Mandela, who was born on July 18, 1918, will be celebrated across South Africa and around the globe in 2018. The Johannesburg-based Nelson Mandela Foundation, which was founded by Mandela to preserve and perpetuate his vision of freedom and equality for all, has planned nearly 50 projects during the centennial year that are designed to commemorate the Mandela legacy.

Sello Hatang, Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said “Madiba’s centenary is about helping build a values based society. Music has over the years played a key role in helping deliver democracy in South Africa. We hope that this initiative will play a role in highlighting the plight of the poor and the marginalized, and thereby build a more equal society.”

The tour is funded by generous contributions from an anonymous couple. Additional funding for the Music for Mandela project is provided by a consortium of corporations based in Minnesota that to-date includes Ecolab, Land O’Lakes, Medtronic, Pentair, 3M, Target, TCF, Thor Construction and U.S. Bank.

Minnesota Orchestra Board Chair Marilyn Carlson Nelson said, “We are immensely grateful to our individual and corporate donors for making this project possible. We live in an interconnected world and the ‘Music for Mandela’ project underscores this idea, bringing together business support, community members, cultural interests and international performers to harness the power of music by commemorating an iconic visionary of our era.”

The tour is presented in partnership with Classical Movements, the international concert tour management company, which has worked extensively in South Africa since 1994.

How it Began

The impetus for a Minnesota Orchestra tour to South Africa grew out of Music Director Osmo Vänskä’s experience conducting the young musicians of the South African National Youth Orchestra (SANYO) in 2014 to celebrate SANYO’s 50th anniversary. The following year, Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra toured Cuba, which proved to be a profound experience for the organization, as

conductor and musicians participated in musical exchanges with Cuban musicians. When the Orchestra adopted a new strategic plan in 2016, it identified musical diplomacy through touring and residencies as a defining part of the Orchestra’s character and an important means of fulfilling its mission of “enriching, inspiring and serving” its community.

“Conducting the students of SANYO was an unforgettable experience, and I knew then that I wanted to return to South Africa with the Minnesota Orchestra,” said Music Director Osmo Vänskä. “Music has important roots in Africa and plays a central role in South African culture today, both choral music and a growing orchestral tradition, and we are excited to experience and be part of this movement.”

Sommerfest 2018: Music for Mandela

“Music for Mandela” will launch in Minneapolis when the Orchestra presents ten concerts under the auspices of its annual Sommerfest, running from July 13 to August 1, 2018. The festival will encompass an International Day of Music, featuring performances of many musical genres on multiple stages at Orchestra Hall for audiences of all ages; a Mandela Tribute performance showcasing a mix of speakers and music; the world premiere by Bongani Ndodana-Breen, and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, featuring South African soloists and led by Vänskä. Full Sommerfest details will be announced on March 2, with tickets available beginning March 2 (for subscribers) and April 6 (for single-ticket buyers). 

Tour to South Africa (August 8-19, 2018)

Following Sommerfest, the Orchestra’s tour to South Africa will launch in Cape Town on August 10, where Vänskä and the Orchestra will perform in the historic City Hall, which houses the balcony where Mandela addressed tens of thousands of people just hours after being freed from prison in 1990. The ensemble will next travel across South Africa to Durban, a coastal city in the East located on the Indian Ocean, for a performance in its City Hall. The final three tour stops are in close proximity to each other, all located in Gauteng province: Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city; Pretoria, where the Orchestra will perform at the University of Pretoria as part of the University’s Music Enrichment Festival; and Soweto, the historic township where Nelson Mandela lived in the 1940s and ’50s and from which much of the struggle against apartheid was fought. The Orchestra will perform in Soweto’s Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church, a historic venue that provided shelter to anti-apartheid activists and groups during the apartheid era and was the site of Truth and Reconciliation hearings in the 1990s.

Connecting Musical Traditions

The music performed on the tour will include South African, American and European musical traditions. Composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen is writing a new work for the occasion which will be performed in all tour locations. According to The New York Times, Ndodana-Breen’s “delicately made music—airy, spacious, terribly complex but never convoluted—has a lot to teach the Western wizards of metric modulation and layered rhythms about grace and balance.” Scored for soprano and orchestra, the work features text by Mandela and is titled Harmonia Ubuntu. Explains the composer, “Mandela was the exemplar of the African value of Ubuntu—the knowledge that one’s humanity is tied to the humanity of others.”  South African soprano Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye, who currently studies at the University of Michigan, will be the featured soloist. Harmonia Ubuntu is commissioned by Classical Movements for the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä in honor of the South Africa tour, as part of the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program. 

Vänskä will also lead cornerstone works of the European orchestral repertoire including Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, in alternating tour locales. In Johannesburg and Soweto, approximately 50 members of the Minnesota Chorale will join the tour to perform the choral finale to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony alongside the Gauteng Choristers, an acclaimed South African ensemble, and a distinguished cast of South African soloists (see page 6 for listing). In Soweto, the Orchestra and choirs will present a variety of African songs arranged for symphony orchestra and choir that are performed in languages such as Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho, including Akhala Amaqhude Amabili, Ruri, Bawo Thixo Somandla and Usilethela uxolo.

“It is such a humbling feeling for Gauteng Choristers to be part of this performance. The choir will not only be part of making memorable music with one of the most respected orchestras worldwide, but we will also be honoring our most internationally revered icon, President Nelson Mandela,” said conductor Sidwell Mhlongo. “The Ode to Joy is one of the most recognizable pieces by Beethoven, and it will be a great pleasure to honor Madiba with such a universally appealing piece which expresses joy through suffering. We are also looking forward to performing a variety of African songs. The concert will highlight the meeting of African and Western cultures in perfect harmony.”

Said Minnesota Chorale Artistic Director Kathy Saltzman Romey, “The Minnesota Chorale is thrilled to partner with the Minnesota Orchestra and the Gauteng Choristers on this very special project. It is an honor for us to celebrate the historic work and impact of Nelson Mandela and to affirm the value of international exchange and collaboration through Beethoven’s inspirational Ninth Symphony.”

Playing Side-by-Side with Young Musicians

Side-by-side rehearsals are a regular part of the Minnesota Orchestra’s engagement work with young musicians, offering an opportunity for students to play next to their professional counterparts, sharing a music stand and rehearsal experience together. During the tour, Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra will engage in two side-by-side rehearsals with young musicians, the first in Cape Town with members of the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, an ensemble founded in 2004 to provide quality training for young musicians in the Western Cape. In Pretoria, Vänskä and the Orchestra will partner for an immersive residency with the South African National Youth Orchestra (SANYO), an ensemble that draws talented young players from across South Africa and the continent of Africa. The residency will include a side-by-side rehearsal, master classes and shared dinner experience, as well as opportunities for SANYO students to attend Orchestra rehearsals and concerts. The Orchestra will also partner with the University of Pretoria to offer exchanges and master classes with music students, and  will participate in additional education projects with the Cape Music Institute in Athlone and with young musicians in Umlazi Township.

“Minnesota Orchestra musicians are not only excited and honored to be part of such a momentous musical event,” said Principal Horn Michael Gast, “but we look forward to spending time with student musicians and to performing with the Gauteng Choristers and such an acclaimed group of South African soloists.”  

Minnesota Orchestra Touring History

The Minnesota Orchestra’s touring history dates back nearly to the Orchestra’s founding in 1903. The ensemble was nicknamed “the Orchestra on Wheels” early on because of its frequent and lengthy cross-country train travel.  In 1929 and 1930, the Orchestra performed back-to-back tours in Cuba, and in 1957 it embarked on a State Department-sponsored tour of the Middle East, including visits to Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, among other countries. During his tenure, Osmo Vänskä has led the Orchestra on five European tours, featuring performances in the world’s music capitals including Berlin, London and Vienna. In May 2015, he conducted the Orchestra in two concerts in Cuba, a visit also arranged by Classical Movements, and the ensemble became the first American symphony orchestra to visit Havana following a 2014 thaw in diplomatic relations between the two countries. The August South Africa tour marks the Orchestra’s first visit to Africa. More: minnesotaorchestra.org/satour.


 PROGRAMS AND ITINERARY

SOMMERFEST, Minneapolis  (July 13-August 1, 2018)

During Sommerfest, its annual summer music festival at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Orchestra celebrates Nobel Peace Prize-winning South African leader and human rights advocate Nelson Mandela on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Across three weeks of programming, the Orchestra explores musical expressions of peace, freedom and reconciliation. Full Sommerfest details will be announced on March 2. 


SOUTH AFRICA TOUR (August 8-19, 2018)

Classical Movements Presents…
MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA IN CAPE TOWN  

Friday, August 10, 2018, 8 p.m. / City Hall, Cape Town 

Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye, soprano

Program to include:

NDODANA-BREEN                    Harmonia Ubuntu
BEETHOVEN                            Symphony No. 5

Tickets: available through Computicket on Jan. 22/ www.computicket.com/music
In Association with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra  


Side-by-Side rehearsal
CAPE TOWN PHILHARMONIC YOUTH ORCHESTRA and MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA 

Saturday, August 11, 2018 / ArtScape, Cape Town

Music Director Osmo Vänskä leads a side-by-side rehearsal with the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra.


Classical Movements Presents…
MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA IN DURBAN

Sunday, August 12, 2018, 5 p.m. / City Hall, Durban

Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye, soprano 

Program to include:

NDODANA-BREEN                    Harmonia Ubuntu
BEETHOVEN                            Symphony No. 5

Tickets: available through Computicket on Jan 22 / www.computicket.com/music

In Association with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra


Side-by-Side rehearsal
SANYO and MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 / Aula Theatre, Pretoria

Music Director Osmo Vänskä leads a side-by-side rehearsal with the South African National Youth Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra.


Classical Movements Presents…
MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA IN PRETORIA 

Thursday, August 16, 2018, 7:30 p.m. / Aula Theatre, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 

Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye, soprano 

Program to include:

NDODANA-BREEN                    Harmonia Ubuntu
BEETHOVEN                            Symphony No. 5

Tickets: available through Computicket on Jan 22 / www.computicket.com/music

In Association with the University of Pretoria, as part of the Music Department’s 2018 Enrichment Festival, and the Pretoria Symphony Orchestra


Classical Movements Presents…
MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA IN SOWETO 

Friday, August 17, 2018, 7 p.m. / Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church, Soweto 

Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye, soprano
Minette du Toit-Pearce, mezzo
Siyabonga Maqungo, tenor
Njabulo Madlala, bass-baritone
Gauteng Choristers
Minnesota Chorale

Program to include:

NDODANA-BREEN                                            Harmonia Ubuntu
BEETHOVEN                                                    Symphony No. 9, Choral (final movement)
TRADITIONAL/arr. Khumalo/orch. Van Dijk          Akhala Amaqhude Amabili (for chorus and orchestra)
MATYILA/arr. Khumalo                                      Bawo Thixo Somandla (for chorus)
MOERANE/arr. Cock                                          Ruri (for chorus and orchestra)
MAVI/arr. Mxadana/orchr. Kuusisto                       Usilethela uxolo (Nelson Mandela) (for chorus and orchestra) 

Classical Minnesota Public Radio will present a broadcast of this program. 

Tickets: available through Computicket on Jan 22 / www.computicket.com/music


Classical Movements Presents…
MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA IN JOHANNESBURG 

Saturday, August 18, 2018, 3 p.m. / City Hall, Johannesburg 

Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye, soprano
Minette du Toit-Pearce, mezzo
Siyabonga Maqungo, tenor
Njabulo Madlala, bass-baritone
Gauteng Choristers
Minnesota Chorale 

Program to include:

NDODANA-BREEN                    Harmonia Ubuntu
BEETHOVEN                            Symphony No. 9, Choral 

Tickets: available through Computicket on Jan 22 / www.computicket.com/music

In Association with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra

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