On Saturday morning, August 18, the Minnesota Orchestra crew completed their final load-in of the tour at Johannesburg’s City Hall and the musicians boarded the buses for a short trek to the venue. Even the chilly winter morning couldn’t erase the afterglow of Friday night’s concert in Soweto!
City Hall, like so many of the venues in South Africa, has been the home of many historical and political events throughout its more than 100-year history. The Edwardian building has seen many political events on its steps from protest meetings to a bomb blast in 1988.
The setting for the concert was stunning—and although there were a few minor hiccups with a late start and seating, the crowd was attentive from the moment Vänskä lifted his baton. South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen and Dr. Makaziwe “Maki” Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s eldest daughter, were in the capacity crowd of more than 1,100.
Scott Chamberlain, MinnPost
During the concert, pigeons flew back and forth from the proscenium arch to the window ledge high above the auditorium. The sun seemed to shine through the windows at the most opportune moments during Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony: the horn solo of the third movement, the “Ode to Joy” theme and the triumphant ending of the piece.
Vänskä returned to the stage after a standing ovation, conducting the orchestra and choir in “Usilethela Uxolo,” then turned the podium over to Xolani Mootane, who brought down the house with “Bawo Thixo Somandla.” Vänskä then returned to lead the ensemble in a final performance of “Shosholoza.”
But the music didn’t stop there. The Gauteng Choristers continued the singing into the hallways as they left the stage; stragglers from the crowd looked on.
Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith, who retires at the end of August, beamed at the post-concert farewell dinner. He thanked Classical Movements, the Orchestra’s tour partner, as well as the musicians, staff, patrons and donors who made the tour possible.
It is, “by all accounts, the biggest project the orchestra has ever done,” Smith said. “It’s hard to know where it goes from here, but … I think the orchestra will continue to be more adventurous and expansive in how it works and with whom it works and where it goes.”
President and CEO Kevin Smith
Story by Jenna Ross, Star Tribune
“There were so many dimensions to this tour,” said Smith. “The fact that it has gone so beautifully from beginning to end—it gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”
We are immensely grateful to the Music for Mandela corporate consortium sponsors for making this project possible: Ecolab, TCF, Medtronic Foundation, Land O’ Lakes, Inc., 3M, U.S. Bank, Thor Companies, Target and Pentair.
Hey, @mn_orchestra.— Dessa (@dessadarling) August 16, 2018
I’m really gonna miss you guys when this is over.
We recognize an anonymous couple for their generous contribution to fund the Minnesota Orchestra’s tour. We also recognize the Douglas and Louise Leatherdale Fund for Music supporting the work of Osmo Vänskä.
"It's bigger than ourselves and it’s bigger than our own perspectives. We have to share it with the world. And that’s what we did here.”
First Associate Concertmaster Susie Park
Story by Jenna Ross, Star Tribune
Photography by Travis Anderson. Follow along throughout the tour on our South Africa landing page.