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ClassicsOnline Home » KHUMALO: 5 African Songs / VAN DIJK: San Gloria / San Chronicle
Five African Songs
Three Nigerian Dances
Five African Songs
(Arranged by M. Khumalo; orchestrations by P. L. Van Dijk)
It has given me great pleasure to be associated with the Caltex-Sowetan Nation Building Festival in Johannesburg over the last few years. At the request of Richard Cock, Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra - and commissioned by the Foundation of Creative Arts - I have orchestrated these five traditional choral pieces, composed or arranged for massed choirs by Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo, for standard symphony orchestra. It is no easy task to create a 'balance' in the instrumentation when the National Symphony Orchestra is pitted against a stupendous choir of about 2,500 voices. The second factor which makes these commissions challenging is that they have to be scored in such a way as to be satisfactory accompaniments for choirs (under 'normal' conditions) and yet be scored solidly and interestingly enough to stand as purely instrumental versions. Nonetheless, the public excitement they generate, remembering that some of these songs are known to millions of South Africans, can be summed up by the reaction of the audience to the first performance of Bawo Thixo Somandla: several thousand people leapt to their feet and shouted "rewind!" - the local version of "encore"!
P. L. Van Dijk
San Gloria (Péter Louis Van Dijk, b. 1953)
San Gloria was commissioned by the Diocesan College, Cape Town and received its first performance in the War Memorial Chapel under the direction of Garmon Ashby in August 1990. The work, inspired by San (or Bushman) themes and rhythms attempts to blend the music of these gentle, virtually extinct and ancient African people with an abridged version of the ancient (and virtually extinct) Latin poem Gloria in excelsis Deo. This work seeks to represent two totally unrelated cultures - both ancient, symbolic and relevant in their own right - thereby highlighting exactly those elements in Southern African society which, at times, excite us and sometimes mutually exasperate. San Gloria has received a number of performances in South Africa, Bophuthatswana and Botswana, the United States and Britain. The work is dedicated to the composer's parents, Pieter and Gré.
Three Nigerian Dances (Samuel Akpabot, b. 1940)
Samuel Akpabot was born in the Etinan district of Eastern Nigeria. As a young man, he showed unusual musical talent and studied Western music with European-trained teachers. Later he was awarded a bursary to study organ, trumpet and composition at the Royal College of Music in London.
After completing his studies in England, Akpabot returned to Nigeria to teach and conduct research on the indigenous music of his country at the University of lfe. He then continued his ethno-musicological studies in the United States at the University of Chicago and Michigan State University, where he received a Doctor of Philosophy degree. His publications on the subject have gained him a reputation as a major scholar of West African indigenous music.
Several of Akpabot's compositions juxtapose African and European instruments, while others, like Three Nigerian Dances, use Western instruments only (strings and timpani in this case). The Dances do, however, convey a genuine sense of West African musical characteristics with their use of "call and response" patterns and idiomatic rhythmic motives.
San Chronicle (P. L. Van Dijk, b.1953)
San Chronicle is the second of three Bushman - (or San-) related compositions from the composer's San Trilogy. (The third work, San Genesis, is still in preparation.)
The composer's fascination with the San stems from the fact that they represent the oldest inhabitants of this country. A truly misunderstood people, they were nevertheless the first to understand the principles of conservation, had a unique art in their rock paintings, a great love of children and life and a wonderful tenacity in the face of gross exploitation and slaughter by both the black and white tribes around them (whom they called "the animals without hooves").
While San Chronicle is not specifically programmatic, the work does contain many sounds and symbols associated with Bushman life: the wide open spaces of the Kalahari, the San's reticent, private nature, his sense of humour, his singing and dancing, the pronking of the Springbok, the celebration of the hunt, the plaintive and prophetic song of the Mantis and the Moon (English horn solo), but most of all, a sense of foreboding and decay: a chronicle of the inevitable virtual annihilation of these gentle folk. A brief fanfare marks the arrival of European ships at the Cape (a rock painting of roughly 1700 actually depicts this). Those who seemed to be gods, would soon become their executioners. A "Piet-my-vrou" (a specific bird-call) at the conclusion of the work depicts an extinguishable hope - and the indomitability of their spirit.
San Chronicle was commissioned by TOTAL (South Africa) and was first performed by the Transvaal Chamber Orchestra under Walter Mony at the University of the Witwatersrand Great Hall in November 1990.
P. L. Van Dijk
Notes on Five African Songs
Of this set of five songs, two are in Xhosa, viz. Ingoma kaNtsikana and Bawo Thixo Somandla, while the other three are in Zulu. Ingoma kaNtsikana is a religious song said to have been composed by the first Christian convert from the Xhosa nation. It is in the traditional Xhosa style of the late nineteenth century, while Bawo Thixo Somandla is a protest song of the 1960s and 1970s. Banto Be-Afrika Hlanganani is a song in modem African traditional style composed on the Nation Building theme: "People of Africa, unite!"
Akhala Amaqhude Amabili is an arrangement combining two Zulu folk songs, viz. Vukani Madoda and Qhude we Ma! These two are folk-songs of the 1920s and 1930s. Sizongena Laph' emzini is also an arrangement combining two other folk-songs. These are Sivukleni Singene Sonke and Wi, wi sizongena. The first song is a wedding-song of the 1920s and 1930s, while the latter is a wedding-song of the 1940s and 1950s.
Péter Louis Van Dijk
Dutch-born Péter Louis Van Dijk enjoys a wide and varied career within the musical world, from composing, performing and teaching to conducting and recording for radio and television. He began composing at the age of nine and at nineteen wrote his first opera, The Contract, performed by the University of Cape Town Opera School in 1973. A second opera, in Afrikaans, Die Noodsein, was performed in 1975. Principally known as a composer, Van Dijk has worked extensively as Music Director and composer for the South African Broadcasting Corporation and Cape Performing Arts Board and as a conductor has worked with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. A number of his choral and orchestral works have had wide circulation throughout Southern Africa, in Europe and in the United States. These include The Selfish Giant, The Musicians of Bremen, Follow that Flute, San Gloria and Youth Requiem.
Trained as a teacher, Mzilikazi Khumalo went on to an academic career of distinction and is now Professor of African Languages at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He has had considerable experience as an adjudicator in music competitions and as a choral trainer and was the first conductor to win the adult section of the National Eisteddfod of the African Teachers' Association of South Africa. He has composed many songs for national music contests and arranged the present Five African Songs for massed choirs for the Caltex-Sowetan Nation-Building Festival.
National Symphony Orchestra of the SABC
The National Symphony Orchestra of the South African Broadcasting Corporation was established in 1953 with the amalgamation of the three studio orchestras of the Corporation, with the support of the City Council of Johannesburg, where the orchestra is based. Since then the orchestra has done much to enrich the musical life of the country, working with visiting conductors of great distinction and doing much to promote music by contemporary South African composers. From 1987 until 1991 the National Symphony Orchestra was combined with the Performing Arts Council Orchestra to form the National Orchestra, but has now resumed its original identity, remaining the principal orchestra in the country.
Richard Cock was born in Port Elizabeth and studied at the Cape Town College of Music and the Royal School of Church Music in London, in 1978 becoming director of music at the Cathedral Choir School and assistant organist at Chichester Cathedral. Since his return to South Africa in 1980 Richard Cock has received several awards, including prizes for conducting and two South African Broadcasting Corporation Artes Awards. In 1987 he was made an Associate of the Royal School of Church Music for his services to sacred music in South Africa and in 1994 was elected to a fellowship of the same body. Richard Cock is currently employed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation as Music Director and General Manager of its orchestra. He is director of the SABC Choir and Chamber Choir, chairman of the Apollo Music Trust, musical director of the Transvaal Chamber Orchestra and, with Mzilikazi Khumalo, of the Caltex-Sowetan Nation-Building Massed Choirs Festival. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Organists and was South Africa's first professional countertenor.
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KHUMALO: 5 African Songs / VAN DIJK: San Gloria / ...