A chance to score a better life

Lynne Gadd–Claxton

BY creating opportunities for musical development, children from the Keiskamma Music Academy are empowered and fulfilled.

They will be part of performances of the multimedia French Carnival in collaboration with the French Season in South Africa, of a unique repertoire of classical, jazz and traditional music in the Eastern Cape. It starts today and runs till next weekend at three different centres.

The academy’s founder Helen Vosloo said the somewhat isolated town of Hamburg – the academy’s base – had few opportunities for the youth, with teenage pregnancies, alcoholism, HIV infection, and dropping out of school being major issues facing the youth.

“Unless programmes are developed in the area for the youth, their outlook on life is limited, their options are few, and the chances of them slipping through the cracks and becoming another hopeless statistic are enormous. The opportunity of music education offers tangible employment opportunities for them,” she said.

The young musicians will perform on recorders, orchestral and indigenous instruments and the stage will display various pieces created by the Keiskamma Art Project.

Vosloo said the French Carnival was a multi-disciplinary production with selections from Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals and Maurice Ravel’s Ma Mére L’Oye.

“The production is a precursor of what they are preparing for next year’s National Arts Festival’s main stage,” Vosloo said.

Besides “transfixing the audience”, the ensemble also received a Standard Bank Ovations Award at this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Keiskamma Music Academy leader Lihle Mtshonisi, 16, said the audience would be pleasantly surprised with their musical repertoire.

The academy, established in 2006 by Vosloo, came about after she was “touched” by a Keiskamma Art Project’s tapestry.

Said Mtshonisi: “The teachers are like a mother. It is not only about music but they help me develop.

“When I started at the academy when I was 10 years old, I never took anything seriously. Helen told me to stop fooling around otherwise I would be kicked out. I knew I wanted to be a musician and so I had to be more committed. The academy has changed me for the better. I communicate better and have learnt to give it my all if I want to reap the rewards,” he said.

The French Carnival will be at the Miriam Makeba Centre for Performing Arts in East London today at 7.30pm, the Port Alfred Presbyterian Church tomorrow at 3pm, and next Saturday at 7.30pm at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University South Campus auditorium in Port Elizabeth.

Tickets for the East London and Port Elizabeth shows are R50 at the door. Port Alfred tickets are available on (046)624-2036. They will also perform at the Historic Old Hall in Hamburg next Friday at 4pm; a donation is required at the door.

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