ECPO unfurls thrilling calendar

Louise Liebenberg

THE Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (ECPO) is kicking off this year's programme with one of its most popular offerings – Concert in the Park – but it also has a thrilling schedule to entice music lovers the entire year.

This highlight of the ECPO's summer season will undoubtedly be next weekend's concerts in Victoria Park, which will include a sundowner concert at 5pm next Saturday and a brunch concert at 10am on the Sunday.

The ECPO has secured two fine soloists – Sama award-winning singer Nianell and acclaimed singer and jazz trumpeter Prince Lengoasa – for the two concerts.

For the rest of the year, the ECPO concerts will mainly be at the Feather Market Centre, starting with Symphony in Blue on March 16.

Orchestra manager Gill Barnett said this concert would feature the Russian-born, US-based pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski performing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

"Locally born conductor David Scarr, who divides his time between Austria and the Eastern Cape, will be on the podium."

Next up is Last Night of the Proms, the ever-popular St Francis Hospice fundraiser, on May 31 and June 1. It will be conducted by Richard Cock and will have a "Music from the Movies" theme this year.

Following the success of last year's first Festival Pops Concert, the orchestra has been re-invited to perform at the closing concert of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown on July 13. Then, on August 10, Heroic Legends promises an epic performance of Bruch's Violin Concerto No 1 by Jacqueline Wedderburn- Maxwell, who filled the Feather Market in 2009 as a 16-year-old soloist with the ECPO. Conductor Alex Fokkens will also lead the orchestra in two Beethoven works.

The Youth Concerto Festival on September 21 is another annual highlight. "It's always an interesting and inspiring concert giving young soloists the opportunity to perform with a full symphony orchestra. The result is a concert filled with some superb concertos by a variety of composers," Barnett said.

Staying with youth, the Youth Orchestral Experience Concert on October 12 is another popular annual offering. It follows the Youth Orchestral Experience Workshop and sees the top high school and university players from around the province performing in the Youth Wind Band and Youth Orchestra.

A collage of romantic works including Rimsky-Korsakov and Sibelius, and award-winning soprano Caroline Modiba performing songs from Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne, feature in Collage on November 30.

Season tickets are available for the five concerts – Symphony in Blue, Heroic Legends, Youth Concerto Festival, Youth Orchestral Experience Concert and  Collage.  E-mail for an application form or call (041) 581-7747.The season ticket package, which is extremely reasonably priced at between R310 and R370 depending on seats chosen, allows patrons to secure their favourite seats for each of the concerts, without having to book through Computicket. Season ticket holders also receive a voucher for free concert programmes.

Tickets for next weekend's park concerts are available at the Victoria Park gates from two hours before each concert at R90 for adults, R60 for pensioners and R40 for scholars. There is no charge for pre-schoolers.

There will also be application forms for season tickets at the ticket sales tents at the concert.