Sunday, August 02, 2009

What a finale (a series of finales?)!

South Africa, and in particular Hester Worlitz, who was the main mover behind the 37th International Viola Congress, has really done itself proud! Hester and I both attended our first congress in Germany in 2003, and were both enthused to do a congress in our countries. I did not manage to pull it off, but Hester did, and the end of the congress was a triumph!

The congress dinner at the Morgenhof was magnificent (though they seemed to be unable to cater for vegetarians, and proportions in South Africa between meat and accompanying vegetables seem to be greatly in favour of meat... the wine flowed very generously...).

Early the next morning not that many people appeared, but eventually trundled in for a fascinating lecture recital of Brazilian music for viola. In Brazil the viola is a guitar-type instrument played by violeros; this has the result that many European type viola teachers ('viola di arca' played by 'violistas', give or take my non-existant knowledge of Portuguese) find themselves attended (once) by many little boys wanting to play the Brazilian viola, and getting a big surprise!

The closing concert was almost the highlight of the concert. Luise Lansdowne's group of students from the Royal Northern College of Manchester (including, it turned out at the very last minutes of yesterday, a lad from Wrexham) did a really funny, and technically stunning, performance of caricatures by Hindemith of military and waltz music. Finally it was the performance of the massed viola ensemble, a regular feature of congresses, where everyone can play along (even I, had I had a fiddle on me). This year's group must have been one of the biggest groups ever - with the lads and lassies from Pretoria and a few other players as well. After some rather dreary pieces (I hate Gordon Jacob's music) and the Queen of Sheba they then launched into an African suite, written specially for the congress by a local composer (sorry, white, I maybe should not go on about people's skin colours) - that was fun. But the final medley of South African songs, written by a black guy from Johannesburg (also specially for the congress) was riotous and brilliant - and for me incredibly emotional in terms of social cohesion, sense of human family and so on. What a finish! And then the group of youngsters from Pretoria just could not stop playing and played song after song, including dancing, while the rest of us were enjoying end-of-congress drinks. A brilliant end to the congress!

In the evening some of us went for dinner in a local restaurant (not cheap), as did all the UK students (students obviously ain't what they used to be given that they could afford to come along to this, apart from also perhaps paying for their flights here, and renting cars locally). It was really, really great having some relaxed time out with very good friends! Roll on the next congress in Cincinnatti (sp?)!