Last weekend some friends took me to a concert. It was the first one I had been to for many years, other than the organ recital in Lincoln last year. This time, the orchestra comprised a group of young, talented people from the townships around Johannesburg, who played a variety of stringed instruments. These are my impressions.
They came onto the stage in black t-shirts, emblazoned with the name of the organisation to which they belonged – an organisation whose goal is to realize their dream of achieving their full potential as musicians. Some of them were very young. All carried their stringed instruments from violins to double bass.
Their conductor, who plays a fundamental role in their learning, introduced the group, then turned to the orchestra and raised her hands.
And so it began. A wave of sound that transported us to places of joy and sadness, of delight and pathos; to the formal concert halls of Europe, and the streets of Soweto. A mix of music that had us holding our breath in awe, or clapping our hands to the African rhythms they produced.
One young man, played a solo on his violin with such energy and enthusiasm that several strings on his bow broke. I am no musician, but I appreciated the skill and the effort he put into his playing. Another stepped forward and played such high sweet notes that we could scarcely believe he had achieved such purity of sound.
One or two, in their early teens wearing their white ‘apprentice’ shirts, delighted us with the promise of their talent. What a joy to see the young people throughout the group so very dedicated to the instruments they played. Such beauty is not achieved without hard work. However much talent someone possesses, this glorious sound in harmony with others, can only be accomplished by hours of practice.
Their faces shone with enthusiasm. Their humility at our enthusiastic response as we rose to our feet at the end was a testimony to those of us in the audience, older, wiser, perhaps more expectant of praise for a job well done. It was refreshing to see how awkward our adulation made them feel. This was not a group of youngsters looking for acclaim. This was just a group who had spent a Saturday afternoon doing what they love – and sharing their joy with others.
What a gift my friends gave me when they asked me to accompany them to this Buskaid concert. And what a joy it was to see the talent of these young people from the townships being nurtured by people who love music. I have a feeling many of these young musicians will make a name for themselves as they travel the world making music. I pray that this may be so – for their talent deserves to be recognized and shared.