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Performing the Jewish Archive: A continuation of Stellenbosch University’s legacy of musical composition

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The festival Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish Music and Theatre that utilized numerous performance venues in Cape Town and Stellenbosch from 10 to 17 September this year was by all accounts a tremendous success. The festival was the finale in a series of festivals that took place in Leeds & York (UK), Wisconsin-Madison (USA), Prague, Pilsen & Terezin (Czech Republic) and Sydney (Australia). All performances were in some way or another outcomes of the project Performing the Jewish Archive (PtJA), sponsored by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. Included in the project’s 25 international partner organizations were the Cape Town Holocaust Centre, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, UCT and Stellenbosch University. Stellenbosch University’s participation affirms the excellent international reputation that this institution enjoys through its Music and Drama Departments.

The project seeks to rediscover lost or forgotten performance-related artefacts from the Jewish ghettos and camps of World War II, many of which were melting pots of artistic creativity. Plays, texts, scripts and music manuscripts came to light, and we saw a number of gems being given their world premieres right here on our stages. Altogether Stellenbosch and Cape Town hosted 14 performances including 11 world premieres at 9 different venues.

Both Sydney and Stellenbosch were entrusted with a touching comedy, Prinz Bettliegend, which was reconstructed following the discovery of the musical numbers and the gathering of Holocaust survivor witness testimonies by PtJA researcher Dr Lisa Peschel. Both performances (Stellenbosch and Cape Town) were sold out and the SU drama students under the direction of Amelda Brand brought tears to, and drew rapturous applause from, the distinguished PtJA team and audience alike. SU staff member, Leonore Bredekamp who has one foot in the Drama Department and another in the Music Department was musical director and bass guitarist for this production. The band, facilitated by the Music Department’s director of Certificate Programmes, Felicia Lesch, included SU students Throy Petersen (piano), Kristi Boonzaaier (clarinet), Bradley Martin (violin), Esra Januarie (drumkit) and US Alumnus Leon Oosthuizen (accordion).

An exhibition of our own Jewish Archive set up in part in our Music Library and in part in the Behrens Foyer was prepared by Santie de Jongh. This exhibition complemented an impressive and deeply moving pop up exhibition from Leeds University that travelled to the various performance venues. The immense amount of scholarly research that went hand in hand with the creative work was also highlighted at a colloquium in the Jannasch Hall. Discussions emanating from this colloquium were continued at a symposium at the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at UCT. Stellenbosch University Music Department personnel were well represented, not only at its own venues, but also at UCT and other Cape Town venues. Notable performances amongst others given by SU Music Department staff members included a recital of songs and piano music by Viktor Ullmann preceded by a selection of short pieces by the 12-year-old Josima Feldschuh, as well as chamber music by Wilhelm Grosz, Werner Baer and Walter Wurzburger. Staff members, Dr Pieter Grobler (piano), Minette du Toit Pearce (alto), Jolene Auret Kappis (soprano) and Peter Martens (cello) performed alongside Cape Town’s finest musicians. After the opening event in the Gardens Shul, Red Riding Hood – a children’s opera by Wilhelm Grosz – was performed at the Hugo Lambrechts auditorium, and the final performance of choral music by a diversity of Holocaust composers featuring the Cape Soloists Choir in Erin Hall, Cape Town, we were represented by our students, alumni and ad-hoc staff members: Colette Brand (Cello), David Bester and Piet de Beer (violin), Visser Liebenberg (clarinet), Myles Roberts (Flute) and Roxane Steffen (double bass). No fewer than 12 SU and SICMF alumni participated as members of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in an historic performance of Grosz’s Serenade, a large orchestral work that featured in this concert in the Cape Town City Hall alongside Richard Strauss’s epic tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra. According to the Australian PtJA researcher, Joseph Toltz, “This concert was the first in living memory to hear one of Grosz’s early, large-scale orchestral compositions.” It was last played by the Vienna Philharmonic under under Felix Weingartner in the 1920s.

On the one hand, PtJA seeks to give a voice to composers, playwrights and poets suppressed or destroyed by the Holocaust, and on the other hand, seeks to bring remembrance and commemoration through the reconstruction of a people’s forgotten legacy through music and drama. To this end composition students from both UCT and SU were given wartime Jewish texts to set to music. New music was created by these students, thereby giving the texts fresh wings with which to fly and grace parts of the world that may never have heard them otherwise.

According to the pre-eminent South African composer, Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph, “The symposia and concerts were of the highest level of musical and intellectual quality… the outstanding highlight was the unbelievable level and quality of the new compositions produced by the Stellenbosch and UCT students… Having been a professor of composition at Wits University for many many years, I can safely say that these students acquitted themselves publicly on the highest level – and to such an extent that the Leeds University organisers have committed to including these new compositions in their archive to be performed internationally. …without the composers, there are NO musicologists nor performers – these young composers are a CRITICAL element in the sustainable MUSIC-ECO system. You can be extremely proud of the work they produced.”

Prof Henrik Hofmeyr from the S.A.C.M. at UCT “was most impressed by the works created by the Stellenbosch Composition students. The results certainly speak of a thriving Composition class, and reflect most positively on the Music Department and the University as a whole.”

The student compositions were indeed excellent – every single one of them – and each in a different way. I was of course deeply involved in the whole festival so perhaps that increased my sensitivity here, but nevertheless, there were moments whilst playing the student compositions that I felt the same reverence that I feel when playing a quartet by Schubert or Beethoven. I know that all the performers feel that if they were asked to play any of these works again, they would accept in a heartbeat.

The Department of Music at Stellenbosch University has produced a long line of internationally recognised and lauded composers. The first crop of distinguished composers from the early decades of the 1900s included F.W. Jannasch, a founder staff member of the institution, Arnold van Wyk and Hubert du Plessis. Notable composers to be counted amongst our staff and alumni since include Roelof Temmingh, Hans Roosenschoon (current Professor of Composition at the Dept of Music), Bongani Ndodana-Breen, Hans Huyssen and Hendrik Hofmeyr. In recent years, the Department has also enjoyed a fruitful association with Trevor Jones, a South African born international film music composer of Hollywood fame. Stellenbosch University students who composed works for the Jewish Archive include Kelsey Muller, Jesse Dreyer, Carlie Schoonees, Natalie Frenz and Leonore Bredekamp. Leading this new generation of Stellenbosch composers are Arthur Feder and Antoni Schonken. Whilst the facilities at the Stellenbosch University Department of Music are well equipped to continue this legacy, one cannot but be apprehensive about prospects threatened by increasing financial cuts.

When Sir Winston Churchill was advised by a member of his cabinet to take from the budget of Arts and Culture to service a shortfall in the war budget, he refused and retorted, “Then what are we fighting for?” Perhaps Leeds University’s flagship project Performing the Jewish Archive, was timeously sent to provide the impetus for the next great wave in the history of Stellenbosch University’s impressive composition portfolio. At the very least, it provided an internationally-recognised local platform that showcased the impressive potential we have here.

On Saturday 30 September, the University of Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra honoured prof Roosenschoon, who will retire at the end of this year, with a touching performance of his work Vier gebede (2004). Like those of his students who composed for the Jewish Archive, this work of his was a setting of a most profound text.

In response to a request for comment on the Jewish Archive project, Prof Hans Roosenschoon wrote, “Let our mindfulness and being in the world never be silenced again by inhumane annihilation. Let us listen to others…….”

For more on the PtJA project, its illustrious team of researchers and video recordings of all the South African performances, please see

Peter Martens

10 October 2017

Women’s Day Celebration Concert

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The Music Department in partnership with Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Transformation Office, the Visual Arts Department and the Women’s Forum presented a concert in celebration of Women’s Day in August in the Endler Hall in Stellenbosch. The SU Jazz Band took centre stage under the direction of Felicia Lesch joined by South African jazz legend Gloria Bosman and jazz singer and poet Mihi-Tuwi Matshingana.

The evening was specifically dedicated to honouring the memory of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke – the first black South African woman to obtain tertiary education and who graduated in the USA in 1901. Her mantra, “When you rise, lift someone up with you”, is a maxim that artists Felicia Lesch, Bosman and Matshingana all embrace.

Lesch is passionate about music as a vehicle for social change and formed the SU Jazz Band as one of the ensembles of the Certificate Programme. The Certificate Programme is the pre-undergraduate programme of the SU Music Department which was created to empower students with skills to embark on a BMus or Diploma programme at tertiary level.

Matshingana completed a BCom degree at SU in 2014, during which time she also studied in the Music Department’s Certificate Programme, a programme to which she paid homage on stage. She is currently a third-year Jazz Studies student at Wits University in Johannesburg.

South African author and journalist Zubeida Jaffer’s third book “Beauty of the heart“, which is a tribute to Maxeke and also provides fresh information on her life, was available for purchase at the event. Jewellery from an jewellery exhibition by Kutlwano Cele, a student in the Visual Arts Department, was also on sale.

The SRC and many students from other departments and faculties supported the concert. 

“For some this was their first “Endler experience”, which made it a particularly joyful event,” said Monica du Toit of the Transformation Office.

Special guests from within the Arts Faculty, the Women’s Forum, the Gender Equality Unit, SU Museum, SU Transformation Office and community partners of the Music Department’s own Certificate Programme also attended the Woman’s Day Celebration Concert. 

“The event was a moment of institutional belonging and connection with new people at our institution.”

“We look forward to more meaningful collaborations in the future and honour the women (and men) on stage who are using music as a vehicle to liberate, educate, rage and dream,” added Du Toit.​​

Collaboration with the Cape Town Animation School

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Antoni Schonken and Arthur Feder run a collaboration with the Cape Town Animation School, where they produce soundtracks to the final year projects. Aret Lambrechts from the Music Technology Department manages the sound effects in conjunction with this, while our students (Carlie Schoonees, Jesse Dreyer, Kristi Boonzaaier) record the soundtracks each year.

In recent film festivals, their work has won these awards:
New York International Film and Television Festival 2017:
Ben & Jerry (composer: Arthur Feder) — World Gold Medal
Hewn (composer: Antoni Schonken, Carlie Schoonees, Jesse Dreyer) — World Gold Medal
Khaya (composer: Antoni Schonken) — World Gold Medal
Nova (composer: Arthur Feder) — Silver Medal
So you want to be a goblin? (composer: Kristi Boonzaaier) — Finalist Certificate
Cape Town International Animation Festival 2017:
Hewn — Best Direction, Best Art Design, Best Story
Ben & Jerry — Best Character Animation, Best Lighting, Best Team Production
This brings the tally on their awards with these animations up to 25 since 2015, including features at the Annecy Festival, and awards for best sound design, best soundtrack, best animated short, and best animated student film.

Congratulations ALL!

SUChamber Choir returns from Hong Kong

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The Stellenbosch University Chamber Choir (SUCC), has just returned from a hugely successful tour to Hong Kong. The choir was invited as Artist Choir in Residence to the 2017 World Youth & Children’s Choir Festival which took place from 17-22 July 2017. An invitation of this nature can be considered both a great and rare honour.

The World Youth and Children’s Choir Festival is one of the most important choral festivals in the world, and attracts 200 participating choirs from across the globe. SUCC’s concerts were listened to by around 5000 participants and performances were live-streamed worldwide.

Founded and conducted by Martin Berger, this young ensemble has developed into one of South Africa’s leading chamber choirs: internationally respected and locally relevant. With the diversity of its repertoire, SUCC represents the variety of choral music styles to be found in the country.

The choir performed at the Opening Ceremony of the festival on 18 July, a full evening concert on 19 July and also at the 20th Anniversary Celebration Concert of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  All performances were received with overwhelming enthusiasm from the audience.

SUCC was honoured by the presence and support of the South African Consul-General to Hong Kong, Mr Madoda Ntshinga, at both the Opening Ceremony and the full evening concert. He commended the choir on “…raising the South African flag even much higher as true ambassadors of our country.”

Stellenbosch students take top honours

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During a prestigious event on Saturday 29 July in Parow, Cape Town, 24-year old pianist Sulayman Human was named overall winner of the national instrumental classical music competition, ATKV-Muziq.

ATKV-Muziq, the biggest and most prestigious classical music competition in Southern Africa, with previous winners including international award-winning pianist Ben Schoeman and Megan-Geoffrey Prins, is an annual contribution of the ATKV towards classical music in South Africa. This is a national classical music competition for young musicians between the ages of 15 and 27, with a total prize money of R180 000 awarded to the winners.

Sulayman, currently a Masters student at the University of Stellenbosch, won the Overall Prize of R65 000. An additional prize of R8 500 for the Best Interpretation of a Baroque or Classical work during the Final Round was also awarded to Sulayman for his rendition Mozart’s  Sonata no. 10 in C major, K330; III. Allegretto.

The overall second prize of R32 000 was awarded to Cameron Williams (saxophone) and the overall third prize of R16 000 was awarded to Jeffrey Armstrong (violin).

An additional prize of R8 500 for the Best Interpretation of a South African Composition during the Second Round was awarded to Cameron Williams for his rendition of

  1. Stephenson’s Introduction and Allegro.

Young adult musicians across Southern Africa were invited to participate in the first round in May this year. The top ten candidates were chosen to take part in the second round.  Five finalists were then chosen at the end of the second round to participate in the final round. The remainder of the five finalists (besides Sulayman, Cameron and Jeffrey) were Brain Bae (piano) and Jonathan Mayer (violin), who also performed during the final round.

The Afrikaans national radio station, RSG, was the media partner of ATKV-Muziq this year.


Award-winning Pianist returns from USA for free recital

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Award-winning South African pianist Megan-Geoffrey Prins will present a free solo recital on Friday, 28 July at 20:00 in the Endler Hall at Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Music Department. The concert will be preceded by public master classes from 14:00 to 17:00, also hosted by the SU Music Department.

Prins is currently studying towards a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music in the USA, where he completed his Master’s degree under famed pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi. Last year, Prins won the ATKV Muziq Instrumental Competition. In 2015, he won the Fifth UNISA National Piano Competition and the inaugural Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival Competition. The Cleveland Institute of Music recently awarded him the Sadie Zellen Piano Prize and the coveted Maurice and Judith Kaplow Prize for Uncommon Creativity.

Throughout his Master’s and Doctorate degree studies, Prins relied on the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, the National Arts Council of South Africa, private sponsors, and online fundraising campaigns to fund his studies. He hopes to raise enough money to complete his final year of doctoral studies before he returns to the USA at the end of August 2017.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the emotional and financial support I’ve received throughout my studies,” says Prins. “I’m delighted that the SU Music Department is hosting this free concert. It is an opportunity for me to thank all those who have supported me so far and I will be able to update guests on my current fundraising progress.”

In the first half of the recital, Prins will perform works by Joseph Haydn, Frédéric Chopin, and South African composer Graham Newcater. The second half will feature selections from Sergei Lyapunov’s 12 Etudes d`Exécution Transcendante. For more information, please visit Prins’ website at

Peter Martens

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Peter Martens Is currently principal cellist with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and Director of the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival.

Of his recently released CD of concertos by Saint-Saëns and Vieuxtemps with Bernhard Gueller and the CPO, Any Wilding writes, “Martens’ cello is one of the most beautiful sounds – a deep rich harmonic wooden stringed singing being. His playing is superb, compassionate elegant phrasing, and flawless technique. His bow knows the exact line between the tender softness and the hard edge, and this extra dimension is masterfully applied to his dynamics. He expresses a full range of emotion, from angst and agitation to acceptance and wisdom”.

Peter holds a PhD from Stellenbosch University where he studied in his formative years with Dalena Roux before studying with Heidi Litschauer at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. After his return to South Africa, he also obtained a Master’s Degree from UCT.

He is a member of the Amici String Quartet, has enjoyed chamber music partnerships with amongst others, Leon Bosch (double bass), David Juritz , Benjamin Schmid, Sergei Malov and Suzanne Martens (violin) and Leslie Howard (piano), as well as having performed with the Brodsky String Quartet in London. With the Stellenbosch University Camerata in which he served as Artistic Director and principal cellist, Peter has also performed with Joshua Bell and Pinchas Zukerman. Concerto engagements have resulted in collaborations with a number of fine conductors including Victor Yampolsky, Bernard Gueller, Douglas Boyd, Wolfram Christ, Nicholas Cleobury and Jonas Alber. He has participated in festivals in Russia, Holland, Salzburg, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Portugal as well has having performed in France, the U.K. and U.S.A. Many South African composers have written for him, the most notable composition being the Cello Concerto by Allan Stephenson, which he recorded for Meridian Records with the Cape Town Philharmonic. He has recorded the Beethoven Cello Sonatas with Luis Magalhäes and the Bach Cello Suites for TwoPianists Records.

He is married with two children to violinist, Suzanne Martens.

Babette Roosenschoon

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Babette Roosenschoon (MMus, LLB) is a cellist who enjoys a career as performer, teacher and lecturer. Currently holding a MMus in performance from Stellenbosch University, under the tuition and mentorship of Dalena Roux, her formative school years on the instrument were guided by Human Coetzee at the NWU Conservatory in Potchefstroom. Babette furthered her studies abroad at Universität Mozarteum (Salzburg, Austria) with the esteemed Heidi Litschauer, and embarked on further post-graduate studies at the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas) with the late Eugene Osadchy and Baroque cello with Allen Whear, which lead to many performances with representative ensembles of the College of Music.

At age 24, Babette won a tutti cello position with Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and continued to permanently play with the orchestra for 8 years, which included memorable performances with many renown soloists such as Joshua Bell, Andrea Bocelli, Mischa Maisky and Sarah Chang, among others.

In 2017, Babette joined the faculty at Stellenbosch University as part-time cello lecturer. Here, she approaches cello tuition and mentorship with a unique teaching philosophy, encompassing not only emphasis on developing musicianship, but also, technical capability, body awareness and career guidance. Her recently acquired law degree (LLB) allows her to integrate legal understanding of the music industry within her cello studio.

Being a keen chamber musician, Babette is cellist of the Juliet String Quartet while continuing to perform with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and Camerata Tinta Barocca on an ad hoc basis.

Serving on the board of the newly founded South African Strings Foundation, she hopes to further her vision of creating a platform for strings collaboration and skills advancement in South Africa.

Ionna Matei

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Ioanna Matei is a part-time oboe lecturer at the Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town’s College of Music and at the Beau Soleil Music Centre in Kenilworth.

She was born in Romania. At the age of fourteen she entered the Bucharest High School of Music where she studied oboe with the legendary Pavel Tornea, and in 1972 she matriculated with Distinction with a Baccalaureate Diploma, majoring in oboe.

After passing the entrance examination, she studied oboe with Radu Chisu (international prize-winning oboe-player) at the Bucharest Conservatoire of Music, obtaining with Distinction her Master’s Degree in oboe performance. During her studies, Ioanna was very involved in different chamber music groups and she also played in the Bucharest Conservatory Symphony Orchestra.

After her graduation she was appointed oboe teacher at the Bucharest School of Music and she also played as a permanent extra with the Romanian Radio & Television Symphony Orchestra.

In 1980 she obtained with Distinction the Higher Diploma in Education on Oboe, and continued to teach at the Bucharest School of Music until 1985, when she left Romania.

After coming to South Africa in 1985 she has established herself as a leading oboe teacher in Cape Town. Her students have obtained numerous distinctions at the Royal Schools of Music examinations and Eisteddfods competitions, and have been playing first oboe in the South Africa National Youth Orchestra, the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival, Miaggi, Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and the orchestras of Stellenbosch and Cape Town universities and as ad-hoc players with the Cape Town Philharmonic.

Liam Burden

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Liam Burden graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a BMus  and a BMusHons cum laude. He specialized in saxophone performance under Darryl Walters. During his Honours year Liam was afforded the opportunity of studying abroad at the West Virginia University in the United States of America where he studied saxophone with Dr Michael Ibrahim and conducting with Dr Mitchell Arnold. In collaboration with the composition department, Liam successfully conducted the first KOMPOS concert which included works composed by the students for the event. In 2009 Liam collaborated with the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department, and Peter Krummeck, as the musical director for the play with music entitled Brothers.

Liam has been a member of staff at the Hugo Lambrechts Music Centre since January 2012 where he teaches saxophone and clarinet. Liam is conductor of the Hugo Lambrechts Symphony Orchestra.

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