The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s Jerusalema has the world on its feet writes PETA STEWART.

Jerusalema, everyone’s favourite sing-along, dance-along song, was just waiting to be backed by the country’s oldest symphony orchestra – the Cape Town Philharmonic, even one with no income during Covid-19!

In a fortnight the CPO and Jazzart Jerusalema link already clocked up 23,249 hits.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s comment during one of his Covid-19 briefings that Jerusalema was his favourite song was perfect timing; Allan Winde’s challenge to the Western Cape to produce their own versions was spot on, and the long-agreed upon dedication to the health workers of South Africa was a non-negotiable. So how to do it?

Adding Jazzart spice

For Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestras CEO Louis Heyneman, this was easy.

“The CPO, already known for its community spectacular concerts showcasing local talent, was going digital with its 2020 version. Jazzart Dance Theatre, already an integral part of the show, was delighted to come on board so I asked Nkosinathi Sangweni, the resident choreographer of Jazzart Dance Theatre, to come up with something special. And he did, using the original steps add adding his own signature.”

Sangweni was “excited to add a new spin to the original choreography, with respect to the original but we need to add the Jazzart spice, lol! I’m a perfectionist so having to think on my feet is nothing unusual.”

With Jazzart on board, the next step was the music.

Says Heyneman, “the voice of Nomcebo was too distinctive and integral not to use, but how to integrate the orchestra with the music by Master KG?

That was over to arranger Mike Campbell, who admits to being a little surprised to be asked for an arrangement to be used together with the original track, “which is in a sense already ‘complete’.  After listening to it carefully a few times looking for potential to enhance the music and find elements to build on, it started to make sense. There was a lot of open space where I thought the orchestra could bring depth and a new character to the track, so it all fell into place quite comfortably. Looking at the video now, I think it works well especially since the dance production broadens the whole experience, with the orchestra adding to the magnitude and festivity of it all. I can see a potential for more orchestral performances like this, in the popular idiom: the CPO is showing vision here.”

Between recording Bugler’s Holiday with three young trumpeters and Kyle Seconna’s anthem came the  rehearsal of Jerusalema and the recording.  From the minute the first note was sounded and the Jazzart dancers began their show-stopping dance, the  orchestra and the crew who were in the Artscape Auditorium as well as videographers, the lighting and sound team and were mesmerized.

Says Sangweni: “On shoot day I changed the choreography but the dancers and I work very well together when such challenges arise. Of course I was worried about the final edit but when I saw it I was blown away. We have something really unique.”

The end result is for all to see – more than 11000 views in the first four days and growing by the hour, being shared across the world with comments like “stunning”, “inspirational”, “beautiful”, “so uplifting. Makes me want to dance” to “what a move” and “Thanks for raising our spirits!” plus any amount of sparkling, inspiring, brilliant, vibey, we love it .. . and so on.

The last word must come from the CPO’s community spectacular 2020 music director Aviva Pelham.

“How could we resist jumping at Jerusalema with Jazzart? The CPO is an orchestra for all – identifying closely with community. And what better way than to meld a versatile bunch of musicians with Jazzart’s special take. The result is truly unique!”

Jerusalema, as part of the CPO’s Community Spectacular and along with a number of acts that include Tarryn Lamb and Early B, sponsored by the City of Cape Town, will be streamed in November 2020.

What: Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra Jerusalema