PETA STEWART takes a look behind the scenes of the CPO Community Spectacular, Covid-19 edition. Stream the Spectacular Pops and Community Classics and enjoy.

You’d think that with four popular community spectacular concerts showcasing local talent under the belt the next one would be easy for the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. It was easy on the ear, but not so easy on logistics, because Covid-19 came calling. But still it worked, as you will see when you stream not one but two 2020 Community Spectacular Covid-19 edition showcases with Marc Lottering as MC, on the Quicket platform.

Early B participates in the CPO Community Spectacular
Early B participates in the CPO Community Spectacular

Spectacular Pops and Community Classics will be online from 30 December 2020 until 9 January 2021, and will be the best season’s gift ever. Both are generously supported by the City of Cape Town.

Tickets are R80 for Spectacular Pops / Community Classics; or R130 for both. Book.

The same team that made the other concerts such a success was assembled to bring it together – director Aviva Pelham, music director Stefan Lombard, conductor Brandon Phillips, and the glue that bound them, the orchestra’s CEO Louis Heyneman.

All the meetings were of, course, on Zoom or something similar. But, forgetting the frustrations of patchy internet connections and everyone talking over everyone else it soon became apparent that the biggest problem the team had to deal with was the abundance of talent!

From the first debut gala in 2018 to the last one with the Cape Chamber of Commerce in 2019, the Spectaculars have struck a chord – one best summed up by Marguerite Monvoison, the mother of multitalented 10-year-old pianist and oboist Eleni, “The orchestra has a beautiful attitude towards growing young musicians.”

Says Heyneman, “We soon had a solution. We could use as many acts as possible by mixing and matching and we all had ideas. We grouped 10 young celli with soprano Nombulelo Yende; singers Tarryn Lamb and Kyle Seconna with alto saxophonist August van der Westhuizen and Asili Vocal Ensemble for a start.”

Lihle Mabhula and Jevano Swartz perform in the CPO Community Spectacular
Lihle Mabhula and Jevano Swartz

A scheduling nightmare 

Most artists appeared twice, on their own or in ensembles, though rap artist Early B (Leka Djy) defied anyone to share the stage with him!

Two weeks were set aside for rehearsing and recording. The Artscape Opera House, under siege from arts companies anxious to use it, was booked long before the planning was complete. With about 50 CPO musicians plus a rhythm section, the CPO had to adhere very closely to Artscape’s rightly rigid protocols and ensure that artists, stage crew, sound, lighting and the six-man camera crew never exceeded the number allowed.

Naturally, this made scheduling a nightmare. The dozen Asili singers couldn’t overlap with the dozen Jazzart Dancers, for instance; how to get 10 young celli from all over the greater city into one place at one time?

Protocols included supplying Artscape with a list of everyone – artists, musicians, crew, staff –  expected each week with names, addresses, cell phones and ID for contact tracing. Sounds simple except when a singer had to be replaced and a new one’s details shortly before arrival! Signing in was also time-consuming, for each person had to fill in details and answer health questions.

“Fortunately,” says Heyneman, “Artscape had this fine-tuned and a station with several strategically placed tables and a team to monitor temperatures, social distancing, masks and hand sanitization soon streamlined the procedure. “

For Nkosinathi Sangweni of Jazzart, “With Covid-19 restrictions and protocols I had to think a little differently. It was an opportunity to use music and dance to heal, inspire and motivate our nation and the world during this time.”

The choreographer of the CPO’s and Jazzart’s version Jerusalema (“who wouldn’t want to be part of this monumental experience”), which at the time of writing had had nearly 900 000 hits, Sangweni can really rest on his laurels.

Marc Lottering sent this to Heyneman: “Louis, the cast is carrying on like mad about being with the orchestra today. All over social media. THANK YOU for this fantastic opportunity!” And Rushney Ferguson, Abigail in Aunty Merle, may have spoken for the whole cast when she tweeted “I could not have asked for a better week”.

The community gala binds so many of these artists, for many of them were not given much in life, things others may have taken for granted.

For flautist Jevano Swartz, it was more than fulfilling a dream to perform with a symphony orchestra. “In this way I can inspire my community, show them that each of them can succeed in in the most wonderful ways”.

Caro Hill, who was appointed concert master of the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra recently, is so happy to have been selected to perform on her own and with her sister, flautist Paula. “I’m over the moon to play with the CPO! I’ve never had the opportunity to be a soloist. I would never have thought of this amidst a global pandemic.”

Let Tarryn Lamb have the last word. “I was so blown away, hearing the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra play out my newest single Mag ek dan by jou. I get goosebumps every time I think about it. “

What: 2020 Community Spectacular gala concerts with Cape Town Philharmonic
Who: Conductor Brandon Phillips; MC Marc Lottering and local heroes from Early B to Craig Lucas, Kyle Seconna, Tarryn Lamb, Lynelle Kenned, more
Book: R80 Spectacular Pops/ Community Classics; or R130 for both. Here
Streaming: 30 December 2020, 8pm – 14 January 2021, 11.45pm