In the quaint confines of Riebeek Kasteel’s NG Church building, on 20 August, the sounds of Solo Symphony will reverberate to mark a memorable occasion.
This year’s Solo Studios, an artistic showpiece, has seamlessly integrated itself into the South African art diary with the introduction of the Winelands Philharmonic Orchestra. For the very first time, a full Winelands Philharmonic Orchestra will be heard in the historic building of the Riebeek Kasteel NG Church.
In addition, the local Steelband, which has become an institution over the last 25 years for performing at events, will also play, with the two orchestras performing music together – a new overture composed by Kristi Boonzaaier, as well as arrangements by Boonzaaier of music that the Steelband has previously performed solo numerous times.
Solo Symphony is one of the new additions to Solo Studios this year and it promises to conclude this weekend, already an institution in the South African art diary and filled with visual arts, wine art, culinary art, literary art, art lectures and short films, on a high note.
The Winelands Philharmonic Orchestra, with its more than 50 members, is led by founder Reghardt Kühn.
He explains that during last year’s Solo Studios weekend, he visited the valley with Boonzaaier and saw the Steelband perform. Right there, he said he would one day perform with them. And now this is being realised.
Kühn grew up with music and played in the Natal Youth Orchestra during his final years at Empangeni. It was there that his love for music and the role it can play in communities took hold.
He started with brass instruments such as the euphonium and trombone, obtained his BMus and MMus degrees at Stellenbosch University, and nowadays, he is not only the conductor of the Winelands Philharmonic Orchestra but also a music teacher at Paarl Boys High School and leads the school’s brass ensemble.
In addition to providing a unique and exclusive art experience for visitors each year, Solo Studios has been involved in contributing to the community since its first year in 2016, including the Riebeek Valley Steelband, a community project led by David Wickham, from the outset as one of the beneficiaries.
Wickham explains that he started the Riebeek Valley Steelband 25 years ago shortly after he and his family moved to the Swartland.
The current orchestra is already the fourth “version,” and over the years, more than 100 young children, particularly from poorer communities, have expressed their musical talent through this orchestra.
Meanwhile, the demand for steel bands in the valley is increasing, and there are already three more steel bands under his leadership – at the For Life Centre, Hermon, and Môrester/Ebenezer farms – with another one also in the pipeline.
Wickham says the difference it makes in the children’s lives is noticeable. They also don’t care where they perform, as long as they can play.
For the Solo Symphony Concert, it is now intense rehearsal for the newly arranged and existing music.
Kühn says his goal with the Winelands Philharmonic Orchestra, most of whose members have other professions and play in the orchestra as part of their passion, is to make classical music more accessible and break down the stigma that it is too stiff and formal.
He also wants to bring music to people and communities who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. The orchestra primarily plays music that is not heard as often.
At Solo Symphony, guests can look forward to works that align with the theme of visual arts, such as the Russian Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
There is also the brilliant Frenchman Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre with a violin solo by Eriel Huang.
Tickets for the Solo Symphony Concert are now available at www.solostudios.co.za. To truly immerse oneself in this weekend of artistic enchantment, visitors are encouraged to explore the Solo Studios Intimate Art Encounters passes, available for purchase on the website.