Ten years and six symphonic seasons later, Mac McKenzie (The Genuines, The Goema Captains of Cape Town) is back at the beginning. His original symphonic composition, now complete and with the enhanced title Goema Symphony No. 1 – The Finale, gets its World Première a full decade after its birth as part of the annual Darling Music Experience.
Early in 2005, Mac was commissioned by the Cape Africa Platform to compose a work to be performed by a full orchestra to open the biennale in September of the same year. It was to be a great first – an autochthonous composition with an orchestra featuring an array of goema instruments. The Cape Africa Platform provided seed funding through the Lottery. The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra coughed a couple extra grand into the mix, intrigued, but uncertain how to handle a black composer in leather pants with punk rock acclaim and bottomless confidence. But the Lottery stiffed the Cape Africa Platform, leaving no budget to stage the event.
And so, as one does, Mac created his own orchestra. He established the Cape Town Composers’ Workshop, a Section 21 Not-for-Profit Organisation dedicated to creating a platform for young composers. Under the auspices of the Workshop, he built a facility in Bridgetown, Athlone, and established the Cape Town Goema Orchestra with European funding covering a full six seasons of performance. He pulled together musicians from various spheres, including many members of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. Each season saw at least five (mainly) young composers presenting new, original symphonic works. Some 25 new original symphonic pieces have been presented over the life of the initiative to date (with the next season in March 2015).
Each season, Mac would present small doses of his own material, sometimes tidbits so small it was taunt-alising rather than tantalising. Now, as part of the Darling Music Experience 2015, Mac, with the 16-piece Darling Chamber Orchestra, will present his hour-long work, Goema Symphony No. 1 – The Finale. The Darling Chamber Orchestra features Goema Orchestra stalwarts, including first violinist Rayelle Goodman, with a selection of Darling musicians, some as young as nine years old. The instrumental line-up features bows, ramkies and goema drums, voice, as well as the traditional instrumentation of the chamber orchestra: violins, violas, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, trombone, trumpet and percussion.
The musical narrative, as with much of Mac’s work, tells of the movement of people and cultures in this part of the world, the collisions and kaleidoscopes. In the opening you will hear indigenous sounds, the first people of the Cape. And then you’ll hear waltzes and the arrival of Europeans. At some point, as Mac says, there’ll be the “skop, skiet en donder” of the inevitable conflicts that ensued…
The Darling Chamber Orchestra Performs…
Mac McKenzie’s Goema Symphony No. 1 – The Finale
Saturday 7 February 2015 at 16h00 | Entrance: R120
NG Kerk, Church Street – Darling, Western Cape
As part of the Darling Music Experience – 30 January to 15 February 2015
Press release issued by Iain Harris of the Cape Town Composers’ Workshop.