Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Short Story Competition, News About Town and a Concert Review

A great short story competition just for you.

Just a last reminder to have a go at the SA Writers College short story competition before the deadline of March 31st. Or if you've written your story but not sent it yet- now's the time to tweak it and submit it! 
Theme: Doing the right thing. This is not the title.
Word count: Less than 2000 words
Open to all South African writers who have not had fiction published in mainstream publications 

Email as an attachment to 

(Source - SA Writers College)

R100 per person

(Source - Ushaka) 

Short Story Time 


“So it was you?” Claudia  Gaitskell said to Polly Rippingdale over tea in the garden, “who pasted OLD over ELDERLY? ”
“A hateful word. A misnomer. Call a spade a spade. Look at these arms of mine. They’re not ELDERLY they’re ANCIENT. Antedeluvian.’
“And nobody saw you?”
“The guard had vanished – probably went to cafĂ© for something, or slipped off  home  – so I was left to my own devices. A bit of that lumpy rubber stuff – not Pritstik, the other one – and there it was, as if it had been happily there all its life.”
“And who noticed it?”
“Nobody. In THIS place! If Santa Claus had popped down the chimney and ordered fried eggs on toast at breakfast,  Maureen-whatever-her-name-is would have said, “one egg or two?” and said “next please.”
“Always such a tonic talking to you Millicent.”
“You too, Maureen.
“Skip it. It’s getting dark, we should go inside.”
“Dark? It’s  two in the afternoon.”
“Just testing.’
“You ARE a card!”
“I work at it. You are a natural.”
“I’m sure I should take offence at that. But I can’t work out why.”

Andrew Verster is a World Famous Artist and Writer based in Durban.

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(Source - PSASA) 

A Durban Concert Review by Timothy Sparks 
Date: Sunday 10th March

Scintillating Royal Dutch Concertgebouw Orchestra dazzles in Durban
Assailed by morning coffee and the clamour of the world I thought for a moment that last nights concert was a mirage. Last year the City Hall was shrouded in angels. Last night when the orchestra played the opening notes of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major, one might as well have stood in the throng at the quarter-centenary of The Romanov’s.  Bells rung in sublime notes of the dramatic Tchaikovsky, mesmerised all with the violin’s exquisite composure. The knell of fate rang twice in this decisive performance of the Royal Dutch Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.

In nights when radio was still king in commanding thought, and sense I experienced this renowned orchestra for the first time.  Across the velvet of the night sonorous music played through my ears, ringing clear as if I was in the audience on a night of wakefulness (foreign stations used to transmit in the early hours) im der Himmel. I remember the broadcaster saying that for him hearing these old recordings were indivisible from sitting in the concert hall. Such was the magnificence of the playing and the old technology. That was the Dutch Concertgebouw which played under Maestro Willem Mengelberg, and Bruno Walter in the tragic years of the middle thirties and early forties.  

While listening to the overture on Sunday one realised that one was in the midst of Greatness once more. A true combination of seamless conducting by Maestro Dutoit was remarkably adroit but artistic playing throughout showed many in the audience that Zubin Mehta’s, fabled rendition of Mahler’s First Symphony of 1996, in the city was not also an illusion. Then as now the music was a master-class and whilst one was a tribute to the local orchestra, this performance celebrated an evergreen orchestra, all of one hundred and twenty-five years old.

The master-stroke was a traditional programme defined by vision, passion and artistic greatness. A friend eccentrically hinted that the very traditional scope of the programme was its strength.  
From an informed position in the gallery I was able to see and hear for myself what Tchaikovsky intended with this experience of his music.  Maestro Dutoit leapt into view, entering surprisingly for us from the left of the stage. His entrance was made all the more dramatic by the sustained applause for the orchestra, a moving ovation in recognition of one hundred and twenty-five years. The entire evening was a glowing tribute to great music, charming company and the artistry our great city deserves. 

Ladies dressed in their finest, were a tribute to the beautiful solemnity of the occasion. Imagine the lovely dames, ascending the staircase with Pietro Mascagni’s Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana; heedless and painful though beauty can be in an evening remarkable for such delights.  Members of the local orchestra mingled in among the civilised domain as myth, joy and fable danced together.  Absorbed in the masonry, one floated in the oblivion which was inevitable especially where Russian music is concerned. Gladly the pleasure was heightened by the extraordinary interpretations of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. As if discovering the music for the first time some notes were so beautiful as if to capture the essence of the ocean.  Between the melodies, the gapes and philosophical asides of the cadenza, are played so magnificently in Janine Jansen’s rendition. She was particularly impressive in the high notes that seemed to float through the spheres.

Think for a moment that you are wading through a field of wheat in ‘Room with a View’ the Mechant-Ivory film ready to meet your lover.  I sat next to a lady secreted in some chamber in a dream, from long ago, shimmering in pearls and captivated by the fond melodies that move one deeply. Perhaps the caprice of Tchaikovsky’s mysterious liaison with his intimate correspondent, unknowingly defined both the sorrow and triumph, translated into the electricity of the evening.  

The conducting style of Charles Dutoit was the triumph of suggestion.  The soul-stirring aspect of the Tchaikovsky second movement left an indelible mark on the audience. Superb playing in the woodwinds (excellent all evening) brought out the contrasts in this movement, matched in cello and double bass. Energy and composure were matched evenly: rushes of oboe, clarinet and bassoon proved the genius of the composer and the artistry of Charles Dutoit. Maestro Dutoit strove for clarity and eloquence in the dynamic passages of this piece. The crescendo and dynamism that formed the pulse of the performance showcased all aspects and parts of the various sections. A smaller orchestra was called for at this stage, and probably fewer then the Kwazulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra would have relied upon. 

One of the strongest emotions on the evening was regret. One realises that these foreign visitors; orchestra  members, through welcome and lauded cannot really fill the gap left by foreign opera companies that used to flock to South Africa in the 1960’s and 1970’s.This marvellous audience has a great appetite for music, especially notes manipulated with such grandeur.  What a luxurious contrast to South Africa. The local orchestras are collapsing because of lack of funds and the almost abject running of the Playhouse.  Strange programme choices, and complacency are the enemy of greatness. Most of the orchestras in South Africa should have resident conductors because this makes both good financial and artistic sense. Impressions are lasting and a walk along Smith Street will leave any A flaneur or theatre lover gasping for air. I chose to end with a peculiar manic obsession, namely, Johannnes Brahms.

Brahms Symphony No.1 is regarded as one of the most malleable and captivating pieces in the symphonic repertoire.  One of my friends, a music teacher, regards the Brahms as one of his most cherished pieces of music although with a greatness that still surprises. The famous song-like Andante was described very aptly in 1876 by one Aduard Hanslick as a “long drawn-out noble song” and so it proved on the night, melodious and dramatic as grand as the Tragic Overture conducted by the late lamented conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Dutoit ended the night as he had begun in full command.

The master of counterpoint, Brahms is both magnificent in its broad sweep and tragedy but the sublime passages come in counterpoised weights or vignettes of waltzes.  One of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, played at the end of the resounding orchestral  ovation ; revealed some of the mysterious rhyme and reason, that accomplished playing reaches leading on an upwards arc in the third movement of the symphony. Johann Wegenaar’s Cyrano de Bergerac Overture was played with character and romantic ardour. It was a bold choice of a piece that left the audience with the rush of a sensational opening salvo.  The entire concert radiated this exciting initiative and rhythm that rung through the ringing applause long after the last notes were heard. A truly ephemeral evening, dubbed ‘einmalig’ – never recurring, or a once off, where time stops for a while suspended in lakes of joy, travelling midst desire and evocation.  Emerging from these effects we should salute the Royal Dutch Concertgebouw for a remarkable concert of Romantic abandon and of Classical triumph. Ovations marked the recognition of a singular event which was a reward for both rapt attention and expectation.

Timothy Sparks is a freelance writer and educator based in Durban

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