The Miagi Youth Orchestra and the German embassy is hosting a gala concert in Pretoria this week. Picture: AXEL NICKOLAUS
The Miagi Youth Orchestra and the German embassy is hosting a gala concert in Pretoria this week. Picture: AXEL NICKOLAUS

The eclectic Miagi Youth Orchestra and the German embassy is hosting a gala concert in Pretoria this week as they continue their celebrations of the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.

Miagi (Music is a Great Investment) was established in 2001 as a public benefit organisation with a vision of investing in human capacity through music.

The orchestra is performing this week with the Just 6 a cappella ensemble; composer, conductor and Miagi veteran Tshepo Tsotetsi;  clarinet player Visser Liebenberg and pianist Roelof Temmingh.

The conductor is young American Daniel Spaw, who was named First Kapellmeister and associate music director at Theater Hof in Germany in 2017, following a successful period as Kapellmeister at the Landestheater Linz in Austria.

Spaw has degrees in piano and conducting from Indiana University and has worked with orchestras including the Hofer Symphoniker, the Bruckner Orchester Linz, the National Youth Orchestra of Germany, the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, the Rheinische Philharmonie and the Russian Chamber Philharmonic.

The programme includes compositions by Beethoven, Tsotetsi’s works, Leonard Bernstein and Improvisations by the MIAGIcians.

The Miagi Youth Orchestra. Picture: AXEL NICKOLAUS
The Miagi Youth Orchestra. Picture: AXEL NICKOLAUS

Liebenberg, who has been a member of the Miagi Orchestra for five years now, performs as a soloist chamber musician, and a clarinet player for KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Temmingh will join him for Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs.

Just 6 toured internationally with the Miagi Orchestra in 2016 and and were finalists in 2017’s SA’s got Talent. They have their roots in gospel music and call their sound Afro-cal Play. They won Best A Capella Award at the Crown Gospel Music Awards and at the Independent National Gospel Music Awards; and best religious song and album at the 2014 Contemporary A Capella Recording Awards.

Tsotetsi is a member of the orchestra and has conducted them often. With Austrian jazz composer, trombonist and pianist Christian Muthspiel, he composed Out of South Africa — Symphonic Suite on Themes,  which was featured in earlier Miagi concerts.

He is also the founder of the “New Skool” movement, the name that describes his style of music. Following the Miagi ethos, it is a mix of genres with dominant jazz and African sounds.

“Miagi has developed its brand through uniting music genres  — Western classical, jazz, traditional sounds and urban music styles that developed from the last century until today,” says its executive director Robert Brooks.

“In this process, we developed our very fine youth orchestra that plays music representing all these genres with eclectic results.”

During their Mandela-focused July and August European tour, they packed concert halls in Hamburg, Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin, and wowed their audiences.

At an award ceremony on August 3 at the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Miagi Orchestra was awarded the prestigious Yoeurope-award of the European Cultural Foundation Pro Europa. It recognised the organisation and its young musicians for inspiring the necessary dialogue between people of different cultures, colour, religions and continents. Previous recipients included Placido Domingo, Mary Robinson and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Inexplicably, the orchestra has a bigger reputation abroad than it has in SA. Although local performances are not well attended, they are magical and capture the spirit of the diverse orchestra. Their obvious joy during performances and the presentation of their music should engage audiences of all ages.

The Miagi management team under the leadership of Brooks and creative manager Ingrid Hedlund are driven to unite the power of classical, indigenous and jazz to offer a key to understanding among people.

The Miagi concert is on November 30 at 8pm in the ZK Matthews Hall at Unisa in Pretoria. Book through Computicket.