It was a night celebrating historic firsts and emerging music talent when young composers Antoni Schonken and Prince Bulo were crowned the winners of the 2014 SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition on Saturday night.
Each winner – one in the Western Art Music genre, one in the Jazz Music category – walked away with a lucrative R170 000 scholarship to further their music studies abroad.
This year the SAMRO Foundation’s annual contest, which has been in existence since 1962, included a groundbreaking partnership with the South African Post Office and the Gerard Sekoto Foundation ahead of Heritage Month. New arrangements of original Sekoto music compositions were performed for the first time in public on the night, and the SA Post Office showcased its new series of stamps depicting 10 late South African music legends.
On 30 August 2014, the Wits Great Hall in Braamfontein resounded with vibrant music when the original compositions of the four scholarships finalists were performed during a special Concert Evening.
In the Western Art Music category, the work Eventide by University of Cape Town Master’s student Amy Crankshaw (22) was brought to life by Malcolm Nay (piano) and Luke Newby (clarinet). This was followed by a performance of Six Short Dances, composed by Stellenbosch University PhD candidate Antoni Schonken (26), by Nay on piano, Khanyisile Mthetwa-Lacny on flute and Maciej Lacny on cello.
The Orbit Big Band from the Orbit Jazz Club in Braamfontein performed both Jazz Music compositions that were in contention for top honours: April 14 by Kingsley Buitendag (29) – a composer, pianist, bass player and lecturer based in the Eastern Cape – and Bass’d in Africa by Prince Bulo (28), a Master’s student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Both candidates had been merit or runner-up award winners in previous SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competitions.
Apart from the budding composers having the privilege of seeing their original works performed by seasoned professionals on the night, another highlight was the premiere of two works by Sekoto (1913-1993), who was a gifted composer in addition to being an exceptional visual artist.
His lively compositions Igoli and Africa, arranged by former SAMRO scholarship winner James Bassingthwaighte, were performed by the Orbit Big Band with Sean Jacobs on vocals – drawing appreciative applause as the audience witnessed history in the making.
In another first, the evening saw the launch of the Surendran Reddy clazz Award for young composers. Reddy was a boundary-crossing South African composer, pianist and teacher who passed away in 2010. He termed his signature style “clazz” – a fusion of classical, jazz, traditional African music, mbaqanga and other types of world music.
The SAMRO Foundation and Reddy’s longtime companion, Heike Asmuss, hope that this new award will encourage young composers to break free of the shackles of genre and style to come up with a free, experimental sound of their own.
The inaugural Surendran Reddy clazz Award was presented to a delighted Bulo, who also won one of the two scholarships on offer. Each of the runners-up in the scholarships competition received R40 000 to further their studies, with Paul Morrissey (Jazz Music) and Arthur Feder (Western Art Music) being presented with merit awards for their compositions.
Dedicating this, the 53rd SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition, to pioneering composers both past and present, SAMRO Foundation managing director André le Roux noted: “The path of the pioneer and the innovative thinker is seldom a smooth one, but as long as we embrace the artists, creators, novel troublemakers, inventors, rebels and revolutionaries in our midst, there is hope for the state of our arts sector.”
Visit www.samrofoundation.org.za or follow @SAMROFoundation on Twitter or Facebook for more information. To find out more about the SA Post Office’s commemorative music legends stamps, visit www.postoffice.co.za. The Gerard Sekoto Foundation may be contacted at www.gerardsekotofoundation.com.
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