After an uneventful (though rather bumpy!) flight, we arrived in Joburg Friday evening. (Actually, "uneventful" might not be the right word--you can ask Becky later about the adventure in the airport in which we managed to befriend multiple police officers.) The cello hogged the window seat the whole way but Elisa and Maureen still agreed to share a row with him. Becky was across the isle with some South African guys who had been in the States at the world championships for target shooting.
Charmaine , our host who quickly became a good friend, picked us up from OR Tambo and delivered us to her guest house. Beautiful soup and salad for dinner and then we slept a LONG time!
Saturday was recuperation time, including several more spectacular meals, courtesy of Charmaine. Our concert was at 6pm at the Sandton Church in Sunninghill. It was literally right around the corner from our guest house, which surprised us a lot since we went by car! Nothing like a 30 second commute to the venue... :-)
The concert was a big success--the people loved the music so much, especially the set of spirituals by Coleridge-Taylor.
After the concert Charmaine took us out to Montecasino--this amazing place that I suppose was technically like an indoor mall, but had a really tall ceiling painted like sky and all of the shops were built to look like Tuscany. We were walking down cobblestone paths with vine-covered stucco walls, fountains in the plazas, clotheslines hanging above with laundry out to dry, the whole nine yards. It kind of blew our minds!
We had an amazing meal there, complete with the masterchef coming out and talking to us and offering to make Elisa's delicious gluten-free meal personally.
Next morning at 8am we were collected by our driver Johan for transport to White River. We arrived just after noon and had time to settle into the hotel and grab lunch before our rehearsal with the Lowveld Community Orchestra.
Our concert was at 4:30 p.m. in a sort of black box theater. The audience was on all sides both on the main floor as well as on the balcony. The whole theater was dark except for the spots on us and it was a completely surreal experience! We all absolutely loved playing there--it was an electric feeling. The audience was amazing and seemed to be just thrilled with the performance. The first half of the concert was just the trio. On the second half of the program we collaborated with Anneke Coetzer and the orchestra which was a real highlight of the trip. The kids and community members played with such passion and soul that we were just trying not to cry through most of it. We got to play some traditional South African music with the group, including the national anthem.
Afterwards we made some wonderful new friends, one of which we learned had sung at Covent Garden and La Scala back in the day. He and another audience member told us that we had changed their lives and that they would never be the same again.
After the performance was over, Michael Matthews invited us to his home for an amazing meal. We enjoyed getting to know his family and some other folks who were also in town visiting. One of the guests was a South African sculptor who showed us a few of his pieces--whimsical depictions of African animals. It should also be mentioned that the Matthews household was a notable stop on Elisa and Maureen's parallel tour: The Wines of South Africa.
On Monday we traveled a couple of hours to Lydenburg with Jan Neethling in order to work with his Dinaledi String Project. He provides string instruments and instruction for kids in his community, and has them playing in a small ensemble together (they also played in the community orchestra for our concert--they drive 2 hrs every month to rehearse and participate in that group). However, the local Lydenburg group meets weekly. Jan told us that one student misses her transport from school in order to stay for the weekly rehearsal and therefore has a 2 hr hike to get home afterwards. That's the kind of passion and dedication that we discovered when we worked there.
It's truly remarkable what Jan and these students have accomplished together. Jan, bless his heart, is really learning these instruments right along side of the kids. They nonetheless were playing arrangements of pieces with multiple parts and some level of complexity. It was pretty astounding!
In the afternoon Maureen worked with the more advanced violinists and violists, while Elisa worked with the cellists and Becky coached the beginner violinists. They were all so eager to learn and absorbed the things we showed them just like sponges.
Jan took us to his own home to feed us before the evening performance and we ate on a table out in the yard and enjoyed the sunset--we were also watching the smoky progress of an impressive bush fire that must be in full force on the other side of the mountains.
At 6:30 we shared a performance similar to the previous day--we played the first part of the concert and then collaborated with the kids on the second half, showcasing some of the things we had worked on throughout the course of the afternoon. Afterwards we took a myriad of pictures with the students. Everyone wanted their own personal shot with each combination of people. It was very sweet!
Because the performance was quite early, we got back to our guest house by around 8 and it was really lovely to have a whole small cottage to ourselves and just curl up and hash through all our amazing memories from the last few days. Ok, so we also watched a couple of movies and tried to stay warm--it is freezing here! We are at around 7000 ft elevation here and nestled among mountains.