About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

09 July 2011

South African National Youth Orchestra Concert

On a rather cold Wednesday evening, the South African National Youth Orchestra held its annual concert, conducted by Gerben Grooten. The main highlight of the concert was Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra", with narration provided by none other than Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The orchestra's website outlines a very interesting process in which the young musicians are taught and chosen to participate in the program, and there are some interesting collaboration projects.

You can see the trailer for the concert on YouTube:

The concert started with a short piece from South African composer John Simon, titled "Late Gothic Overture". The piece had its haunting edge; but was also quite lively with a lot of percussion and brass. It is apparently part of a larger symphony, but I haven't found a performance of it.

Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" is an apt piece for a youth orchestra, and an audience with a number of people, including a lot of children, who do not regularly attend orchestral performances. The Arch's commentary was well paced, though he did miss his narration point on the french horns, with his trademark laughter (on trumpets, directly after the french horns) or his joy at saying "things that go bang". The finale of the piece, where all the instruments play together had an encore before the interval, and also as the encore for the concert itself.

The last piece was Shostakovich's 9th Symphony - which was rather dull to be honest. After the very energetic first half, it was a bit too mellow in my opinion. In the program, Shostakovich is quoted as saying "Musicians will love to play it and critics will delight in bashing it" - and perhaps that is the problem - it is a piece for those who play music more than for the listeners.

08 July 2011

Movie: X-Men: First Class

The movie is effectively a prequel showing the origins of what would become Professor X, Magneto and the mutant movement. Using the Cuban missile crisis as the backdrop, the movie tries to show clearly why the two mutant leaders have such fundamentally different outlook towards the rest of mankind.

It's well written and well paced; but it does not feel like a reboot of the series in the vein of Superman or Batman reboots. I am not sure even if it was supposed to be.