New Sounds at Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival 2018

The Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival has always been a place where the old and the new meet. Whilst Mozart, Brahms and Tchaikovsky remain staple fare, the likes of Gliere, Dohnanyi and Golijov, once foreign to our ears have, thanks to the bold programming of Artistic Director Nina Schumann, become known and even much anticipated at the SICMF. Last year the SICMF boasted no less than seven South African premieres and one commissioned work i.e. a world premiere.


The SICMF has now established a tradition of annually commissioning a living composer to write a new work. Although it is an international festival, the geographical location of the SICMF implies an allegiance to South African composers. Few if any other local platforms can boast such support for South African music in that every year, composers can hear their works performed by a chamber ensemble made up of international stars.


Composers featured in recent years include Matthijs van Dijk, Robert Fokkens, Thomas Rajna (who turns 90 this year!), Bongani Ndodana-Breen and Paul Hanmer.


This year the SICMF will feature Neo Muyanga. Born in Soweto, Muyanga grew up singing in local traditional choirs and later moved to pursue studies in the Italian madrigal tradition in Trieste, Italy.No surprise then that for this commission, Muyanga has chosen to include four up-and-coming singers from the UCT Opera School to join an all-star SICMF ensemble for the world premiere of his new work, “Makeda”.


The singers are: Brittany Smith (soprano), Siphokazi Molteno (mezzo soprano), Ongama Mhlonthlo (tenor) and Ntando Ngcume (baritone).


In addition, the SICMF will perform works by the following living composers: Paul Coletti (Scotland), Bernhard Franke (Germany), Jeffrey Wayne Holmes & Kevin Puts (U.S.A.), Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina), Hendrik Andriessen (Holland) and Peter Louis van Dijk (South Africa).


Tickets for the evening faculty concerts (6 to 15 July) have more often than not sold out in years past. Buy tickets early from Computicket to avoid disappointment. For more info go or contact Fiona Greyer at 021 808 2358.


SICMF – not just glitz and glamor


The hype around the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival faculty concerts is justified as no other classical music festival in South Africa can boast quite such a line-up of internationally acclaimed artists. The programme is also varied and exciting with a number of South African premieres alongside audience favourites by Mendelssohn, Mozart and Tchaikovsky.


However, the knowledge and ‘giving potential’ of the international faculty is extensive and it would be a lost opportunity not to tap into it for the benefit of the +/- 300 student participants that signup for the SICMF each year. This is why, for the greater part of each day at the SICMF, the faculty is engaged in rehearsals, coaching sessions, public master classes and in some cases, private lessons too.


Most of this activity takes place behind the scenes, but the bond formed between students and faculty during the tough daily coaching sessions is tangible when in the evening, a small group of world-class artists take to the stage of the Endler hall and the enthusiastic student applause signifies the appreciation, awe and admiration of their role models.


The public master classes showcase the tip of the iceberg where the top SICMF students are taught in a public forum. It is more often than not these students who are ready to further their musical education abroad and it is at the SICMF that so many of our talented students make the connections that eventually see them spreading their wings.


We should also not forget the SICMF educational impact at a more basic level. In the words of Festival Director, Peter Martens, “a silver flute in the hands of a township student is a means to an end. Where a student from an impoverished family may not have had a formal education, music education may well nurture an innate musical talent to the point that the student learns a profession that then launches him or her into the class of employable South Africans.”


Tickets for the evening faculty concerts (6 to 15 July) have more often than not sold out in years past. Buy tickets early from Computicket to avoid disappointment. For more info go to or contact Fiona Greyer at 021 808 2358.