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Minnesota Orchestra Tours South Africa

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The Minnesota Orchestra became the first professional US orchestra to visit South Africa with its five-city tour of the country in August. The tour was connected to a worldwide celebration of the late South African leader and human rights advocate Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birth.

The orchestra’s itinerary included performances in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Soweto, and Johannesburg, with concerts taking place at colleges, city halls, and churches. Musical exchange was also a key component to the tour, with Minnesota Orchestra musicians playing side-by-side with South African artists and students.

Funded by generous contributions from an anonymous couple, the tour showcased music derived from the traditions of South Africa, America, and Europe, ranging from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 to a world premiere by South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen—a tribute to Mandela.

The township of Soweto, seen as the bedrock of South Africa’s freedom struggle, was the most anticipated tour stop. There, 1,300 people packed into a Catholic Church for a program including Sibelius, the premiere by Bongani Ndodana-Breen, and a series of traditional South African songs. The landmark performance concluded with the orchestra, the Minnesota Chorale, and South African vocal soloists and choristers performing the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 together.

Minnesota Orchestra musicians are represented by Local 30-73 (Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN).







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