In A SPIN !          - 26/6/2006      <--Prev : Next-->



I'm in a spin! Today is the morning after the last evening - the final performance - of the 5th Bulawayo Music Festival and I'm on a high with the strains of Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals still going round in my head. It will take days to recover from the awesome experience of the past five days. It's a curious feeling of fulfilment mixed with exhaustion from endeavours and determination not to miss anything! It was a strenuous, exciting, tremendous, exacting, stupendous, mind-boggling, not-to-be-missed five days. How can one possibly put into words the terrific impact that this wonderful happening has had on our lives? We have gone through so many emotions and pleasures in a way we could never have envisioned. An unbelievable, unprecedented and uniquely amazing period of time that I simply cannot find adjectives to fully describe!

These last few days have been like none other and it's hard to imagine 'Life after the Festival'. But we couldn't go on like that anyway. All good things come to an end and we were getting near to utter exhaustion anyway! How the performers themselves kept going through five days of a rigorous and totally demanding, non-stop programme is a mystery. They were just super human. The energy and enthusiasm, quite apart from the technique and skill of producing this intense musical immersion, is staggering. And their magnetic personalities and constant good humour captivated the audience from beginning to end. It has left us all with such a beautifully warm feeling of well being and a tremendous appreciation of being in the right place at the right time!

Michael Bullivant, appointed Director of the Academy of Music in January 2006, is the indefatigable driving force behind all this. In fact, the success of this fifth marvellous bi-annual event is due entirely to the relentless dedication that Michael devotes to music in Zimbabwe and we owe so much to this wonderful man! And how blessed we are to have such a feast of culture and enjoyment right here especially when almost everything around us is stressful and uncertain. It's been like a shot in the arm to all those music lovers who attended, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more determined and indomitable lot of followers anywhere! Even the esteemed musicians themselves remarked on the enthusiasm and stamina of the Bulawayo audience, which incidentally was made up of visitors from all around Zimbabwe and even some from overseas.

The entire festival was also a delightful social event where people became reacquainted with old friends and made many new ones. Incidentally, there were a number of fellow WIT members which, for me, added to the special camaraderie.

At the same time the visiting performers - Leslie Howard (pianist from Down Under); Benjamin Nabarro (British violinist) and his wife, Russian-born Ania Safonova (viola) and Matthew Sharp (British cellist and baritone) along with our local homegrown talent (of whom there were so many), mingled freely with the public so that by the end of the five days we felt we knew them all fairly well - quite unlike artists in other countries who are generally admired and appreciated 'at a distance'! The warmth and friendliness of people in Bulawayo does not allow for this and our visitors are instantly and completely at home - to the benefit of everyone concerned. I mean, where else would you rub shoulders with famous musicians and actually observe them pitching in doing 'menial' jobs like moving chairs from one area of the Academy to another and shifting pianos across stage!

And what talent was on show for us! The choirs, soloists and conductors, the orchestral players and the world-class visiting performers who all charmed us with their marvellous music and endearing personalities. To try to describe the emotions and passion of their music - not to mention the skill and mental and physical hard work of them all is beyond my capabilities. I prefer to leave that to the experts but I think it's safe to say that all of us in the audience were completely enthralled from start to finish - from the opening Rachmaninov on Wednesday to the brilliant orchestral concert on Sunday evening - and the memorable grand finale with Martin Sharp's fine rendition of Flanders and Swan's Hippopotamus Song (so appropriate to this country and a favourite, fun feature at our festivals) with the audience joining in the chorus of 'Mud, Glorious Mud'. Better than the last night of the Proms! Wow! What a privilege and what a Festival!

PS: So here's looking towards 2008. In the meantime, however, serious athletic pre- festival training is recommended!)