Mellow Music among the Lions: A Concert in the Park with the SA Army Band Cape Town

On a sun-baked Sunday afternoon in February, the catchy tune of “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” filled the warm summer air, setting feet a-tapping and hips a-swaying in the peaceful De Waal Park in the City Bowl.

“When you fall, get up, oh oh
And if you fall, get up, eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
Cause this is Africa
Tsamina mina eh eh
Waka waka eh eh
Tsamina mina zangalewa
This time for Africa!” (lyrics and video)

The voices of Elzaan and Godfrey harmonise really well together

With her lovely voice, the soloist, Elzaan October, accompanied by the excellent SA Army Band Cape Town, transported us effortlessly back to what must surely count as one of the high points of South Africa’s history – the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Can you believe it’s been 8 months already since South Africa and Mexico ran onto the field at Soccer City in Johannesburg for that unforgettable opening match? For so many weeks before that historic occasion, we heard the official anthem of “Waka Waka” played on the radio and on the TV, performed by the cute and sexy Shakira in collaboration with South African group Freshlyground. Its charming melody and rhythmic beat has become absorbed into our very marrow – and all it takes to sweep us back to those heady days of June/July 2010, when the eyes of the world were focused on us, is the first few bars of Waka Waka.

View of the audience and the bandstand

On Sunday, 20 February 2011, an annual Concert in the Park, arranged by various Lions Clubs in the Cape Peninsula (Cape Town, Sea Point, Groote Schuur and Pinelands),  was staged in De Waal Park for the benefit of a large group of pensioners and clusters of families, who had laid out delicious spreads of picnics in the shade of some large trees. Cheerful volunteers from the Lions, dressed in their blue shirts, were at hand, assisting the elderly and the frail to their seats, and helping them to move chairs out of the glare of the sun, as it travelled across the clear blue late-summer skies. They also provided a steady supply of welcome refreshments.

When we arrived around 1pm, eager to get a shady spot before the start of the concert, the hard-working volunteers from the Lions had set out rows upon rows of white chairs under the trees, in front of the lovely old bandstand. This was erected as far back as 1904/5, having been manufactured by Walter McFarlane and Company of Glasgow (see history of the Park) – that’s over a hundred years ago!

The SA Army Band Cape Town had already arrived and set up their sound equipment and loudspeakers, and the friendly ladies and gentlemen of the Lions were busy laying out the tables with the refreshments. Clearly, there is an incredible amount of prepatory and logistical work that has to happen behind the scenes to make an event like this happen. Apparently, last year’s concert had not been attended by so many people – this year, though, I think there was a fantastic turn-out! Of course, the excellent weather helped tremendously: although it was quite warm, there was a pleasant breeze. Luckily, the southeaster was not howling, as it usually does at this time of year!

Major Martin Chandler, Director of Music of the SAABCT

While the spectators began to arrive, we spread out our picnic blanket, poured ourselves some cups of tea, and tucked into a few nibblies we had brought along. I wandered around with the camera, taking piccies and saying hello to the friendly people I knew from the Band, having met some of them during last November’s Cape Town Military Tattoo. And I finally met Laurika, the creator of the Band’s new website in person, having only corresponded via email so far. (Incidentally, she has already put up some pictures on their blog of the Concert in the Park here).

Andrew looking splendid in his kilt

By 2pm, almost all the seats had been taken, and we were waiting eagerly for the concert to start. But first it was time for a couple of speeches.

Unfortunately, I do not know the names of the speakers, but one of them was Belinda Walker, the Democratic Alliance’s Councillor for the City Bowl. She welcomed us all to De Waal Park, and urged us to become regular visitors, emphasising that it is after all a public open space created for the benefit of the community. There is a variety of trees growing in the park, and the centrepiece is a delightful old Victorian fountain with a refreshingly cool pond. This fountain was fortunately restored to the park after it had been damaged by vandals in the late 1980s (see history of the Park). There are swings and round-abouts for the kids to play on, and dog-training lessons are offered in the park on certain days. The hard-working Friends of the Park are putting in a lot of effort to keep it clean and safe.

Organisers and representatives of the four participating Lions Clubs

At last, it was time for the Band to do what they do best! Make beautiful music!

And they proved once again that, despite their name, they do not just play military-style marches (although they did play Souza’s stirring “The Thunderer”) – their repertoire is impressively wide-ranging, and constantly expanding. It included the inspirational songs “The Prayer” (lyrics), “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (lyrics), “You Raise Me Up” made famous by Josh Groban (lyrics), and “Doo Be Doo” (lyrics by Freshlyground). They also played “Highland Cathedral” with Andrew on the bagpipes, and two of the talented singers combined for the lovely hymn “Jerusalem” (lyrics).

It is not surprising that they received appreciative applause – and requests for their CDs.

The Band has already brought out several CDs, which you can buy from them directly: for instance, there is “Marching with Pride”, “On the Road”, “Voices Militaires”, “Salvo 150 – The Voice of the Guns”, “The SA Army Band Cape Town in concert with the Bloemfontein Tempé Choir”, and their latest “Cape Town Military Tattoo”, which is my favourite so far (but then I admit that I am biased towards that style of music :-)).

As we gathered our picnic paraphernalia and headed back to our cars, we were still swaying our hips to the tune of the unforgettable refrain of ‘Waka Waka’, big, happy smiles on our faces. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Andrew's rendition of Amazing Grace causes goosebumps all around

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