The fabulous SA Navy Band took to the stage at the V&A Waterfront Amphitheatre yesterday, Sunday 18 December 2011, for their final concert of 2011.
They couldn’t have asked for better weather: it was a typical summer’s day in Cape Town, with luminous blue skies and not a cloud in sight. Not surprisingly, the Waterfront was buzzing, with locals and visitors from overseas enjoying the fantastic weather and doing some last-minute Christmas shopping. The giant Ferris Wheel was slowly turning, the cabins travelling smoothly upwards into the sky, and descending down to the ground once more, all against the magnificent backdrop of Table Mountain, one of the 7th New Wonders of the World.
A glorious day!
When we arrived at the Amphitheatre, the Band members had already set up on the stage, and they were just finishing their soundcheck prior to the start of their concert. Punctually at 13h00, the Band launched into an exciting fanfare, alerting us to the start of the concert.
The seats soon began to fill up with a steady stream of visitors and curious onlookers, until, by the end of the performance, all the seats were full, and a large crowd had gathered all around the Amphitheatre, and all along the second-level balcony.
Their next piece was the rollicking William Tell Overture, which is probably more widely known as the theme tune of the Lone Ranger series (I was almost expecting someone to yell, “Hi Ho Silver, Away!”) before WO2 Willie van Zyl on saxophone spiced things up with a jazzy version of Chris de Burgh’s Lady in Red.
The tribute to legendary African musicians Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba not only had band members singing and dancing on the stage, but the spectators soon found themselves moving and tapping their feet to the irresistible African rhythms of hits such as Pata Pata, with some braver ones even joining the Band on stage.
The unbelievably fast-paced Sabre Dance had us spellbound, as we watched Chief Petty Officer George Macdonald and Chief Petty Officer Clifford Coxell competing against each other on the xylophones, their sticks a blur!
CPO Coxell is always fun to watch – he is sooo energetic! When he plays one of the percussion instruments at the back, whether the drums or the clashing cymbals, he does so with such gusto and passion that you can tell he is loving every moment. This was to be his last public performance with the Navy Band, as he is retiring at the end of the year. No doubt, he will be sorely missed.
The Navy Band also plays at ceremonial and formal occasions, including at events such as the annual Opening of Parliament, and they have an excellent Marching Band. Warrant Officer 2 Llewellyn Arnold, in charge of the marching band, took the baton from Commander Leibbrandt in order to lend a military air to the concert with a Sousa March.
Leading Seaman Normagene du Plessis enchanted us with her high-pitched piccolo and Leading Seaman Tshegofatso Moholane hit some deep bass notes with his unusual sousaphone. This is a type of large tuba that is used in marching bands; handily designed to fit around the body of the musician and supported by his left shoulder, it is thus fairly easy to carry – though I imagine it must be quite heavy. It is named after American bandmaster and composer John Philip Sousa, who used it in his own band.
There was another change of pace with Petty Officer Emmanuel Twala singing Josh Groban’s hit You Raise Me Up. He did so beautifully, and with tremendous passion, his rich voice soaring over the backing music. Stunning!
This was followed by a great tribute to the music of British rock band Queen. Able Seaman Steven Lyons excelled on the challenging vocals of Bohemian Rhapsody and Barcelona, complete with wailing electric guitar. He was wonderfully supported by CPO Nombali Magubane on vocals, with the choir singing the backing vocals, and CPO Riedewaan Finck playing the trombone solo on Barcelona.
The Navy Band’s final concert of 2011 concluded with one of their trademark pieces: Mango Groove’s Nice To See You. This catchy melody had all of us on our feet, clapping our hands and swaying with the beat, willing the concert to continue just for a little while longer.
As always, the SA Navy Band’s professionalism shone through in their smooth, polished performance, as they showed off their musical talents with a wide-ranging repertoire of pieces.* The infectious enthusiasm of the band members soon had all the spectators bopping and jiving, shimmying and swaying, and as the crowds began to disperse at the end of their concert, I could still hear the melody of the last song humming in the air…
“Nice to see you,
we will meet again,
now we say goodbye…”
I’d like to wish the Band a Merry Christmas, a Peaceful Festive Season, and an Exciting New Year! Until we meet again in 2012!
* The SA Navy Band has a range of CD recordings available, which you can purchase via their website.