A Night of Musical Celebration with The Salvation Army

12187925_10153134161450936_3618761932305605521_nWith the end of the Cape Town Military Tattoo 2015, I was feeling a tad melancholic at not seeing my favourite bands and musicians again, so when I heard that the SA Navy Band and the Cape Field Artillery Pipes and Drums would be joining hands with the Salvation Army and the ERUB Children’s Choir, I promptly reserved my seats at Computicket.

Last night was their performance in the Baxter Concert Hall. And wow, what a performance it was! We had been promised “an evening of fantastic music and great entertainment”, and they delivered. Not surprisingly, these joint concerts are always really popular, and in fact, I think this particular concert is an annual event; in past years, it has been held at the St James Church in Kenilworth. Having it here in the Concert Hall with its curved amphitheatre was amazing – the acoustics are great, and every seat has a good view of the stage.

Rehearsals for the Concert

Rehearsals for the Concert

Mom, hubby and I headed through to the Baxter Theatre fairly early in the evening, as we wanted to grab a bite to eat in the restaurant before the show. As we walked in and found ourselves a table, I spotted the familiar faces of the pipers and drummers of Cape Field Artillery, as well as Commander Kenny Leibbrandt of the Navy Band, all sitting at tables overlooking the foyer, and rushed over to say hi. Then we got ourselves some food from the excellent help-yourself buffet, and something to drink from the bar, and settled in for a relaxing evening.

I really regretted not packing my camera, and was feeling quite bereft not taking any photos, but the Baxter is always quite touchy about not allowing photography, and I hadn’t wanted to risk it being confiscated on entering the Concert Hall. I needn’t have worried – I had permission from ‘on high’! (i.e. the Commander). Well, next time…! I have thus borrowed some photos posted by the Cape Field Artillery Pipes & Drums on Facebook – thank you very much, Andrew and Grant!

We were welcomed by an officer from the Salvation Army – unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name. He was an excellent MC, and set the right tone for the evening from the start: we were all encouraged to turn around in our seats and welcome the people behind us (yes, like happens in church!) – I’m not used to this happening during a concert, where audiences tend to feel like they must ‘shush’ and ‘sit quietly’. Here, it felt really fun and wonderful, and immediately created a relaxed, friendly, community-spirited atmosphere.

12278972_10153161012755936_881559107626047172_nIn the first half of the show, the Salvation Army Band had their turn onstage, alternating with the ERUB Children’s Choir. I hadn’t heard of this community children’s choir before, and did not know anything about it. Well, they were amazing. As I only learned afterwards, ERUB is an acronym for Elsies River, Ravensmead, Uitsig and Belhar – because, when the choir started, only children from those Cape Town neighbourhoods could join. In more recent years, though, children from any area were allowed to join.

Apart from one or two boys, the choir consists of girls only – probably because boys’ voices tend to break around that particular age. They sang exquisitely… goosebumps all around. The piano/keyboard accompaniment really allowed the beauty of their voices to come to the fore. I bought a copy of their DVD from their stand outside during the interval, and look forward to listening to it.

After a very short interval – we were running late, apparently, though I don’t think people minded much! – the SA Navy Band stormed straight into the second half at full throttle, getting our heartbeats racing with some very fast pieces!

Like the MC from the Salvation Army, Commander Kenny Leibbrandt has a true knack of getting the audience to relax, feel at ease and part of the show, rather than observing it from a distance. He had chosen a great range of pieces for his band, and it was wonderful to hear them playing the dramatic Jupiter from Holst’s Planets, the soulful Band of Brothers, and the stirring Highland Cathedral again, all of which had featured in the CTMT 2015.

When the pipers from Cape Field Artillery marched onto the walkway at the back of the stage, overlooking the band, there was loud cheering from supporters in the audience.

The Navy Band has such a big sound that it can hardly be contained in a confined space like this – it would be awesome to see them performing at a large venue like the Artscape!

I also really enjoyed the gentle, soft and reflective classical pieces in-between, which had a wonderfully calming effect. I don’t usually associate the Navy Band with such pieces – I generally hear them playing military marches and big band music. But they do have various ensembles within the Band, such as the entertainment group, the chamber music and the brass groups. Many of the bandsmen play more than one instrument, and some of them have excellent voices too. A firm favourite of the crowds is always the Marimba group, whose catchy rhythms caused lots of foot-stomping and jiving and bopping in the seats all around!

Not surprisingly, the entire audience was on their feet at the end of the show, giving a standing ovation to all the performers onstage.

Ahh, what a marvelous evening this had been.

12278974_10153346107636939_7201120089649404718_nThe next performance of the SA Navy Band and the CFA Pipes and Drums will be at the Helderberg Nature Reserve on Sunday, the 6th of December 2015. They will be giving a Sunset Concert on the lawns – book your places now!

Incidentally, the photo used on that Facebook page is mine (yay!), taken during the 2011 Picnic Concert at Admiralty House with the SA Navy Band (which I wrote about here). In 2009, we had attended another such Sunset Concert in the beautiful gardens of Admiralty House (written about here). Unfortunately, I think these concerts have come to an end since Rear Admiral (JG) Louw is no longer the Flag Officer Commanding Naval Base Simon’s Town, as he was always a great supporter of the Band. It is such a pity, in my view, as these events are always very popular among young and old, and ideal for introducing the younger generation to both the Navy and to the power and magic of music. Like the annual three-day Navy Festival in Simon’s Town, they also create a hugely positive impression of the SA Navy, further reinforcing its image as “the People’s Navy”. So I do hope that there will be another series of such sunset concerts again sometime.

But if you don’t want to wait for maybe’s and perhaps’s, go and get your tickets for the Sunset Concert at the lovely Helderberg Nature Reserve! Click on the picture below to get to the Facebook page.


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