If you'd like to experience a bit of history, tune in Friday at 7 p.m. central time for the Minnesota Orchestra in concert from Soweto, South Africa. It's the first professional U.S. orchestra to tour South Africa, and the musicians are playing as if their lives depend on it. We'll come to you live from Soweto, the home of Nelson Mandela's revolutionary push against apartheid, and from the church that was the epicenter of that struggle.
This is part of a five-city tour of this young democracy in celebration of Mandela's centenary. The orchestra started last Friday in the gorgeous Atlantic coastal city of Cape Town (think Seattle). Beethoven's Fifth sounded brand new, and an encore of Shosholoza, a tune every South African knows, had an explosive effect that made several stand and dance in the aisles. It was the most thrilling Minnesota Orchestra concert I've ever heard, and I've heard a few. Guaranteed: You'll hear this kind of response to Shosholoza in our Soweto broadcast if not even bigger.
While the orchestra went on to the Indian Ocean coastal city of Durban (think Miami), I split off and headed inland with a group of Classical MPR listeners. I took these two photos in the bush several hours outside of Johannesburg. It's winter here, dry season, and this valley stretched for miles of brown. The oldest human fossils have been unearthed nearby. I stood here for a few minutes, a gentle bush wind rattling the leaves and grasses, in awe for the arc of humanity that began rising right here.
This being winter, the sun sets early, about 6:45 p.m. As it went down over this bush lake, the clouds well, the clouds.
Other images in my mind's eye:
• The sky a deeper blue than we see even on the coldest Minnesota January afternoons.
• Razor wire spooled on top of 10-foot walls of wealthy gated (read: white) communities, dazzling in the sun.
• Tin shacks for blacks on city outskirts miles and miles of shacks that are so dangerous, fire trucks and ambulances won't enter unless with police escort.
• Mandela's face everywhere, from billboards to place mats; the revered father figure for a nation now concerned that his soaring moral vision is at risk because the disparities between blacks and whites remain.
Don't miss this little piece of history, Friday at 7 p.m. central time on Classical MPR.