What makes for truly moving music? Last night CH2 guitar duo staged a once-off performance (kontrasT) to launch their latest album, featuring dj Xavier, at the Atterbury Theatre in Pretoria. Here they are, minus Xavier, but plus percussionist Andre Van Rensburg (photographed by me in the second row).
The evening had everything – lighting, special effects, a seductive dancer who played us like castanets, all the off-the-cuff banter that makes for a “spontaneous” performance, plus they played my favourites in a new avant-garde, electro pop-jazz style. Yet – for me (an avid supporter), as far as moving performances go – it wasn’t their best ever.
So what was missing? This is no ordinary guitar duo. They won the 2013 SAMA (South Africa Music Award) for the best instrumental/classical album of the year. That was for their live album and DVD recorded with the University of Pretoria Symphony Orchestra (one album I don’t have). Their studio album “Ping” also won a SAMA for the best instrumental/classical album in 2012. (Both available on CDBaby and iTunes worldwide.) And yet …
For me their best performance ever was last year at the Grahamstown Performing Arts Festival. And it happened in a disused school chapel. It was a record year for us at this feast of music, theatre, dance and art. We packed in three or four shows a day over a ten day period, ranging from street theatre to opera. It is always a mind-blowing experience, rivalling (I’m told) the Edinburgh Festival. Well, last year the CH2 performance was my Best Overall. To put them top of some 40 shows is no mean compliment.
Being Grahamstown, it was chilly, despite the braziers (if there were any that day). Although no longer functioning as a chapel, the vaulting, the stone and the resultant acoustics are still superb and made this the perfect venue. Atterbury Theatre is probably the capital’s newest theatre and has everything any artist could ask for, but there’s no comparison. Sorry.
Plus, accompanying CH2 was a 300 voice children’s choir. Or was it the other way round? Perhaps CH2 accompanied them. I almost missed their name on the programme, but cherubim and seraphim were with me. All the same, the presence of 300 school children and their supporters didn’t add anything to the ambience, and I wondered if it had been a mistake. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Randburg Hoërskool had a sensational director at the time. Perhaps they have lost some of their magic since he moved on. Being a school choir, voices also come and go.
We sat in the centre of the chapel, totally surrounded by the choir and musicians, another stroke of genius. The combination of the chapel, the angelic (no other word for it) voices, the heavenly (yup, there I go again) guitar virtuoso, made for the most moving music performance I’ve ever experienced. It was real, it was honest, it was sublime. And perhaps the bottom line was that it was totally unexpected.