Reviews and interviews

Review by Antoinette Louw in Die Beeld, 6 May 2017
>>> to view in bigger format click on the photo <<<

Review by Wayne Muller in Die Burger, 17 March 2015

The review by Mary-Ann Hartley in The Witness, 22 October 2014 

Review by David Pike in The Witness, 6 November 2013

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Radio interviews <<< click on the links below to listen to the interviews >>>

Interview on Wild Coast FM (with Lara Kirsten being interviewed by Wendy Koll on her program "Wanderlust")

Interview on "People of Note" Classic FM (with Lara Kirsten being interviewed by Richard Cock. Due to the size of the music files, my music choices are not included in this)

Interview on Fine Music Radio (with flutist Thomas de Bruin & Lara Kirsten)

Interview on RSG (Radio Sonder Grense) (with tenor Sandile Mabaso & Lara Kirsten interviewed by Christelle Webb-Joubert)

An interview between between tenor Sandile Mabaso and Lara Kirsten

Sandile Mabaso and Lara Kirsten in rehearsal (photo: Tracey-Leigh Lawson)

Fond memories have been coming back to me since I started to work with tenor Sandile Mabaso in October of this year. The last time we worked together was 8 years ago, when we were both students at the University of Pretoria. We worked on a variety of music for concerts and exams. We performed at house concerts, recitals in churches, a ClassicFM soirée, a Brahms festival and even set off on a road trip to Ladybrand with our program.

What has always struck me about Sandile is his sheer dedication to a sincere interpretation of the feeling and meaning of every song he sings and the intention and breathing he invests into the music. With Sandile I did not only sit back and supply a backdrop to his singing – I had to be alert and responsive to every musical moment. 

It was not only music we shared. We shared a friendship. We talked about life, people and purpose. We could share our highs and lows and knew the other would listen with an understanding and sympathetic ear.

Although over the years our paths have lead us into our seperate careers I always hoped that one day we would make music together again. Our paths crossed again this year at the Wakkerstroom Music Festival where I heard Sandile sing Schumann's Dichterliebe. I was so moved to hear how his voice and performance has grown even richer. I then started envisioning to play with him again. I asked what he thought about performing a few concerts in his home province of KwaZulu Natal. He agreed and so our musical reunion was set in motion. As I am writing this, we are two hours away from our first concert to be hosted at the Goodwin Foundry in the Midlands of KwaZulu Natal. 

Our rehearsals for our reunion concert series took place in Johannesburg, and Sandile suggested we "interview" each other and document our conversation. In Sandile's words these conversations form "part of the commemorative gestures for our reunion concerts". Our questions and answers follow here:

Sandile: Lara, what have you been up to since we last worked together?
Lara: I have done a lot of traveling. I followed a very nomadic life, touring through South Africa, Europe and America, performing solo and ensemble work. I’ve also developed my career as performance poet. I have enjoyed exploring the combination of other mediums with my poetry – collaborating with photographers, sculptors and installation art.
A highlight in my career was performing poetry at the opening ceremony of the International Aquarium Congress hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in 2012. Another highlight, nothing to do with my career, was cycling 1600km's from KZN to Cape Agulhas with my partner Kim Goodwin end of last year.

Sandile: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from our musical partnership?
Lara: To be true to the music. 

Sandile: What have you learnt from your time outside our partnership? 
Lara: To be true to life and myself. I don't feel I am there yet, though I am trying, oh trying very hard.

Sandile: What was the first rehearsal like? Did you have any expectations? What were your expectations and was there something unexpected? Were you nervous?
Lara: It was very fulfilling. My only expectation was to be in top form emotionally and musically. The only unexpected thing was to sight-read the South African folk songs. No I was not nervous, I was very excited!

Sandile: How is your life now? What brings you joy and delights to your heart?
Lara: My life is much more settled. I am based, with my partner, in the Midlands of KZN. What brings me joy and delight is love, unhastiness, homegrown food, reading, writing poetry and playing my piano.

Sandile: Please tell me your best and worst experience whilst accompanying?
Lara: Let me start with the worst: to accompany Morné van Heerden - a brilliant clarinet player - at the Gala evening for the Wakkerstroom Music Festival. We did not have a run-through that day and before the concert I did not have the opportunity to warm up. We played a tango of Piazzolla and twice I fumbled over a very simple passage. Till this day I don't forgive myself for it. The best: to play for Linda van Coppenhagen for the ATKV Musiqanto competition in the Endler in Stellenbosch. It was the most responsive and generous audience I have ever experienced.  We both were on such a performance high – she won the competition that year.

Sandile: Which do you enjoy accompanying lieder or opera? What about bad piano transcriptions?
Lara: Lieder sit closer to my heart, because they are originally conceived for voice and piano, whereas accompaniments for opera music are transcribed from the orchestra parts. Yes, transcriptions are not always good and practical. As accompanists we are often advised to play as "orchestral" as possible, which can be rather frustrating. In transcriptions one is often compelled to "cheat" i.e. to leave out notes because of non-idiomatic piano parts (and my small hands). Therefore, the transparency, aesthetic and poetry of Lieder puts me more in my element than playing opera accompaniments.

Sandile: How do you program your piano solo work? What is the most important consideration when programming with your poetry?
Lara: A bit of everything – known and lesser known works plus one or two improvisations. The  audience always enjoys the improvisations. When choosing  poetry to add to a  music program, I often consider adding a  sense of theatre and humor.


Lara: What passions, other than singing, delight your heart and mind since we last met?
Sandile: Since the end of our first round of musical partnership I have indulged/explored, to my delight,  passions that you know such as reading, cooking, theatre etc. Also, I have explored entrepreneurship and I hope to continue again. My most exciting endeavour is writing essays for my blog. This has led to publications in national publications.

Lara: Besides performing, you also teach singing. What have you found to be significant to know regards the improvement and strengthening of a singer's voice?
Sandile: Simply, singing with your body. I have just realised this in a deeper way. This preserves the voice for the long term and ensures a consistent colouring of the voice.

Lara: Has your approach regards repertoire changed much since you were a student?
Sandile: My approach to repertoire has not changed much since I was a student. I am still inclined to sing lighter repertoire. However, my voice has grown since we were students. I am cautiously exploring slightly heavier repertoire.

Lara: What are the qualities you require in your accompanist?
Sandile: The basics such as playing the right notes at the right time, reliability and contributing to the music making process are not negotiable. Personally, I wish for my accompanists to be encouraging and supportive. Naturally you are all these things, Lara.  

Lara: It is bizarre to compare opera with lieder, yet there are distinct differences. Do you think the one is more taxing than the other?
Sandile: Lara, I’m sure you’ve heard how singers tend to find the art song more taxing. I find opera more vocally taxing, except for Mozart and Handel. I have to work harder to sing other composers’ music, within my fach, to my satisfaction. With lieder, I relish the challenge of telling the story using my whole being. I become preoccupied with the task that I forget the level of difficulty.
To answer your question, each one has its challenges. 

Lara: I have always admired the way you completely immerse yourself in the music and the text of the songs you sing. Are there times that you feel you are not in touch with the music in a certain given moment /mood? What do you do then to be more in tune with the moment, especially in performance?
Sandile: There are many times when you’re not feeling the emotion in the pieces. This is where professionalism comes in. You have to find that place inside you. The music does help in getting you to that place.

Lara: What do you think is the greatest challenge for a singer in preparing for a concert series?
Sandile: Selecting repertoire that is relevant/meaningful to the singer and audience and presenting it compellingly. 


photos by Tracey-Leigh Lawson

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