Record attendance at Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival

Pictured at the opening night, from left, are Nina Schumann, SICMF artistic director; Peter Martens, SICMF festival director; Vicky Davis, SICMF Media and Communications; and guests Professor Thuli Madonsela, Hannelie Booyens and Eon Hendrickse. In the back row from left, are Emile Vercuil, Diane Gahiza and Themba Seysi. PICTURE: CARMEN REYNOLDS PHOTOGRAPHY

There was a record high attendance at this year’s 10-day-Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival, with the three orchestral concerts completely sold out.

And says the SICMF, whilst the students of the Festival Symphony Orchestra presented two scintillating performances, the Festival Concert Orchestra must also be commended, on amongst other things, the rousing finale to Respighi’s Pines of Rome.

According to the SICMF, there were way too many special performances to single out highlights.

“In fact every performance was followed by a standing ovation, from Bach’s sublime Goldberg Variations to Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, delivered with world-class virtuosity by Andrey Baranov and the FSO,” a statement issued by the festival stated.

As per festival director Peter Martens’ foreword, “both the old and the new were heard side by side in perfect proportion”.

New music by Mikhaila Alyssa Smith and Matthijs van Dijk were heard alongside, Schubert’s iconic string quintet and Rachmaninoff’s awesome piano trio, the programming of Artistic Director Nina Schumann giving context and a platform for these excellent South African compositions.

The final concert of the SICMF ended on a high note with its first ever woman conductor, Rebecca Tong, directing one of the most spirited performances ever to have been heard from an orchestra in South Africa. The soloist in this concert was clarinettist YaoGuang Zhai who after his stunning performance of Weber’s second clarinet concerto, brought the house down with Mango Groove’s Special Star.

The lucky student who won the 10-day job shadow scholarship was Shannon Thebus. Mr Thebus is already the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal French horn player who will shadow SICMF faculty member Geoffrey Pilkington in Washington DC in the USA.

Those who missed out on attending this year’s event, can view the livestream videos moderated by classical music presenter John Woodland on

Musicians performing to a packed house in the Endler Hall at the Stellenbosch University Conservatorium, Stellenbosch University, on Saturday July 8 PICTURE: CARMEN REYNOLDS PHOTOGRAPHY
The cello players pictured on the night of Sunday July 9. PICTURE: CARMEN REYNOLDS PHOTOGRAPHY
Rebecca Tong, the Festival Symphony Orchestra’s first female conductor, ended things off on high note. PICTURE: CARMEN REYNOLDS PHOTOGRAPHY