International festival of Jewish music and theatre for Mother City

International festival of Jewish music and theatre for Mother City

A forgotten cabaret script in a damp Helsinki cellar; Russian choral music slowly disintegrating into a trunk in a Cape Town garage; Fragments of satirical dramas lying forgotten in a cupboard in a Prague apartment…

These are just a few of the musical and theatrical treasures that will be brought “out of the shadows” at a significant eight-day festival in Cape Town and Stellenbosch from September 10 to 17.

Following on after festivals in USA, UK, and Australia where all events were sold out, “Out of the Shadows: Rediscovering Jewish music and theatre” features star-studded local and international artists funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council’s major project.

Aviva Pelham, doyenne of South African opera and theatre, directs ‘A Comedy of us Jews’ (from the Helsinki archives) at Cape Town’s Jewish Museum, accompanied by clarinetist Matthew Reid and his ensemble, alongside Michelle Maxwell (acclaimed in the Fugard Theatre’s recent ‘Funny Girl’).

Promising to raise the roof of the Cape Town City Hall is the modern-day premiere of ‘Serenade for Large Symphony Orchestra’ (actually a double orchestra) by Viennese émigré composer Wilhelm Grosz, performed as part of the Cape Town Philharmonic Symphony Season by the CPO in a new edition by PtJA researcher Joseph Toltz.

By contrast, the Cape Soloists Choir will appear at Rondebosch’s Erin Hall, directed by PtJA’s Project Leader Dr Stephen Muir, in a programme of rediscovered Russian synagogue music that Dr Muir chanced upon amongst a private family collection in Cape Town in 2012.

Local personalities also feature strongly: Cantors Ivor Joffe and Choni Goldman are joined by their respective choirs in the opening concert at the Gardens Synagogue on September 10 at 4.30pm.

Two of South Africa’s most lauded composers, Hendrik Hofmeyr (UCT) and Hans Roosenschoon (Stellenbosch Konservatorium), will introduce ‘New Songs from the Jewish Archive’ – two concerts of their students’ newly-composed songs based upon PtJA research, performed by singers Jolene McClelland and Minette du Toit Pearce, and backed by an ensemble including Farida Bacharova, Peter Martens and Albie van Schalkwyk.

Other events will take place at the Baxter Concert Hall, the Methodist Church Hall in Observatory and the Drostdy Theatre, Stellenbosch, including ‘Prinz Bettliegend’, a satirical musical revue written by prisoners in the Theresienstadt Ghetto. This adaptation preserves the jazz melodies of the original ghetto production whilst reconstructing the story based upon survivor testimony.

Looking forward through the past: A symposium at Jannasch Hall, Stellenbosch University and at the Kaplan Centre UCT are open to the public. Entrance is free. Chair is Dr Stephen Muir – University of Leeds.

“We face a refugee crisis of similar proportion to that of post-war Europe. During displacement and exile, artists created and talked about their conditions. The works in our festival bear witness to the dignity, honesty and circumspection of artists’ visions in the face of indifference and closed doors in the 30s and 40s,” comments Dr Joseph Toltz of Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Australia.

* For more information, visit and follow the links to Cape Town.

Tickets are available via Computicket.