MNO Presents Music for Mandela: Minnesota Orchestra in South Africa

This one-hour Minnesota Original (MNO) special follows Minnesota Orchestra on its historic tour through South Africa during the summer of 2018, which earned the organization the distinction of becoming the first major US orchestra to tour the continent of Africa. The musical and cultural exchange, “Music for Mandela,” honored the centenary year of Nelson Mandela’s birth through community engagements and concerts in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Soweto, the township at the center of the anti-apartheid movement. Many of the more than 300 Minnesotans who traveled to South Africa narrate this story, along with students, audience members and dignitaries.


A Cultural Exchange

In July 2018, South African artists, students and dignitaries, along with local audiences, celebrated the premiere of the Orchestra’s “Music for Mandela” project. Dr Makaziwe Mandela traveled to Minneapolis to honor her father, former South African President Nelson Mandela and the upcoming Minnesota Orchestra tour to South Africa. In this excerpt, Dr. Mandela and South African composer Dr. Bongani Ndodana-Breen discuss the centerpiece of the cultural and musical exchange: the five-city tour to Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Soweto and Johannesburg.


Cape Music Institute

Students of Cape Music Institute welcomed the Minnesota Orchestra’s brass quintet to the school’s home in Cape Town’s Athlone stadium. Chuck Lazarus, Douglas Carlsen, Michael Gast, R. Douglas Wright and Steven Campbell, along with the South African musicians, took turns performing for each other.


Cape Town City Hall

Minnesota Orchestra played the first concert by a major American orchestra on African soil in Cape Town’s City HallClassical Movements’ Johan van Zyl remembered the day Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison and spoke to the world from the Hall’s balcony.


Elsie’s River

Musicians from Minnesota Orchestra visited Elsie’s River, a township outside Cape Town. Students, families and neighbors of Eurecon Primary School welcomed the musicians and shared in the exchange as they sang, danced and played music. Brendon Adams, a native of Elsie’s River now living in Minneapolis and on the Music for Mandela tour, also performed with his gospel band, 29:11.


Harmonia Ubuntu

Soprano Goistemang Lehobye performed “Harmonia Ubuntu,” an original work created by South African composer Dr. Bongani Ndodana-Breen and commissioned by Classical Movements, the company who organized the Orchestra’s historic tour. “Harmonia Ubuntu” honors Nelson Mandela and South African culture.


Residency in Pretoria

While touring South Africa, Minnesota Orchestra spent two days at the University of Pretoria. Musicians of the South African National Youth Orchestra (SANYO) traveled from all over the country for this extraordinary opportunity to learn from one of the world’s most renowned orchestras. They took master classes and played in side-by-side rehearsals – and the professional musicians learned just as much as the students. Having first conducted SANYO in celebration of the organization’s 50th anniversary in 2014, Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä’s dream of returning to South Africa with his own orchestra to work with the young musicians became a reality.



Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Chorale and the Gauteng Choristers performed at Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, the township at the center of the anti-apartheid movement. The Orchestra and the tour company Classical Movements made it possible for hundreds of people in the community to attend the classical concert, and the church was filled with a cheering and ululating crowd. Classical MPR recorded the historic concert and, hours later, it was broadcast to Minnesota audiences.


From the Film’s Producer and Writer, Ashleigh Rowe

When Minnesota Orchestra first announced its South Africa tour, TPT’s Vice President of Philanthropy, Melinda Hoke and I imagined the possibilities.

We knew TPT could share stories of this extraordinary experience and the impact it would have on our Minnesota musicians, the hundreds of Minnesotans who would engage in the musical and cultural exchange, and the all South Africans who would share in the music-making here and across the world.

We saw countless moments of South Africans and Minnesotans making genuine connections, and it was important to include as many of those moments as possible. We gathered cell phone and other video, beautifully composed still photographs and more. Minnesota OrchestraClassical MPR, the Star Tribune, Travis Anderson Photography and so many others contributed their perspectives with additional media. Tracks from Minnesota musicians Dessa and Lazerbeak complement the international voices and orchestrations heard throughout.

I am grateful to Minnesota Orchestra’s Communications Director Gwen Pappas, Music Director Osmo Vänskä, President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns, Retired CEO Kevin Smith, Immediate Past Chair Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Concertmaster Erin Keefe and Classical Movements’ Neeta Helms and Johan van Zyl. They welcomed our crew of three and trusted us to capture and share stories of this historic tour. It was a privilege to create this film alongside them and all who gave of their time and world-class talent from both outstanding organizations.

We wish to express our gratitude to Jeanne Corwin, Elizabeth and Edwin Hlavka, the McVay Foundation, Elizabeth Myers, Louise Benz Plank, and John and Jennine Speier, the group of individuals who made this special international production possible.

This Minnesota Original special project was a true collaboration. I will always carry with me the profound unity, joy and generosity we experienced in honor of Nelson Mandela, through music.

Students from SANYO with Associate Conductor Roderick Cox at the University of Pretoria side-by-side rehearsal

Production Team: Ashleigh V. Rowe, Producer and Writer; Ezra Gold, Editor; Mark Hentges, Director of Photography; Eric Pagel, Field Audio; Tom Hambleton & Undertone Music, Supervising Sound Editor & Re-recording Mixer; Brennan Vance, Additional Camera; Johnny Hagen, Jennilee Park, Mark Skoglund, Additional Field Audio; Joe Demko, Post Audio; Ben Malley, Senior Graphic Designer; Alyssa Fuller, Senior Media Asset Specialist; Anne Guttridge, Matt Mead, Production Coordinators; Jacob Gold, Production Assistant; Ted Hinck, Senior Coordinating Producer; Sherece Lamke; Managing Director, Production Services; Melinda Hoke, Vice President, Philanthropy; Maggie Armstrong, Legal Services

Video of Robben Island and select video and still photography from Cape Town, Durban, Soweto and Johannesburg provided by Star Tribune photojournalist Leila Navidi. Copyright Star Tribune Media Company LLC

Additional Media & Music: Louise Gubb/Corbis Historical/Getty Images; Gallo Images/Getty Images, Hector Pieterson Museum, Travis Anderson Photography, Minnesota Orchestra; Brad Althoff, Euan Kerr, Brian Newhouse, Michael Osborne, Zack Rose and Dessa for Classical MPR. Concert Audio Recording in Soweto Courtesy Minnesota Public Radio; Symphonies No. 5 and No. 9 composed by Ludwig van Beethoven, performed by Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä with kind permission of BIS Records, Sweden. Minnesota Music: Dessa, Lazerbeak

Music for Mandela (select repertoire appearing in program): National Anthem of South Africa, arrangement by Jeanne Zaiel-Rudolph; Usilethela Uxolo (Nelson Mandela) composed by Stompie Mavi, arrangement by Gobingca George Mxadana and orchestrations by Jaako Kuusisto; Harmonia Ubuntu composed by Bongani Ndodana-Breen and commissioned by Classical Movements; Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Opus 67 and Symphony No. 9 in  D minor, Opus 125, Choral composed by Ludwig van Beethoven; Shosholoza arrangement by Qinisela Sibisi; En Saga, Opus 9, Finlandia and Symphony No. 2 composed by Jean Sibelius; Bawo Thixo Somandla composed by Archibald Arnold Mxolisi Matyila and arrangement by J.S. Mxilikazi Khumalo

Minnesota Orchestra: Osmo Vänskä, Music Director; Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Immediate Past Chair; Michelle Miller Burns, President and CEO, Kevin Smith, Former President and CEO

Minnesota Orchestra Tour Staff: Kris Arkis, Jen Keavy, Beth Keller-Long, Jessica Leibfried, Kari Marshall, Frank Merchlewitz, Bob Nygaard, Gwen Pappas, Michael Pelton, Andela Skrowaczewski, Mele Willis, Jon Hallberg, MD

Minnesota Orchestra Musicians on Tour: First Violins; Erin Keefe, Susie Park, Roger Frisch, Rui Du, Pamela Arnstein, David Brubaker, Rebecca Corrucini, Sarah Grimes, Helen Chang Haertzen, Céline Leathead, Rudolf Lekhter, Joanne Opgenorth, Milana Elise Reiche, Deborah Serafini, Kyu-Young Kim, Alexandra Early. Second Violins; Peter McGuire, Jonathan Magness, Cecilia Belcher ,Taichi Chen, Jean Marker De Vere, Aaron Janse, Ben Odhner, Natsuki Kumagai, Catherine Schubilske, Michael Sutton, Kathryn Bennett, James Garlick, Colleen McCullough. Violas; Rebecca Albers, Richard Marshall, Michael Adams, Sam Bergman, Sifei Cheng, Kenneth Freed, Megan Tam, Thomas Turner, Gareth Zehngut, David Auerbach, Maiya Papach, Jennifer Strom. Cellos; Anthony Ross, Silver Ainomäe, Beth Rapier, Katja Linfield, Marcia Peck, Pitnarry Shin, Arek Tesarczyk, Richard Belcher, Jim Jacobson. Basses; Kristen Bruya, Kathryn Nettleman, William Schrickel, Robert Anderson, Matthew Frischman, Brian Liddle, David Williamson, Charles Block. Flutes; Adam Kuenzel, Greg Milliren, Wendy Williams, Roma Duncan. Piccolo; Roma Duncan. Oboes; John Snow, Kathryn Greenbank, Julie Gramolini, Williams Marni, J. Hougham, Barbara Bishop. English Horn; Marni J. Hougham. Clarinets; Gabriel Campos Zamora, Gregory T. Williams, David Pharris, Timothy Zavadil. E-Flat Clarinet; Gregory T. Williams. Bass Clarinet; Timothy Zavadil. Bassoons: Fei Xie, Mark Kelley, J. Christopher Marshall, Norbert Nielubowski, Cheryl Kelley. Contrabassoon; Norbert Nielubowski, Cheryl Kelley. Horns; Michael Gast, Herbert Winslow, Brian Jensen, Ellen Dinwiddie, Smith Bruce Hudson, Michael Petruconis. Trumpets; Manny Laureano, Douglas C. Carlsen, Robert Dorer, Charles Lazarus. Trombones: R. Douglas Wright, Kari Sundström. Bass Trombone; Andrew Chappell. Tuba: Steven Campbell, Jason Tanksley. Timpani: Jason Arkis, Kevin Watkins. Percussion; Brian Mount, Kevin Watkins, Steve Kimball, Fernando Meza. Harp; Kathy Kienzle. Librarians: Maureen Conroy, Eric Sjostrom, Valerie Little. Personnel Manager; Kris Arkis Assistant. Personnel Manager; Janelle Lanz. Technical Director; Joel Mooney. Stage Managers; Don Hughes, Matthew Winiecki. Assistant Stage Manager; Gail Reich. Stagehands; Molly Gubbins, Tom Gubbins, Steve Rush. Sound Technician; Jay Perlman

Soloists: Goitsemang Lehobye, Soprano; Minette du Toit-Pearce, Mezzo; Siyabonga Maqungo, Tenor; Njabulo Madlala, Baritone

Minnesota Chorale: Kathy Saltzman Romey, Artistic Director; Barbara Brooks, Accompanist and Artistic Advisor. Soprano; Kristi Bergland, Penny Bonsell, Alyssa K. Breece, Deborah Carbaugh, Laurel E. Drevlow, Alyssa Ellson, Debra Gilroy, Pamela Marentette, Merilu Narum, Shari M. Speer, Deaven Swainey, Maya Tester. Alto; Kate Biederwolf, Tricia Hanson, Dee Hein, Heather A. Hood, Claire M. Klein, Katherine Mennicke, Erica Perl, Laura Potratz, Barbara A. Prince, Deborah E. Richman, Joanna Zawislak, Tenor Patrick, L. Coleman, Benjamin Cooper, Scott D. McKenzie, David Mennicke, Kevin G. Navis, Mark Pladson, Paul Riedesel, Patrick Romey, Scott Sandberg, Walter Tambor. Bass; John Bassett, Peder Bolstad, Scott Chamberlain, Mark Countryman, James J. D’Aurora, John R. Henrich, Steven Hodulik, Thomas Hollenhorst, Jon C. Lahann

Gauteng Choristers: Sidwell Mhlongo, Conductor. Xoolani Bootane, Conductor. Soprano; Lerato Mofokeng, Tsekiso Moloi, Sphiwe Mabuza, Thembisile Coka, Xolile Dyani, Thulisile Ntetha, Nomandla Ncayiyana, Miseka Gaqa, Hilda Mohlatlole, Nombeko Stemela, Cecilia Phetoe, Linda Sokhanyile, Sbongile Nhlapo, Noxolo Conjwa, Sanky Sitshinga, Fezile Mkhulisi, Buhle Madlala, Motswa Mbatha, Siphiwe Ndhlovo, Brenda Thulo, Akhona Nyokana, Gugu Mphahlaza, Lindiwe Lebakeng, Thembi Molotsi, Nontobeko Mahlanza, Dudu Moamohe. Mezzo-Soprano; Pearl Mogodi, Buyi Masikane, Anelisiwe Mnyaka, Seithati Phillips, Dipou Mohlophegi, Puseletso Motaung, Nonhlanhla Nxumalo, Noluthando Tshabalala, Lerato Letlape, Yondela Mlambo, Makiwe Mgidlala, Mahlatse Tshangase, Nomaqhawe Kananda, Mathapelo Matlou, Mbali Mathe, Anathi Stuurman. Tenor; Mpelo Sikhwatha, Patrick Lekala, Sizwe Nkwanyana, Thabang Baadjie, Mpho Dimpe, Kgaugelo Dolo, Bongani Khumalo, Miyelani Khuzwayo, Simphiwe Luthuli, Zola Mabutho, Percy Macheke, Sphelele Madela, Sabelo Madi, Kgutatso Makola, Alexanda Molete, Zolani Mootane, Lebuhang Motumi, Simphiwe Mthimkhulu, Bongane Mthombeni, Christopher Msiza, Mdumiseni Ntshangase, Fisumusa Ndlovu, Nkosinomusa Ndlovu, Senzo Ndlovu, Kananelo Sehau, Makhosonke Tshabalala, Sikhumbuzo Tshabalala, Sizakele Zitha, Mandla Zulu. Baritone/Bass: Thabani Msibi, Bubu Zwane, Wine Zitha, Mduduzi Ntetha, Molemohi Tjemolane, Pheello Mothola, Sandile Nkosi, Lehlogonolo Mashapu, Donald Makofane, Abram Legodi, Siyabonga Ndlovu, Cingisizwe Mbane, Chris Mipi, Tshepiso Modise, Avela Gungqwa, Kgaogelo Mfene, Prosper Makhaya, Themba Nkosi, Sinenhlanhla Dube, Lebohang Hlalele, Sibusiso Madonsela. Rehearsal Pianist; Janet Dancer

Minnesota Orchestra’s South Africa tour was arranged by the international concert tour management company, Classical Movements: Neeta Helms, Founder and President, Alessandra D’Ovidio, Adam Jackson, Anne Stickley, Jayci Thomas, Johan va Zyl and Logan Young.

A historic orchestra tour of this magnitude and complexity would not be possible without the goodwill of the following: Dr. Makaziwe Mandela, Bongani Ndodana-Breen, Brendon Adams and 29:11, Jessica Lapenn, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Mission in South Africa, Patricia de Lille Executive Mayor, City of Cape Town, Zandile Gumede Mayor, eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality

Cape Music Institute, Camillo Lombard, Principal, Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Clermont Choir, Brian Msizi Mnyandu, Conductor, Eurecon Intermediate Choir, Donovan Meyer-Adams, Conductor, INANDA Seminary School, KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic, Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestras, South African National Youth Orchestra, Sophia Welz, Managing Director,  Richard Cock Music Enterprises

Thank you to the following locations: Apartheid Museum, Cape Town City Hall, Durban City Hall, Johannesburg City Hall, Pilanesberg National Park, Mandela House, Regina Mundi Catholic Church, University of Pretoria

Minnesota Original (MNO) is all about the local artists, creative thinkers and contributors who connect our creative and cultural communities in the land of 10,000 lakes. Since its premiere in 2010, this Twin Cities PBS award-winning arts and cultural series has featured thousands of artists working in all disciplines. Music featured throughout the series is composed by Minnesota musicians.


Minnesota Original (MNO) is made possible with funding from the State’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.