Sophia Welz, Chief Operations Officer for the South African National Youth Orchestra Foundation, provides insight into the history, the workings and work of this inspiring initiative on www.classicsa.co.za
- Andrew Moroosi, oboist and cor anglais player
- Peta Ann Holdcroft (Richardson), cello, and Judi Richardson, viola
“The National Youth Orchestra played a pivotal role in triggering off and nurturing my interest in orchestral music. It is an asset this country could not afford to lose. Look at the talent that the orchestra has helped to produce: Gerard Korsten, Paul van der Merwe, Pieter Schoeman, Michael Snyman, Peter van de Geest, Jeoffrey Cox – even Anton Nel was in the Youth Orchestra for a while, in the percussion section! Gina Beukes, the list continues…”
In 1980 Andrew auditioned for the National Youth Orchestra Course and was placed in the “B” Orchestra. From 1981 to 1983 he was a member of the National Youth Orchestra.
“In 1982 thirty of us were chosen to play a production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro in Potchefstroom. One afternoon all decided to go to the movies. I managed to get a ticket, but somebody had spotted me and the police arrived with a torch and beckoned to me to come with them. I was asked to leave, as black people were not allowed. We had been playing together in the orchestra, and we’d all forgotten that I was the black sheep in the family. In protest, and en masse, my colleagues walked out of the cinema with me.”
In the early eighties, Jos de Groen, the then principal bassoonist of the SABC Orchestra, said about Andrew: “The tragedy of this country is that no matter how good this child becomes, he will never be able to play in a professional orchestra.” How Andrew was to prove him wrong!
Andrew will be tutoring oboe and cor anglais at this year’s Sasol National Youth Orchestra Course.
It is amazing that even after thirty five years, the memories of the South African Youth Orchestra courses are so vivid! Every July we eagerly anticipated our annual sojourn to cities in South Africa that were yet to be explored. Yellowing scrap books still display newspaper pictures of happy faces peering from train windows off on their musical adventure. And there was many a tale to tell! For it was at these courses that lifelong friendships were forged and fleeting flirtations explored. No-one begrudged the hours of rehearsal, in fact, everyone loved them and the sounds of music emulating from every practice room was the norm.
Some of our happiest memories are sleeping in university dormitories and feeling ever-so grown up, and, the cherry on top, going overseas. How special it was to play in the Royal Albert Hall, what fun to sit in an outdoor plaza in Barcelona, with out music pegged to stop the wind from blowing the sheets away, or playing the Tchaikovsky 5 in a pop concert in Israel. When our concert was cancelled due to rain in Paris, we had no worries, we just went down to the metro train station in our concert garb and busked, earning enough money to buy pizzas. Then of course there was the amazing concert in Aberdeen, where twelve year old Pietie Koornhof, genius that he was, was playing the Max Bruch violin concerto with the maturity of a professional, and outside the crowds were demonstrating and chanting “we shall overcome!”
So over thiry years later, it is a very different South Africa! It’s not only the privileged few that have the opportunity to play in a grand orchestra, but what will never change is the universality of music that brings people together from all walks of life and makes them appreciate their differences through the glory of music! Some, from those years, have gone on to pursue successful careers in music, whilst other have explored different paths, but no-one will forget those special years where we learned to play together.