The Arco Festival is an annual, immersive musical experience in South Africa, building on and solidifying skills learnt throughout the year.
The festivals of 2016 and 2017 have been enormously successful - truly life changing experiences for all involved. Plans for the 2018 festival are already underway.
By all accounts the first summer festival, held in June 2016, was a real success. Building on this, Louise and Lucy, chamber music coaches at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, visited the centre in April 2017. They worked in detail with the individual students, with the six quartets and with the Arco string orchestras and there were numerous performances across the week.
During the 2017 summer festival, the students had two daily lessons with their Skype teacher. The remainder of the day was divided into several classes including full orchestra, technique classes, aural lessons, listening sessions and quartet coaching. This intensity of working meant a huge amount of progress was made by the end of the festival week.
Repertoire for the orchestra sessions this year ranged from traditional Kwela music to “Game of Thrones”. In addition to the tutti rehearsals, there were also sectionals, which focused on the basics of orchestral playing; being able to follow the conductor or leader, choosing bowings and ensemble skills within a section.
2017 saw the introduction of a teacher-training program at the festival, which was run by Jan Repko. This focused on a range of subjects from tension issues to exercises for both left hand and right hand set up. The teachers from both Birmingham and CMCM benefited greatly from these sessions. In addition to this Jan also gave several individual lessons to the students at the centre, including side-by-side lessons with the teachers. Plans to continue the teacher-training program are already in motion for 2018, and we look forward to welcoming back Jan Repko who will be joined by the celebrated pedagogue Wiesje Miedama.
All the students at the 2017 Arco festival were considered for the Arco festival prize, which was awarded on the last day of the festival. This prize was awarded based not only on the students’ attitude during the week, but also took into consideration their work ethic and commitment in the months leading up to the festival. This year the prize was split between two students: Mbali and Njabulo. As a result, both were invited this year to take part in the inaugural Arco exchange and spend two weeks in the UK alongside fellow Arco student Kwanda who was awarded a scholarship to travel from the Gywn Williams Charitable Trust for Young Violists earlier in the year.
Plans for the 2018 festival are already underway and we are looking forward to build on the success of the previous two years.