Established in the early 1870s for the purpose of conserving and propagating rare and endangered indigenous plants, the National Botanical Gardens in Pietermaritzburg is always a great venue for anyone looking to relax and unwind amongst the beauty of nature. Flowers of every description birth forth a kaleidoscope of colours and hues while tall trees shade visitors strolling along the neatly manicured lawns creating a sense of utopia seldom experienced in any city setting.
The ever popular ‘Concert in the Park’ has been staged annually in the Botanical Gardens since 2005 and when my friend Mary-Anne informed me that she had a couple of free tickets available, I jumped at the opportunity to experience an afternoon of wonderful family entertainment.
The list of performers at this year’s concert included former Drakensberg Boy’s Choir School pupil Nicholas Nicolaidis, Spanish guitarist James Grace, acclaimed pianist Christopher Duigan and the very well-respected KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra (KZNPO).
The talented Nicolaidis, an established performer on concert stages around South Africa, thrilled us with his superb rendition of a ‘Neapolitan’ medley while his performance with the KZNPO in their interpretation of ‘New York, New York’ was a showstopper.
The KZNPO were also brilliant in performing renditions of ‘You’ve got a friend in me’ from Toy Story, ‘a Jungle Book’ medley; ‘the Waltzing Cat’; ‘Entry of the Gladiators’; selections from the ‘Beatlecracker Suite’ (music by the Beatles arranged for orchestra in the style of Tchaikovsky); ‘Embraceable You’ by Gershwin; ‘Lehar’s Gold and Silver Waltz’; and ‘Thunder and Lightning’ by Johann Strauss.
Although the KZNPO undoubtedly stole the show with their brilliant performances, Duigan, Grace and the talented pupils of Wykeham Collegiate and Maritzburg College also produced some sterling displays of musical talent. Duigan’s talented piano playing is always a hit with classical music audiences and as usual he was in fine form, his sweet melodies drawing applause at every turn.
Guitarist Gracie was equally as impressive, wowing us with his beautiful classical tunes while the Wykeham girls and College boys produced a superb performance with their stirring rendition of ‘My African Dream’. I was having so much fun that I find it impossible not to sing along and sway about in my chair. Many of the people around me were exhibiting similar behaviour and it was wonderful to see so many souls letting their hair down.
Although I was understandably a little sad when it came time to pack up and go, I left with the satisfaction of having enjoyed a really great afternoon out in the warm winter sunshine. Hats off to Parklane SuperSpar and the KZNPO for presenting such a fabulous event. It truly was awesome!
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Botanical Gardens contact details
Tel: +27 (0)33 344-3585
Address: Mayor’s Walk, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal