Standard Bank National Schools’ Big Band: A remarkable and emotional performance

The Big Band had only three days to prepare, but certainly delivered. Photo: Nelly Zulu

A beautifully lit stage set an emotional scene for the Standard Bank National Schools’ Big Band, who delivered a heartfelt and joyous performance at DSG Hall on 8 July.

Two learners opened with a poem entitled “I’m an African”, which provided an authentic of being an African.

The band followed with a song titled “Grateful”, a statement of thanks to the sponsors and directors who gave them the opportunity to play at the National Arts Festival. According to conductor Kelly Bell, the song “Forgotten” reminds South Africans about the jazz artists who paved the way for these upcoming musicians. Some may be forgotten, but they should be celebrated. “As South Africans we cannot deny our history,” she said. “We want to make it better for the future.”

The programme was deeply touching, carrying many different emotions. “Jazz is a language, and I try to convey a message of hope through it, and music unites us as we are from different races and backgrounds,” explained Bell. Responding to her, the band performed from the heart and drew the audience’s attention. “There is so much that is happening in our country that is not great, but there are also great things too, and the music helps to bring that out,” she said.

The band then played their conductor’s composition, and it shifted the mood from deep emotion to dancing joy as different jams spoke to our bodies. The audience applauded non-stop. The band was later joined by two vocalists who sang different songs in isiXhosa (one of them was titled “Iyaguduza indoda”) and they left the audience mesmerised.

The Jazz Festival started as a national youth festival in 1992, and later became the Standard Bank Jazz Festival. Director Alan Webster, who has led the festival for 17 years, has been working with learners for the past 25 years.

Following auditions to select members of the National Big Band, learners had only three days to prepare. With such a short period of time, the band managed to deliver a remarkable performance with the help of their conductor Bell.

By Nelly Zulu