Making a Difference With Music

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A group of children sit in a circle, plastic buckets placed between their legs. Initially shy, when the music therapist encourages them to beat their makeshift drums, eventually the hall is filled with a cacophony of sound of hands slapping. One by one each child enters the centre of the circle and beats out a drum rhythm that the others copy.

This is the scene at Karitas, a Special Education Needs School in the West Coast for children with barriers to learning.

More often associated with glamorous nights at the theatre, opera is having an incredible impact on the students at Karitas. Thanks to generous funding by Alta Mane Fondacion, International Music and Art Foundation, Rand Merchant Bank and the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, CTO is able to offer its flagship music education program – Opera is My First Language (OMFL) – which addresses the lack of equitable music pedagogy for students in low-income and rural Western Cape communities. In response to the lack of resources in township schools, CTO brings music education and musical theatre where it is most needed. OMFL uses opera to involve low-income students in live productions, addressing current social challenges and exposing them to classical music.

Next week, the process that began six months ago with a simple makeshift drum circle will culminate in a concert. On Monday 18th September, a team of 14 people, which includes pianist Juan Burgers, Head of Outreach Christine Crouse and her staff, plus six CTO singers, a technical manager and wardrobe manager, will depart from Artscape to travel 150 kilometres to Vredenburg on the West Coast.

The team arrives at Karitas in time for a rehearsal and will spend the night and have a full final dress rehearsal on Tuesday, preparing for the performance of The Singing Garden at 18h00. The Singing Garden is adapted by Francesco Nassimbeni from Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. The new script is written in Afrikaans, Xhosa and English, allowing the children to perform in their mother tongues.
After returning to Cape Town the team repeats the performance at Lathi’tha School of Skills, a Special Needs School in Khayelitsha. There a much larger group of more than 50 children are participating and performing. After the Final Dress Rehearsal at lunchtime, a performance for the public will be held at 17:30.
Singing Garden Performance
DATE: 19 Sep
TIME: 18:00
VENUE: Karitas School of LSEN, Vredenburg, 20 Looitjiekloof Street, Louwille.

Singing Garden Performance
DATE: 21 Sep
TIME: 17:30
VENUE: Lathi’tha School of Skills, Mkhonto Cresent, Khayelitsha