Ragtime renditions thrill audiences at the Castle
RAGTIME came alive, and thrilled the audience’s senses last Friday evening following another superb performance hosted by the Classics at the Castle at Richmond House.
Professional muso Liza Joubert took the audience on a ragtime journey through time, starting off with a classical ragtime piece, by Scott Joplin, who is revered as the “king” of ragtime. Maple Leaf
Rag is said to be dedicated to a rowdy sports club, where Joplin composed the tune. The classic was written and published in 1899 and has never been out of print and continues to be regarded among pianists as a classic for time to come.
Joubert maintained a traditional classical interpretation of the piece and received roaring applause from the audience.
With the centenary of Joplin’s death, Joubert said it was the most appropriate time to play his music.
“Many people think he was the only one who wrote ragtime but that’s not true, he was one of many who composed and played,” Joubert said. “It is always thrilling to come to a place where there is a full house.”
Hailing from Stellenbosch, Joubert has strong roots on both the international and local music scene. She was the first resident accompanist at the Beau Soleil Music Centre in Cape Town, an accompanist at the Drakensberg Boys Choir, a concert pianist on the MV Marco Polo luxury liner and has collaborated with notable musicians across the world.
Her specialisation in ragtime, as well as South African piano music, is well-known internationally. Recently, Joubert featured at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival where she played the same programme as she did last Friday. Ragtime is exciting and feels slightly rebellious.
The excitement comes from syncopation – the displacing of the beat from its regular and assumed course of meter, causing a certain level of exciting tension. The syncopation allows an individual to feel a bit of swing, and musical looseness, generally not accompanied with classical music.
The next piece, Joubert played was a more complex piece with contrasting chords of “heaviness” and “lightness” of being.
Ragtime Nightingale by Joseph Francis Lamb had a sense of beautiful melancholy to it. Joubert delivered a classical interpretation of the complex, yet, colourful piece, which felt like it depicted a movement from sadness to joy. Next on the playlist,
New Era Rag by James Scott sounds like a piece one would hear in a smoky underground bar in 1920. There was a more “glitzy” feel to the piece with a “call and response” type melody which is repeated throughout the piece one octave higher, allowing for an interesting sense of excitement and comedy.
To follow was Souvenir de Porto Rico (La Marche des Gibaro) by Louis Moreau Gottschalk. The music begins quietly and then rises to a dramatic climax before gradually dying down.
The composer was born in New Orleans well before ragtime became popular and listened to “slave music” as he refined his musical ability. He travelled to the Caribbean and South America where he observed and felt inspired by the peasants working in the fields and then enjoying parties in their free time.
Souvenir de Porto Rico makes use of these settings and depicts Latin-American and Afro-American melodies and rhythms with each variation, played louder and more rhythmically complex.
Joubert played six fast-paced pieces from The Gershwin Songbook by George Gershwin as well as The tides of Manaunaun by Henru Cowell, William Bolcom’s The Garden of Eden which comprises four rags suites that tell a story of The Fall in ragtime style.
The evening concluded with another composition by Joplin, Rag-Time Dance-A Stop Time Two- Step, a piece which introduced a practice called “stop time” (where the pianist stamps the heel of one foot heavily upon the floor when the “stamp” is indicated in the score).
LOOK AT OUR NEW JUNGLE GYM! The Port Alfred High Pre-Primary pupils returned from the holidays to find a brand new jungle gym in their playground. Pupils, from left, Kei Kirsten, Inako Mbolekwa, Caiden Kettledas, Jack Averbach, Jed Thurgood, Zach de Wet Steyn and Wonga Maqondwana proudly show it off. Teacher Melissa Tweedie said that the jungle gym had been built using funds raised at the GBS Barn Dance held in the school hall earlier this year
FUN WITH OUR MENTORS: The Grade 7’s at Shaw Park Primary enjoyed tea with the staff recently. From left are Annette Laas, Liezel Willows, Ella Funde, Zimkhitha Ponie, Mia Marais, Worship Kamungore, Zubenanthi Hlana, Colby Cockcroft and Eve Clayton
TOP OF THEIR CLASS: Placed first in their respective grades for the year at the recent Port Alfred High School prize-giving were, from left, Chani Campbell (Grade 6), Lize-Mari Coetzee (Grade 7), Nhea van der Merwe (Grade 5) and Reinhardt le Roux (Grade 4)
MASTER OF RAG: Liza Joubert, a renowned musician and specialist in ragtime music thrilled guests at the Classics at the Castle last Friday evening evening with her ‘Spring into Ragtime’ playlist