Interview: A revival of creative desires and energies – Aymeric Péguillan talks about Jazz & Classical Encounters at Spier 2021

Who: Aymeric Péguillan- of Pegs Music Project -organiser and co-producer of Jazz & Classical Encounters Vol 3 @ Spier

Where and when: Spier Amphitheatre -Saturday December 4, 2021
Time: First act starts 12.30pm. Last act starts 7.45pm Doors open: noon
Booking links: or  


Johannesburg based, Aymeric Péguillan is organiser and co-producer of Jazz & Classical Encounters Vol 3 @ Spier, on December 4, 2021. He is thrilled that the 2021 festival is happening, in the 2nd year of lockdown, with a wonderful line-up. “We hope that this festival will bring lots of great emotions and joy to all, on and off stage. We would like it to be a moment of great sharing, intense exchange between artists and audience, and revival of our creative desires and energies.” A maximum of 375 people may be seated in the Spier amphitheatre, according to lockdown regulations, so booking is recommended.

Honouring and celebrating Sibongile Khumalo and Andre Petersen through music

During Covid, with lockdown restrictions and limited gatherings, for the most part, it has not been possible to gather publicly and acknowledge and celebrate artists who have passed away, such as Sibongile Khumalo and Andre Petersen. Jazz & Classical Encounters 2021 is dedicated to these iconic artists.  Péguillan: “It was important for me to pay tribute to these two giants and the legacy that they have left behind, which has great significance to the jazz and classical worlds and to the South African music community. It is important to celebrate with a strong set of live performances, in front of a live audience. It is a way to start moving away from the terrible last 18 months we have been through. I had the great privilege to work with Mam’ Sibongile Khumalo at The Orbit– a phenomenal and professional performer, with a deep connection with her audience and a great educator and example to younger artists. She had an incredible voice register in both jazz and classical repertoires. With Andre Petersen, we have lost an exceptional pianist with a very sophisticated touch and an amazing fluency in jazz and classical idioms.  Andre was a well-recognized and appreciated academic and educator who left a strong mark on those he mentored. It was a delight working with him, at The Orbit and on a production that we created with Dirk Badenhorst (When Ballet Meets Jazz). He played was band leader and musical director and arranger. He was a great friend to many and a great father and partner. We miss him greatly. There is no better way to honor him than to celebrate him through music.”

Connections and intersections in the jazz and classical music ‘family’ in South Africa

Most of the artists at the festival, had a connection to Sibongile Khumalo and Andre Petersen- if not physically – then on an artistic level. “Well, yes, it is absolutely the case for almost all of them…. As you noticed, there is almost a ‘family feel’ to this festival edition. There will be a lot of powerful emotions I am sure, as the artists perform to celebrate the life and art of their departed friends and mentors. It is only right that they can do that in such a unique setting and before a crowd of connoisseurs.”

Bokani Dyer

Bokani Dyer will be opening the festival with his trio. “Bokani was at some point a student of Andre and was greatly influenced by him. They both had strong classical trainings and were influenced by an immense range of influences from the classical and jazz worlds.  They had a strong personal bond. Earlier this year [2020], a few weeks before Andre passed on, they made a recording, together for two pianos, a beautiful set on House on the Hill ( For his festival set, Bokani will play compositions in honour of Andre.”

Zandile Mzazi

Soprano Zandile Mzazi was inspired by Sibongile Khumalo. “Zandile had an opportunity to perform with Mam’ Sibongile, in 2019 at a classical festival and will de dedicating a great part of her set to her mentor’s musical excellence.”

Elinor Speirs

Violinist Elinor Speirs may not have had a gigging connection to Petersen and Khumalo but  her approach in navigating “the classical and jazz environments “, says Aymeric Péguillan, “is an indication of how deeply connected she is to the two art forms where Sibongile and Andre excelled.”

Kathleen Tagg

Pianist and composer Kathleen Tagg, will be flying in from New York where she is based. “She performed with Andre Petersen numerous times. In 2016, they recorded the phenomenal album for two pianos, Where Worlds Collide. At the festival, she will be celebrating her friend and musical partner through a magnificent solo piece with a strong orchestral feel.”

Feya Faku

Master trumpeter Feya Faku, “was a big brother to Andre, and had a very respectful and close relationship with Mam’ Sibongile”, reflects Péguillan. “Andre was part of one of Feya’s famous quintet for some time -with Kesivan Naidoo, Buddy Wells and Chantal Willie Petersen. Andre and Feya performed live and recorded together. Feya also performed and toured with Sibongile Khumalo in the USA as part of the Uhadi Ensemble that was formed in 2014 – with Paul Hanmer, Herbie Tsoaeli, McCoy Mrubata and Justin Badenhorst.”

South African global artists, playing live at Jazz & Classical Encounters 2021

Covid and lockdown has meant that many esteemed artists are available – who would have ‘normally’ been out of South Africa, will be in Cape Town for the festival. “Violinist Elinor Speirs, who is going to take us on an amazing journey of jazz improvisation with her quintet, has been stuck in SA for some time due to lockdown. Her work is a superb fit with the theme of our festival. She will be joined by some happening Cape Town based cats including the young and very talented Brathew van Sckhalkwyk on piano. Elinor has been on the forefront of mixing (free) jazz and classical music for some time and is finally finding an outlet to do that in SA. All the artists in our festival are pioneers and leaders in their genres in SA and others are carrying the SA creative flag high, overseas- from Bokani Dyer who performed with his trio a couple years ago at major festivals and at the famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London, to Kathy Tagg who just a few days ago, had a world premiere with the Santa Rosa Symphony in the US, performing with David Krakauer. Zandile Mzazi is one of the rising voices in the opera world and is traveling again, performing overseas, in prestigious performance spaces. Feya Faku has been on a very difficult road over the last three years. In May 2019, due to ill health, he had to withdraw completely from performances. After gaining some strength, he started to play again earlier this year. He went to Switzerland to record two new albums and will be sharing these two offerings with us at the festival and in honor of Andre. We are so grateful that this can happen on our stage.”

Festival format for 2021

Each performance/set is an hour long. “We have modified a bit though the time between performance where we have added 15 minutes, to allow for better food and beverage service, and more time for audience members to enjoy the wine farm. We will also have albums for sale at the festival which can be signed by the artist. There is a DVD recording, with a special cover of Andre Petersen’s quartet for Downtown Jazz Sessions 2017. Proceeds of DVD will go to Andre’s life partner, Chantal Willie Petersen, and daughter Zion to support them during these tough times.”

Looking to a bumper 2021 festival- masks on and please vaccinate

Strict Covid protocols will be in place at the festival: “Masks must be worn and temperature will be checked before ticket registration. We encourage everyone to vaccinate.… We feel that, with the line-up that we have this year, and hopefully some good weather conditions, we will have a great turn out. We can seat a maximum of 375 people. It will be a fantastic musical experience – for artists and audience members. We feel that a lot of people are very hungry for quality live music and will be eager to access that great and unique feeling again – witnessing artistic magic in live performances. This is exactly what we have on offer- and in a superb setting – in the ampitheate at Spier.”

Masked up at the music festival: Johannesburg based, Aymeric Péguillan is organiser and co-producer of Jazz & Classical Encounters Vol 3 @ Spier -on December 4, 2021. This is a photo from the 2020 edition of the festival. Pic: Gregory Franz.

❇This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Images supplied. Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: