Interview: Jazz & Classical Encounters 2022 Vol 4 at Spier- a festival where our togetherness come alive– reflects Aymeric Péguillan – festival co-producer 

Jazz & Classical Encounters 2022 Vol 4 at Spier Wine Farm

When: Saturday November 26, 2022- starts 12.30pm- doors open 11.30am. Ends 8.30pm

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With lockdown over, the 2022 edition of the annual Jazz & Classical Encounters Festival at Spier is gearing up for a celebratory day of jazz and classical music on November 26. Aymeric Péguillan, festival organiser and co-producer, reflects, that it is “a festival where our togetherness come alive.” The togetherness was palpable at last year’s festival (2021), where despite masking and limits on seating because of lockdown restrictions, there was an elevated energy and joy – communing together in the glorious setting of Spier and being treated to nationally and internationally renowned azz and classical artists and those who work across genres. The Johannesburg based Aymeric Péguillan, of Pegs Music Project, is elated about the 2022 festival:

Back on the jazz and classical festival boards – post Covid

It must be great to be back – post pandemic – with full capacity seating- and no masks?

Aymeric Péguillan: It is hard to describe actually how good it feels to be back under normal conditions, without masks, without distancing. The years 2020 and 2021 were very stressful, to say the least, for many in and beyond the arts community. So for us it is a huge relief of course to be able to present and produce this festival again, set the stage for these amazing South Africa talents and hopefully get a full amphitheatre and sell all 700 tickets that we have on offer. To be honest, after these two very tough years, I was not even sure that we were going to be able to put the festival together this year, so it is a fabulous feeling to be able to do it again for the 4th year.

Expect intense communion between artists and audience

The fest in 2021 was very emotional –a tribute to the late Sibongile Khumalo and Andre Petersen. This year – 2022- there is no ‘theme’ as such?

Aymeric Péguillan: Indeed, last year was very emotional, difficult at times for many of us, remembering these two fantastic artists- creators, educators in -and all those who were taken away from us [during the pandemic]. They live on in our minds and hearts and their music is testament to their unique talents. We still celebrate them every day. 

So this year has no particular theme but there is a lot of great music ‘from the People, for the People’- starting with that great album that Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane is coming to present – Music from My People- with his sextet. Buddy Wells and Muneeb Hermans, Ayanda Sikade’s album is a tribute to his grandmother and to the people that saw him grow up in the Eastern Cape. Ayanda’s band mixes youth and experience-with master Andile Yenana on piano- and the very special young talent of Kagiso Ramela on alto saxophone.  And similarly, Herbie Tsoaeli’s latest offering, at this point in time, is in the words of Kelebogile Motswatswa, “an exploration of realities of black personhood, an extension of Herbie’s Afrikan Time philosophy.” Expect intense communion between artists and audience. 

At the same time, we also bring in some amazing young artists from the Classical world, starting with the terrific Kirby Ensemble, made of some of the most talented young musicians, part of the Cape Chamber Music Collective. Watch out for a special revisiting of Schumann and Beethoven. 

And last but certainly not least, I am so excited that we have the immense talent of flutist Khanyisile Mthetwa with us for this festival, together with pianist Peter Cartwright. Khanyi is a multiple Award winner and was a double SAMA 2022 winner recently. Her playing is simply magnificent and will appeal to both the classical and jazz audiences. Her debut album recorded in 2021 (Afrikan Bird) is a superb offering. 

Bra Herbie at 2022 Jazz & Classical Encounters

Herbie Tsoaeli– the South African legendary bassist is heading up the last set. It is a big coup to have him at the festival.  Recently, he performed with his quintet at the Jazzfest 2021 in Berlin and wowed the crowds. It is ironic that so many of our jazz artists are more appreciated in Europe and the USA, rather than in their home country, SA?

Aymeric Péguillan: Well, no need to tell you how excited we are about that. Bra Herbie as he is commonly known has been at the forefront of the SA jazz scene for many decades now and to have bringing his latest creation to the festival is amazing for us. His unique approach to composing and his voice, both figuratively and concretely, is something that one wants to experience in one’s lifetime. 

He has a massive following both locally and internationally. I really think that the level of appreciation -for South African artists- is starting to grow locally, and that is also thanks to the fact that they are becoming more recognised internationally. So it is good in a way that some are making waves abroad. The recent signing of Nduduzo Makhathini by Blue Note Records and the launch of Blue Note Africa goes in that direction. The SA public is noticing their achievements and that their unique voice sets them apart from the rest of the jazz world. 

Jazz and classical – igniting new sounds, new artists, new talents, new ways of expression

Your beat is jazz. How did the festival come about- combining jazz and classical- at Spier? You are Joburg based – why Spier?

Aymeric Péguillan: The initial thought is really about bringing people from different backgrounds and liking together- get them to discover new sounds, new artists, new talents, new ways of expression. In addition, the fact is that many jazz artists, in the community I know best, have found influence and inspiration in classical music. Debussy, Ravel, Maessian, are some of the names that comes to mind. As much as the composition format and playing of the music is different, there are lots of similarities. We have seen last year at the Festival Vol 3 how it was so pleasantly challenging for violinist Elinor Spiers to navigate between the two genres. I think audiences love that; this musical and sonic curiosity.

Spier is offering us a magnificent setting and it is also a very arts focused property, so we really feel at home there-. And yes, I am Johannesburg based, and I have been thinking for a year now as to how we make the same concept happen in Joburg.I am presently discussing with a few stakeholders in Gauteng to see how we make this happen, maybe in a slightly different format. So watch this space. 

Triggering curiosity in intimate setting

Anything else to add about the 2022 festival?

Aymeric Péguillan: This festival, Vol 4, is really unique in its talent presentation: New material compositions are being presented. All the band leaders are bringing surprises on the composition front, that are not in their latest albums. People will be amazed at the fantastic spirit that runs through the amphitheatre. It’s a homely feeling- convivial- almost intimate. It is a great celebration of South African talents and creative spirit. There will be lots of great food and wine on offer and there is the possibility as well to interact easily with the artists. I cannot tell you how excited I am- to put the event together again and see the response to the lineup and the offerings. Woah- we cannot wait! Getting the opportunity to showcase such talents is a real privilege. This is a festival that triggers your curiosity, where you get to discover and appreciate, where you share and celebrate what is precious in us as people, and where our togetherness come alive. 

Closing set: Legendary bassist, Herbie Tsoaeli (aka Bra Herbie) is playing the closing set at Jazz & Classical Encounters 2022 Vol 4 at Spier, Cape Winelands, on November 26. He will be presenting his latest album At this point in time and will be accompanied by Keegan Steenkamp (trumpet and flugelhorn), Steven Sokuyeka (trombone), Mziwakhe Cekiso (piano) and Tefo Mahola (drums and percussion). Pic by Steve Gordon.
Flute: Khanyisile Mthetwa will be playing at Jazz and Classical Encounters 2022 @ Spier, accompanied on piano by Peter Cartwright. She was nominated in three categories in the 2022 SAMA awards for her debut album, African Bird and she won in the category for Best Classical Instrumental Album and Newcomer. She is the principal flautist for the Johannesburg Philarmonic Orchestra. Pic supplied.

✳ This interview has been marginally edited for length and clarity. Featured image –December 4, 2021- Jazz & Classical Encounters Festival Vol 3 @ Spier: Feya Faku (trumpet), Ayanda Sikade (drums) and Shane Cooper (bass). Pic © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen. Related coverage on Jazz & Classical Encounters Festival Vol 4 @ Spier [2022], on TheCapeRobyn: