Broadening her horizons

2013-05-24 00:00

AHEAD of a number of special KwaZulu-Natal shows, Ryan Calder spoke to Durban’s critically acclaimed musician, Shannon Hope, after her debut tour to London.

Hope has a fierce intent as a solo artist. Sure, years of doing-it-yourself and making a go of a career takes its toll on any musician, but she remains resolute. And what’s exciting to see is that her horizons are broadening, both musically and geographically.

The Durban-based pianist and vocal artist has just returned from her debut London tour, which she describes in one word as “epic”.

So how do venues and life as a musician compare that side of the equator as a solo artist? “The main difference between the London and SA music scene is how much more complex it is,” she says.

“There are so many different avenues you can take as a musician over there, and a far better-developed working industry for artists to take advantage of at various levels and in a million genres. It’s no different in terms of how difficult it is to make a name for yourself, but it’s so much more sustainable at every level.

“I played in venues that have hosted artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, K.T. Tunstall, Katie Melua, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Paulo Nutini, Morcheeba and Adele, to name a few. It’s quite a mind trip playing on such hallowed grounds.”

Hope spent the majority of time in relatively small venues, and all were alongside a line-up of other local London-based artists. “So I shared audiences with a varied collection of bands and solo acts, which made for a really great mix audience-wise,” she says.

“Only one of the shows had a disappointing turnout, but, for the most part, we had some great support. Something is happening everywhere you turn in that city and on every corner there is a vibe. Coming from an industry that craves local support, it was so refreshing to be consumed with that kind of passionate and committed music culture, because it feeds the performance.”

On the local front, Hope has a new strategy for feeding her motivation as a musician. “I often need reminding why I do what I do and how to keep doing it,” she confesses. “So I decided at the beginning of the year to focus my energy and attention on falling in love with music again, and concentrating on the big-dream stuff that would feed that. One of the main things I’ve focused on is collaborating with other musicians and projects for various shows, primarily in Durban, over the next few months.”

She elaborates on the various new projects. “One of the biggest dreams I’ve had since I first started writing music was to perform with an orchestra, and the first note of that big dream sounded recently.

“I’m working with the Durban City Orchestra over the course of the next few months, a collaboration that will culminate in a performance at the Glenwood Proms in September. Conductor Russell Scott is currently scoring my music for the collaboration at that event.”

Hope confesses the moment was overwhelming: “I cried in rehearsal with a double quartet. I’m probably going to fall to pieces when rehearsal starts with the full orchestra for the proms concert.”

She will also collaborate for a show with drummer extraordinaire Gareth Gale in July at Seabrooke’s Theatre. “I worked with Gareth years ago on a rock project ... he has an impeccable respect for space and sound. It’s going to be loads of fun and something completely different from any of the shows I’ve done so far.”

As a former dancer herself, Hope is also collaborating with the Flatfoot Dance Company, which has started choreographing a production based on her music. She will be performing with the company at The Playhouse in August.

She also has dreams of performing at the Royal Albert Hall, but local audiences can look forward to Shannon Hope at home, as she turns her attention back to her first love of music. “I’m very focused on dreaming again, and redefining my approach to what I do. But I’ll definitely be doing some more international touring, more big-dream collaborations, and loads more studio work in the next two years.”

• Catch Shannon Hope at Seabrooke’s Theatre, at DHS, 255 St Thomas Road, Musgrave. She will perform alongside special guest Maria Cohen (cello) and the Durban City Orchestra principle string players. The show takes place tomorrow from 8 pm, with doors open from 7.30 pm. Tickets cost R70 at 031 277 1570 or 082 894 7541. Seats are limited.

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