Compositions ‘cross borders’ between genres

2016-02-09 06:00
Guitarist Keith Tabisher is surrounded by his ensemble, back from left, Brydon Bolton (double bass), Kerryn Torrance (first violin), Elina Koytcheva (second violin), Sarah Evans (viola) and Cheryl de Havilland. PHOTO: gary van dyk

Guitarist Keith Tabisher is surrounded by his ensemble, back from left, Brydon Bolton (double bass), Kerryn Torrance (first violin), Elina Koytcheva (second violin), Sarah Evans (viola) and Cheryl de Havilland. PHOTO: gary van dyk

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A music teacher from Belhar wants to break the boundaries between musical genres with an innovative project that comes from his heart.

Keith Tabisher should know what he is talking about. He is the senior curriculum planner for music in the provincial education department and in his community he is renowned for jazz projects that have produced some of the best in the business. Many of his musicians make it into national bands at major festivals.

“We’ve lived in ‘boxes’ for too long,” he says. “Music is music is music. There’s good and there’s bad, but the time has come for strict divisions between genres to come down.

“When it comes to teaching music we must try to open young minds to all kinds of music.”

To prove his point Keith has written more than 20 guitar compositions which represent a body of original music that defies categorisation.

“The pieces are a mix of folk, popular, contemporary and jazz elements written in a chord and melody guitar style that derives a lot from classical guitar technique, but uses modern, jazzy harmonic and rhythmic language.

“I call this work my Heartsong project, because the pieces come from a place deep within my psyche. They have developed organically and in a non-contrived way. I listened to the songs of my heart and found the notes, was led by the notes and allowed the notes to take shape without too much interference from my conscious self.”

A further development has been a collaboration with composer and arranger Niel van der Watt, who has set 15 of these pieces to guitar and string quintet and one piece to guitar, marimba and strings.

This collaboration has produced 16 arrangements thus far.

“These arrangements can be envisaged as a model for ensemble playing, that could be used at FET-school level and beyond as material for ensemble repertoire,” says Keith.

Last week various stakeholders and music lovers got a taste of these arrangements when Keith performed with his ensemble at St Cyprians High School in Vredehoek.

With Keith on guitar the rest of the ensemble consists of Kerryn Torrance (first violin), Elina Koytcheva (second violin), Sarah Evans (viola), Cheryl de Havilland (cello) and Brydon Bolton (double bass).

“The music is about a search for artistic and emotional beauty. It is about boundary crossings to find commonalities. It’s about the quest for true self-expression, celebrating the diversity of creativity and culture,” he says.

“We plan to take this music to more public stages and make it more widely known and also offer workshops covering a range of topics concerning the compositions, arrangements and ensemble playing.

“The quintet represents all the instruments of the string section in an orchestra and we can offer demonstration workshops.”

V For more information contact Keith on 073 268 7444 or

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