SA quartet plays for peace

A group of internationally acclaimed South African musicians – a luthier, four instrumentalists and a composer – have come together to form a Quartet of Peace  that will use the beauty of classical music to promote worldwide the ideals of peace, reconciliation, freedom and hope represented by South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk are the inspiration behind the quartet’s formation.

The Quartet of Peace consists of David Juritz, also leader of the London Mozart Players; Suzanne Martens, previous concert master of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and currently part of the University of Stellenbosch’s music faculty; Gareth Lubbe, principal violist of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, Germany; and Peter Martens, former principal cellist of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and currently artistic administrator and director of the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival.

Juritz is first violin and Suzanne Martens is second violin, while Lubbe is the violist and Peter Martens plays the cello.

The quartet kicks off its international tour with a debut concert in Stellenbosch University’s Endler Hall on 15 October.

Music fosters reconciliation

The remarkable project is the realisation of acclaimed luthier Brian Lisus’ long-held dream – since Mandela’s inauguration in 1994 – to use music to foster peace and reconciliation in the world.

His vision has become a reality as friends with a passion for classical music and string instruments have rallied around him. offering their assistance to get the Quartet of Peace project off the ground.

And since the eminent musicians have volunteered their talents at no cost, the project has developed into a large initiative receiving interest and support from the French minister of arts and culture and the London Chamber Music Society, among others.

Lisus, whose instruments are sold worldwide, is hand-making brand new string instruments, which carry the inscriptions of peace, reconciliation, hope and freedom on the back, for the members of the quartet.

Message of peace

Furthermore, the musicians will take the message of peace to local and international audiences with the music of accomplished South African-born composer, percussionist and poet Eugene Skeef, now resident in London.

Skeef, who also works in conflict resolution, has composed a piece titled Uxolo (an Nguni word meaning “forgiveness”) especially for the quartet’s performances.

Skeef’s involvement in the initiative is interesting since he was a young activist during apartheid who co-led literacy campaigns in schools and communities across South Africa. He currently serves on the board of directors of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, among many other commitments.

The prominent artists have all been inspired by the idea of taking the ideals of Mandela, Tutu, De Klerk and Luthuli to the world.

They are also motivated by the fact that concert proceeds will go towards Musequality projects that uplift and heal children who are disadvantaged and at risk. One of these, the Hout Bay Music Project, teaches 60 children to play string instruments and drums and also offers lessons in life skills. Another, Melodi Music in Soweto, starts children off on the recorder before they advance to other woodwind instruments.

The intention is also to help disadvantaged children and child refugees on the African continent, as music is proving to facilitate healing in youngsters who have experienced hardships early in life.

Working around the clock to complete the cello, the last instrument Lisus is making for the quartet, he says it is has been a long journey to see the initiative come to fruition, but the involvement of “wonderful people” has been overwhelming.

The violinmaker says he is looking forward to hear the musicians play on his handcrafted instruments and to see the concerts supporting music projects for children around the world.

“Furthermore, the Quartet of Peace must make everybody aware of the South African ideals; we want to inspire the world to peace and reconciliation – to walk in the footsteps of Mandela, Tutu, Luthuli and De Klerk.”

Concert schedule

The quartet’s inaugural concert in Stellenbosch will be followed by a performance at the Sans Souci High School in Cape Town on the next day and then the first international concert in Leipzig, Germany, in St. Thomas church where Johann Sebastian Bach is buried.

They move on to London’s Kings Place, a modern recital hall, on 5 December and then to Ljubljana in Slovenia, before giving an intimate performance in the L’Atelier de Picasso in Paris, France, on 13 and 14 December.

According to Skeef’s website, the quartet is awaiting confirmation from the Nobel Peace Prize committee of an 11 December performance at the Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. The composer is also currently organising a special performance of the Quartet of Peace at the home of Nelson Mandela.

A special fundraising concert takes place on 16 December, South Africa’s Day of Reconciliation.

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