Performing Arts Bulawayo

Performing Arts Bulawayo was established in 1957 as the Bulawayo Arts Council but changed its name in 1981 when government-appointed arts councils with a rather different agenda were established. Its principal activity over the years has been to promote an annual series of subscription concerts and many of the world’s finest musicians have visited Bulawayo under its auspices: Ingrid Haebler, James Galway, Alicia de Larrocha, Gérard Souzay, Moiseiwitsch, John Ogdon and the King’s Singers are among the many famous names to be found in the first twenty years, whilst the Chilingirian Quartet and Jorge Bolet were amongst those who graced the first year of independence.

Since then there has been a steady stream of distinguished musicians, many of them but by no means all British-based and a partial list for the last thirty years includes (in order strictly alphabetical!):
Joaquin Achucarro, Claire Béchu, Nigel Boarer, Leon Bosch, Wissam Boustany, Matthew Bridle, Michael Brownlee Walker, Ian Caddy, David Campbell, Thibault Cauvin, Colin Carr, Oliver Cox, Peter Donohoe, the Drakensberg Boys Choir, Margaret Fingerhut, Gordon Fergus-Thompson, Jean Ferrandis, Peter Frankl, Barbara Fusco, Jack Gibbons, David Geringas, Ivry Gitlis, James Grace, Folke Gräsbeck, Coady Green, Edward Greenfield, Sebastien Guèze, Marc-André Hamelin, Marilyn Hill Smith, Leslie Howard, Donald Hunt, Emma Johnson, Graham Johnson, Peter Katin, Piers Lane, Tasmin Little, the Leningrad Chamber Orchestra, Dame Felicity Lott, the Ludwig String Quartet, Fiona MacDonald, Joanna McGregor, Misha Maisky, Silvia Marcovici, Alain Marion, Jeanette Micklem, Susan Milan, Hamish Milne, Federico Mondelci, the Moscow Instrumental Capella, Benjamin Nabarro, Nettle & Markham, the New England Youth Ensemble, Nokuthula Ngwenyama, Libor Novacek, Jan Novotny, the Odeion String Quartet, Quatuor Parisii, the RIAS Youth Sinfonia, Bernard, Roberts, Victor Ryabchikov, Ania Safonova, John Scott, Hagai Shaham, Matthew Sharp, Yonty Solomon, Kathryn Stott, Morgan Szymanski, Seta Tanyel, Petroc Trelawny, the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, the Tubingen Chamber Orchestra, Encarnacion Vazquez, the Vienna Boys Choir, Kim Walker, Elizabeth Wallfisch, Raphael Walfisch, Christian Zacharias, Rafal Zambrzycki Payne and Patrick Zygmanowski

Performing Arts has also always offered a platform to talented local musicians, often absorbing the losses too frequently inherent in such ventures.

Although the main commitment has always been to classical music, Performing Arts has taken an interest in the other arts. A short story competition produced nearly two hundred entries; theatrical ventures have included Old Herbaceous and Terry Hands’ RSC compilation Pleasure and Repentance; there have been jazz concerts and even a music-related art exhibition. Performing Arts also went into the CD business and become the Zimbabwean distributor of Chandos, Hyperion, Sanctuary and Naxos, the profits from disc sales being ploughed back into live music. Sadly the vanished value of the Zimbabwe dollar made it increasingly difficult to continue this aspect of its operations but, as stability returns to the country, it is beginning to grow again.

In more recent years Performing Arts has been very involved in and latterly entirely responsible for a series of festivals which are covered elsewhere.

There has always been a great bond between Harare and Bulawayo so far as music is concerned and in the 1990s Performing Arts became the impresario for Celebrity Subscription Concerts of Harare, and the Bulawayo and Harare orchestras. Tours were co-ordinated so that, whenever possible, musicians played with both orchestras as well as giving recitals in both cities. In a very real sense, Performing Arts became central to Zimbabwe’s music-making. Sadly, both orchestras have ceased regular concerts because of a shortage of players (and the lack of a conductor in Bulawayo) but recitals and other events continue each year in conjunction with Celebrity Subscription Concerts, Performing Arts promotes a series of concerts in Bulawayo in addition to the festival.

Another increasingly important aspect of Performing Arts’ activities has been an effort to take classical music across the cultural and racial divide. Festivals always include free lunchtime concerts in the city hall. School concerts have long been part of the agenda and have formed an important part of the festivals too. So far as possible, performers are taken to a variety of schools and this programme includes the western suburbs.

In April 2003 Performing Arts arranged a concert in St.John’s Smith Square in which the following musicians took part: the Maggini Quartet, Colin Carr (cello), Jonathan Cohen (cello), Margaret Fingerhut (piano), Leslie Howard (piano), Piers Lane (piano), Hamish Milne (piano), Benjamin Nabarro (violin), Seta Tanyel (piano). All the musicians gave their services and the profits from the concert were used to support continued concerts in Zimbabwe. Dame Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson were unable to participate but made a substantial donation.

Two further concerts took place in 2009 featuring over twenty musicians (see Fundraising page) and these raised in excess of £35 000.00 which was shared on a 2:1 basis with the Academy. The PAB share was largely used to fund the 2010 Festival but also underwrote the concert series in that year and 2011

Future plans naturally include maintaining the annual subscription series but also envisage an ever-closer association with the Zimbabwe Academy of Music where a long-term ambition of bringing professional musicians to help develop music in government schools seems likely to become reality with the aid of the BZAM Trust.

Contact Michael Bullivant, PAB Chairman on this email address: