Minnesota Orchestra to make history with South Africa tour

The respected orchestra announced five dates in South Africa.

What's happening?

The Minnesota Orchestra has announced a five-date tour of South Africa Aug. 9-18.

It's partnering with Classical Movements to play Cape Town, Durban, Soweto, Pretoria and Johannesburg as part of a worldwide celebration of former leader Nelson Mandela's centenary.

What will they play?

The concerts will feature a mixture of South African and American performers, and music from South African, American and European musical traditions. Included will be the world premiere of a piece written in tribute to Mandela by South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen.

The wider tour will also include musical exchanges, rehearsals and residencies with South African student groups.

Will Minnesotans get a chance to hear it?

Yes. Before they depart for South Africa, the orchestra – led by celebrated director Osmo Vänskä – will give Minnesotans a sneak-peak of their "Music for Mandela" project during their annual Sommerfest.

This will comprise 10 concerts between July 13-Aug. 1 at Minneapolis Orchestra Hall, including an "International Day of Music."

Why is this significant?

It marks the first tour by a professional U.S. orchestra to South Africa in the country's history.

Then again, it's not surprising that the Minnesota Orchestra is the first to do this, given its previous form for boundary breaking.

In 2015, it became the first major U.S. orchestra in more than 15 years to play a concert in Cuba, selling out a theater in Havana in what was then seen as another step towards more cordial relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

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