By Anote Ajeluorou
AFTER over one week of musical, dance and drama extravaganza, this year’s MUSON Music Festival came to a glorious end last Sunday. With the theme ‘Celebrating The MUSON School of Music,’ past and present students of the foremost classical music school were at the forefront to put into practice what they’d learnt from the masters of classical and African chorale music in the proper tradition of music education. With masters of the genre like Tunde Jegede, Marion Akpata, Tunde Sosan and Sir Emeka Nwokedi, audiences had a swell time at this year’s festival.
Inside the Shell Hall the stage was set for a grand finale. The main stage had a bold set with a pirate’s ship sailing on still waters close to a jagged shoreline. On the floor by the stage was setting for the MUSON large orchestra, with its multi-musical pieces that sat a few paces from the audience that had MUSON Centre bigwigs and corporate sponsors like Total Nigeria Plc and others in attendance.
But before the show started proper, Vice Chairman of the centre, Mr. Louis Mbanefo, restated the prime place of the cultural centre in steering music in the country in the right direction. He promised more innovations from MUSON Centre, which, sadly, he said, would involve phasing out the lawn and dead fountain outfront. This wasn’t cheering news, as it is reminiscent of MUSON being built on a wrong spot in the first place to replace the colonial ‘Love Garden,’ the only green space on the island.
Manager of Deep Water, sponsor company, Total, Mrs. Chinyere Uche, congratulated MUSON for its founding fathers’ foresight in initiating the festival and for current managers in sustaining it. She prayed that the dream would not die. Uche noted her company’s passion to support the arts and culture sector, with the belief that Nigeria’s art was world class and that when properly supported, it could serve as catalyst in the consciousness of Nigerians, adding, “Ours is an organization with a heart for the arts”.
THEREAFTER, the orchestra, conducted by Sir Emeka Nwokedi, struck up a tune for the Overture and thus began a musical and theatrical journey of sheer pleasure that took the audience to Broadway-proportion showpiece. Then The Pirates of Penxance band, with their dreadful costume, and reminiscent of Jonny Depp and company in Pirates of the Caribbean film, burst unto the stage with their hoary and rowdy ‘Pour on pour the pirates sherry’ song. The music also rose up a notch to match the rowdiness of the pirates.
Indeed, it was an unfolding story of one Frederic, who has lived the life of a pirate from an early age and doesn’t know any other life other than being a sea pirate. But on sudden compulsion, he decides to quit the pirate gang and lead a normal life in a proper town. He has only known Ruth, who has lived with the pirates and of whom he is fond. His pirate mates urge him to take her along with him, but Frederic doubts the wisdom in it, saying what happens should he find another fairer than her? Which is exactly what happens.
But just as his unease is assuaged, the sweet voices of young maidens singing filter into him and Ruth and in ‘Oh! False one, you have deceived me,’ duet-in-argument take-and-give, he pushes Ruth away. Then he chances upon the many daughters of a Major-General who are out in the open for fun. Frederic startles them upon their playground and he is captivated by their beauty and wants in on them, but they vehemently reject him until their elder sister Mabel comes up and falls under the charm of Frederic with whom she strikes up a chord.
The other pirates and the pirate king burst on them and make to forcibly take for themselves the Major-General’s daughters. But the Major-General appears just then to avert the plan, and sings his way out, claiming to be an orphan himself just like the pirates. They relent and leave the girls alone.
IN Act 2, it comes to light that a certain fate binds Frederic with his pirate mates until some years in the future when he will be free to really leave; he cannot be joined in matrimony with his beloved Mabel. This provokes sorrow in the young lady who will be condemned to a life of unrequited love for that long, but she resolves to wait for her Frederic. This is given the music air ‘Oh! Dry your glistening tears’. It emerges, too, that Major-General is no orphan as he claimed, and this infuriates the pirates who now resolve to kill him for his treachery.
But the police lie in wait for the pirates, which finally culminates in acts of forgiveness on all sides after a brief confrontation.
Indeed, staging The Pirates of Penxance as final showpiece at this year’s MUSON Music Festival provided excellent musical feast for a faithful classical audience. However, the only challenge was that the lyrics were not scrolled on a screen, as most of what was sung was lost on the audience. And as a lady remarked, MUSON’s performance of the piece was better than what she saw earlier in Vienna, Austria, but she regretted not seeing the lyrics on a screen. Another lady similarly remarked that gradually, “Broadway is making its way here; this is what we go to see on Broadway”.
All told, Nigeria isn’t quite a laggard any more in terms of artistic performance and perfection on this scale. In a way, it presages the 2016 edition of the musical festival.