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(Published: March 14, 2012)

On Sunday, March 25, 2012, the first in an international series of narrated concerts, called A Mandela Portrait, will be staged at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Centre, Morehouse College, Georgia, USA, celebrating South African and African American heritage.

A Mandela Portrait is a musical evocation of an era that celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela and South African heritage.

It combines excerpts from some of Nelson Mandela's most famous speeches, collected and arranged by South African director and playwright Welcome Msomi, and a musical score by South African composer Michael Hankinson.

The production will be presented in London, Austria, Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Richmond VA, Los Angeles, Ghana, London, Austria, Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing, and other parts of the world.

Musicians and narrators will change from country to country, and where appropriate the script will be translated, demonstrating that Nelson Mandela, although South African, is a hero and role model for the entire world.

"In this production Michael and I have tried to portray the resilience and indomitable spirit that defied all odds to prove to the nation, and the world, that strong belief in your ideals can break down the stubborn walls and shackles of apartheid and free millions of South African citizens, enabling them to taste the fruits of true freedom, without hatred or bitterness," says Msomi, who claimed fame for his play uMabatha: The Zulu Macbeth, which first toured in 1969.

The Georgia concert will be held as a benefit concert for the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It will feature The Atlanta University Centre Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Michael Hankinson, and narrators Welcome Msomi and Gugu Msomi. Guest artists will include Ayanda Nhlangothi and Andre Van Rooyen, The Americolor Opera Alliance and the Glee Club of Spelman College.

Incorporating the history and life of Mandela, the musical style is identifiably South African while incorporating the practices of western music. Hankinson says, "I used the sound of the traditional Xhosa bow, the uMhrube. In order to incorporate the "magical sound" that Msomi describes in his text I recorded Pops Mohammed playing the traditional Xhosa bow using a western violin. It is this sound that Mandela would have heard from the day of his birth."

It is Msomi's vision to make A Mandela Portrait available across the globe. "This requires the participation of sponsors and partners, and we are currently in the process of identifying these," says Msomi.

The Georgia concert is being sponsored by the Atlanta University Centre Symphony Orchestra, the South African Department of Arts and Culture, the Woza Foundation, MsomiPuisano, Meropa Communications, Americololor Opera Alliance, the Glee Club of Spelman College, and the Music Department of Morehouse College.

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