Clockwise, with harp and violin

Two talented young classical musicians, violinist Marc Uys and harpist Jacqueline Kerrod, have joined forces, both personally and professionally.

Next week they round off a landmark national tour showcasing a spread of new music for their unusual combination of instruments.

Uys has already enjoyed success as leader and first violin of the Sontonga Quartet — undoubtedly the country’s leading string quartet. Between 2002 and 2006 the Sontongas worked with important composers including Terry Riley and Kevin Volans and performed in venues including New York’s Lincoln Centre and London’s Barbican.

Kerrod has spent the past nine years living and studying in New York, establishing herself in the high standards set by this echelon. She has performed in prestigious venues and with illustrious orchestras, as well as with other chamber ensembles, including Maya, a world-music-influenced flute-harp-percussion trio.

After playing together as teenagers on a National Youth Orchestra course, the two lost track of each other but were reunited in 2006 when Uys was visiting New York. They were inspired to begin playing together, and eventually came up with a quirky name for their unconventional duo: Clockwise.

They began searching for repertoire that they could play together, but quickly realised that they had limited options. With so many different chamber-music set-ups to choose from, the combination of violin and harp has not captured the imaginations of many composers.

Clockwise began performing the few pieces that do exist; the Fantasie for Violin and Harp by Camille Saint-Saëns and the Suite for Violin and Harp by Thomas Rajna.

In July last year, the duo’s first concert was a performance at the Performing Arts Institute in Pennsylvania, but they quickly realised that they needed more repertoire if they were to progress further. The elegant solution that they found was to commission 10 South African composers, spread across a variety of musical and cultural backgrounds, to provide with them with new pieces for harp and violin.

The duo enlisted the talents of particularly young composers, calling upon the likes of Matthijs van Dijk and Braam du Toit, as well as more established creators, such as Hendrik Hofmeyer and Philip Miller. Added to the mix was the eclecticism of Neo Muyanga and jazz pianist Paul Hanmer.

With the ink still drying on these newly created scores, the logical next step was for Clockwise to showcase themselves, their unusual combination of instruments and the new music created for them by performing in their home country.

The two have been busy the past two months on an extensive round-the-country tour, travelling, appropriately, in a clockwise direction, which has taken them to a variety of venues including the Sudwala Caves, the Baxter Concert Hall in Cape Town and the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

The tour concludes on August 9 when Clockwise perform their 28th concert of the tour in the ambient acoustic of the Atrium at Wits University in Johannesburg.

The titles of the 10 new pieces reveal an irreverent sense of humour. Hanmer’s piece is whimsically titled Koalabearhugging Hats, while Braam du Toit’s piece Soft Serve (A Short Film by Braam du Toit) comes with a filmic plotline telling the story of a small town invaded by rogue ice-cream sellers.

Clockwise are planning upcoming concerts in New York City and will soon be working on their debut album, due for release in December this year.

Catch Clockwise on August 9 at the Atrium, SW Engineering, Wits University East Campus, Johannesburg, from 7.30pm

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