ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE PARK by Lynn Haken
There was a shuffling sound. A twig snapped and a faint breeze wafted the smell of elephant and the sound of discordant notes of violins warming up to the crunch of broken branches and soft footfalls retreating and growing distant, whilst the tuning violin strings rasped in the gloaming. The sun had set, and the wood of the some of the instruments had compressed with the sudden coolness of the arriving night, thus changing the tone. The stars appeared in the night sky as if summonsed…as had we…and we took our seats after the intermission of the Bushveld Romance, the first of a trio of annual “Sunset Serenade” semi-classical concerts being held in the Kruger Park which, through the support of sponsors and attendees, help raise funds to combat the scourge of poaching.
The second evening’s May Music in Mopani at Nxanatseni held us spellbound listening to Vivaldi’s ‘Winter Concerto.’ The waterhole backdrop gently rippled to the sounds of the plucked harp from Paradisi’s ‘Toccata’ and the late afternoon sun had naked branches looking like witches’ fingers silhouetted against the sky, and cast pools of shadows over some of the audience and bright, ochre light in the eyes of others. Eyes covered by shaded brows watched the proceedings whilst some quietly closed them against the pulsing light to just listen. The viola, flute and cello each played their own role against the fluttering, dancing leaves of the Mopani trees that turned silver in the dusk.
The third and final evening has us listening to the Sunset Symphony of Sounds at the Tzendze Confluence. Mozart’s ‘Overture,’ Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ and the ever beautiful ‘Nessun Dorma’ encompasses the five senses. The sounds of the music against the setting sun, the fluctuating temperatures of the pockets of air warming the heart, yet chilling the skin; the sight of the quintessential African sunset with the rays casting golden arms against the aureate sky as if to gather all the beauty of the world into colour alone; the acrid smells of the bush, hot and sharp and primal and sweet; and the taste of the four other senses catch in the back of the throat.
As the night folds the daylight into amber swirls, the cicadas come into harmony with the sextet; our own bushveld choir. Their strident high pitch accompanies the soaring sounds of the violins and adds a different dimension to the music. All that is required is the trumpeting of elephant to create a Disneyesque quality. I imagine I see some small woodland creatures creep quietly to the edge of the bush to sigh and listen, ears quivering and whiskers twitching, their little eyes glinting in the swiftly descending night. Elephant huddle together at the other side of the water-hole, crocodile slide gently into the water in a gentle glissade; impala stop drinking and turn their heads and a lone leopard stands sentinel on a termite mound in the distance, its coat and spots melding into the russet backdrop.
And then it is over. The musicians bow and the audience applaud and rise. Chairs are scraped back against the sandy clearing and belongings are gathered. The audience are channelled out of the clearing with a phalanx of rangers, their expertise ensuring no danger lurks.
And for a moment in the shadowed night…a very brief moment…I’m sure I espy a lone rhinocerous standing serenely to one side of the water hole, close enough to hear but not to see. His massive head is lowered; the ears upright and his small eyes lift and peer at me. He is unsure of himself, despite his size but I get the feeling he knows we have all been there for him.