In an attempt to make great music more accessible to South African audiences, Rachmaninoff’s Vespers have been translated into Afrikaans and have proved a surprise hit. The translation of texts from the Russian Orthodox all-night vigil service was commissioned by the Vriende van Afrikaans society at the suggestion of Leon Starker, director of the Pro Cantu Youth Choir and the Cape Chamber Choir, and the translation was done by the Durbanville musicologist and polyglot Hélène Dippenaar.
The work, composed in 1915, was performed across the country during the past year, including at the Voortrekkermonument in Pretoria. A final concert at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town was added in response to the high demand from the music-loving public.
A compact disc of the Rachmaninoff Vespers in Afrikaans has also been released by Pro Cantu, which rehearses at Hoërskool D.F. Malan in Bellville and draws its members from across the Cape Peninsula.