THE last time Melanie Scholtz sang with a Cape Town Philharmonic ensemble, it was with the Youth Orchestra in 2014 and she was off to settle in Prague.
Now the Athlone born Cape Tonian is singing with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra at its 2016 New Year’s Eve gig at Nederburg, shortly before she leaves the Czech Republic to live in New York.
“New York City is an epicentre for art of any kind, and I am going to see if I can make it there,” she says.
Melanie was trained classically. She studied piano from the age of five and wanted to be a singer. Her mother thought it wise for her to seek training with the Eoan Group and, it was May Abrahamse who honed her talent, teaching her a love of opera, the Italian language and technique.
She entered the SA College of Music and studied there with Angelo Gobbato and Virginia Davids, and on graduation with her Opera Diploma cum laude realized that much as she loved the theatrical side, she lacked the nerves of steel for this very competitive and technically demanding art form.
Jazz, she says, with its improvisation, is much freer, a combination, if you will, of perfection and imperfection.
“Jazz is a language and you have to create something from the invisible rather than the visible. It’s the subtext of the notes that counts, not just the notes. It’s the most creative music there is cause you need to use your imagination.”
Melanie has sung with the CPO before – at its New Year’s eve concert in 2102, and then in 2014 with the CPYO.
“I love singing with orchestra and I am so looking forward to this concert,” she adds.
“It is always amazing, so different to working with a big band or combo. The backing they give me is unlike any other, a special texture, a carpet of sound that is both powerful and vulnerable at the same time.
“I miss the classical life – the feeling of completion that comes at the end of a run when you have learned a whole score, had a month of rehearsals, performed life for an audience. The whole cast and crew had become a family. Theatre is an entirely different animal, though.”
For the past year and a half, she has been performing in the Czech Republic, in Slovakia, Sweden, Italy and Norway and also recording some collaborative albums.
She made a disc with a song-writing collective, titled Special of the Day, as well as an album with Norwegian bassist, Jo Fougner Skaansar, and still another with the Wandering Zebras and jazz pianist Emilio Marinelli and beatboxer John Michael Mawushie, which is all set for release in 2017
Before she went to Prague, she was living in Johannesburg, a good place for her development, though she missed Cape Town. Now she is even more looking forward to returning home to South Africa and especially Cape Town, for “a very spectacular concert with the CPO. I am honoured to be asked to perform with a great orchestra alongside some of South Africa’s best.” For Melanie, it is full circle before that giant leap to New York!
She adapts easily.
“Each place has helped me grow, and now after 18 months in Europe I am ready for the next step but South Africa will always be my home.”
Her five recordings are testimony to her successful career, and she won all three prizes at the prestigious Jazz Revelations competition at Jazz a Juan Festival in Nice in 2012. She has collaborated with South African and other international greats – Sibongile Khumalo, Jimmy Dludlu, Gloria Bosman, Tutu Puoane, Bobby McFerrin and Kurt Elling. She was named Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz in 2010. She was also part of Jazz a Juan jazz Festival in Nice in 2013, where the line-up included Sting, Keith and Diana Krall.
To add to that Melanie has been a regular performer and teacher for several years at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and an active member of the Artscape Youth Jazz Programme in Cape Town for a decade. She also lectured in jazz vocal studies at the University of Cape Town. �As a composer, she has always tried to stay true to the music and is committed to always being the messenger of honesty when it comes to emotional musical expression. She strives to connect with people through music and songwriting.
In 2013, Melanie launched a project called Freedom’s Child, a collaborative effort with iconic South African poet, James Matthews, marrying poetry and jazz into a collection of 11 songs.
Source: IOL (edited)