"MUSICIANS SCALE HIGH NOTES FOR PIANO DAY"
CAPE ARGUS, MARCH 2017
For International Piano Day, Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos placed a handcrafted Shigeru Kawai grand piano on Table Mountain from 10am to 4pm where a variety of pianists were able to perform at will throughout the day.
Artists such as Charl du Plessis, Elna van der Merwe and Rocco de Villiers played the piano in a location where no one has ever played a piano before.
The non-profit event was staged also to raise awareness that the piano is still very much alive and, despite the belief that it is an exclusive instrument, there is huge musical potential for pianists in South Africa which is not being reached owing to the lack of appropriate resources.
“Today is International Piano Day and we were approached by Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos to look at celebrating this instrument, so we worked closely with them to have a grand piano transported to the top of Table Mountain,” said Collette van Aswegen, marketing manager of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company.
“There had been a previous attempt made, but the weather wasn’t playing along, so today is a first and it is absolutely special and spectacular to come across a piano on top of the mountain.
“It’s also the week running up to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival and we thought entertainment on top of the mountain was certainly extraordinary and visitors would enjoy it.”
This event was also the start of a project, “Music into Africa”, that Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos will be launching to help underprivileged schools with no instruments or very poor instruments and grow music in Africa.
COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 2014
The publication acknowledges these "Millennial Movers" as not only being trailblazers in their respective fields, but also embodying the attributes they most admire.
Shannon was specifically acknowledged for her unwavering commitment to her professional pursuits and the incredible milestones she has achieved to date, including her debut international tour to the UK, and her full endorsement from Japanese piano masters, Kawai Pianos.
of the year Award
GLAMOUR MAGAZINE, JUNE 2015
"From South Africa to London, as an independent artist Shannon has opened doors for herself since releasing her debut album in 2009. She is truly admired for her passion, drive to stay true to herself and live her dream."
"LOOTS' LOVE SONG TO HER DANCERS”
JOMBA KHULUMA, SEPTEMBER 2014
First performed at the Women’s Arts Festival at the Playhouse Company in 2013, HOPE is perhaps an unusual work for Loots; she is best known for her strong activist stance which imbues her dance-making with a political and highly-charged conscience. Here she explores a deeply personal terrain and the result is heartfelt, genuine and incredibly tender.
Hope’s exquisite voice accompanied by her own piano-playing soars above us as she sings of all the joys and pitfalls of love, the longing and surprises woven into relationships, while the dancers interpret the lyrics in fluid, organic short stories of seamless choreography. When Hope sings of “blue skies on a cloudy day”, Jabu Siphika enters the space first, followed by Sifiso Majola, always surprising in his lightness. The others follow in a piece using careful partnering, which melds into Majola and Julia Wilson’s lyrical duet to “get your attention”, focussing on strong lifts and evoking a sadness of longing for something we can never have. Siphika, Wilson and Zinhle Nzama impress in the aching “I gave my heart away today”, their eyes and mouths in sharp focus behind them in the video projection, while Majola with Sifiso Khumalo and Tshediso Khabulu, bring in the playful, upbeat “I might fall for you, boy”, playing a game with Hope as they flirt and tease from afar in little carefully constructed cameos. The connection between singer and dancers is electric and charged as Hope sets the pace and allows for a stirring combination of poignancy and lightness. There is a beautiful, gentle duo between Siphika and Khumalo, which flows into the final ensemble piece “take every chance you can get; chase every dream, just believe”.
Wesley Maherry’s lighting is subtle and textured while Karen Logan’s video installations quietly add to the work without being invasive. The company looks good; the dancers are strong, light on their feet and have a unique quality, while Loots’ choreography is clean, elongated and lingers in their bodies.
Sometimes it comes as a relief to watch dance that is released from the burden of tackling difficult issues such as violence, abuse or corruption. HOPE is a little gem of a dance work which feeds the soul and will sustain us for a little while beyond all the gritty realities of our lives.
[You can find the original post here.]
”BEARING WITNESS TO LOVE AND HOPE”
JOMBA KHULUMA, SEPTEMBER 2014
This is not the first time I have seen HOPE. I first saw (and fell in love with) the work last year when it was performed at the Playhouse during the Women’s Month Festival. I have seen this performance twice, and I cried. Both times. This is a piece which, although quite out of character for Loots whose work traditionally reflects “the dissident social and political voice”, is an absolute treat and left me feeling rather emotional.
To me, this performance is like a dandelion. The last one left in a field, and try as I might to protect it from the wind in a bid to preserve its beauty and magic, I cannot. So too, this performance, try as I might to relish in every moment and take in its beauty, flashed past too quickly for my liking. I was left in somewhat of a tailspin as it drew to a close and the audience rose to its feet to pay tribute and give gracious thanks to all who played a part in creating this masterpiece. The courage of a performer and choreographer to lay bare the most vulnerable parts of themselves – their hearts – for all to see on stage, is always a humbling and emotional experience for me. That we, mere strangers, some critics and some fans (gulp), might be allowed a glimpse into the delicate fabric which makes up a person and their life, is something which ought to be cherished. Always.
Flatfoot dancers, Jabu Siphika, Julia Wilson, Zinhle Nzama, Sifiso Khumalo, Tshediso Kabulu and Sifiso Majola are masters of their craft. Their performances were faultless. To see a group of performers so in control of their bodies, taking the utmost care and precision in every movement as they cut through the air and lights on stage, was breath-taking. What struck me too was their gentleness, love and adoration for each other on stage, not only physically in carefully shifting weight between bodies and sharing a space, but so too sharing their stories of love, heartbreak and yes, hope. The performers bear witness to their stories, both in real time and in the clever use of video installation (created by Karen Logan). So too, the audience bears witness to these stories and identifies in the tales told by the performers. We are reminded that, regardless of personal circumstance and individual choice, we all have the capacity to love and in that, “HOPE reminds us that our love relationships are the very fabric of our daily lives and as such becomes part of the deepest sense of understanding ourselves”.
Just as the performers exhibited precision and absolute love for their craft, so too pianist Shannon Hope, with her hauntingly beautiful voice and piano added depth to the performance. To separate the dancing from the music and vice versa, would render both meaningless. The seamless manner in which live music and dance have been woven together in this performance is noteworthy. The performance flows faultlessly, with both performance styles supporting the other, neither trying to dominate nor claim glory – both are treated with respect and love. The delicate lighting design (courtesy of Wesley Maherry) further layers this performance, creating a softness on stage.
HOPE is a phenomenal performance which is sure to leave even the biggest sceptic of love with (excuse the horrendous cliché) that ‘warm, fuzzy feeling’. You have one more chance to catch this performance tonight at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 7.30pm. And if my earlier gushing leaves you questioning my objectivity in critiquing this performance, then take the words of my plus one who, until last night had never heard of Lliane Loots, or Flatfoot Dance Company or JOMBA! (“JOM-what?” he said) or even seen contemporary dance: “Wow,” he said. “Just wow.”
[You can find the original post here.]
M&G 200 Young South Africans Award
MAIL & GUARDIAN, JULY 2014
"They’re people who can do whatever they put their mind to, using the tools and opportunities granted to us by the technology-driven era we find ourselves inhabiting, and who can switch interests and impetus whenever they see the need... they inspire us to do stuff that’s out of the ordinary, even if it’s based on the ordinary." - Chris Roper, Editor-in-chief, Mail & Guardian
Shannon Hope was named amongst the Mail & Guardian 200 Young Africans 2014 for Arts & Culture, in recognition of her passion and commitment to not only "living the dream", but living who you truly are.
"What is the true measure of success? Is it accolades, fame and riches? Durban-based pianist and vocal artist Shannon Hope believes it is not. This comes across most powerfully in the TEDx Cape Town talk she delivered in 2013 in which she speaks with rare honesty about the sacrifices in pursuing a career as a professional self-managed and -promoted musician. She has committed herself less to living a dream than to doing what she knows she is meant to do. "Music is who I am not what I do", she says.
Her work ethic and steadfast pursuit of her own path won her a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in 2011 in recognition of artistic innovation, excellence, the exploration of new performance styles and the courage to open new conversations in the arts. Hope has continued along this path, using her performances to connect with people in a meaningful way. She considers it her mission to empower people to pursue their dreams and realise that being true to themselves is more powerful than simply following the grain. "Being a grow-up is hard enough with all the expectation we place on ourselves. You owe it to yourself to do something that makes you happy," she says.
"ACOUSTIC INTIMACY BRINGS NEW HOPE"
INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS, JULY 2014
“I literally record in my tiniest dungeon of a bedroom,” she explains. “I am giving people a free glimpse of my creative process, which includes old songs, covers and a few new songs. Some of the songs are at the beginning stages of my creative process.”
Watching The Bedroom Sessions, her bedroom certainly does not look like a dungeon. Her performances are intense with lyrics that hurt to the core. “All my music is sad and emotional. But on my recent new music I am also exploring a new style vocally. I normally use powerful vocals, but now I want to be softer in my approach. I want to express fragility because I am at a fragile stage at the moment.”
She gives her reasons for The Bedroom Sessions: “My focus has changed; I want to focus on writing and being authentic in what I want to do. This includes meaningful shows as opposed to pointless tours. I am tired of chasing the buck. The Bedroom Sessions is as raw and emotional as you can get to my music, besides a one-on-one performance. I am not that kind of musician to sit in the corner and play to arbitrary drunk people.”
Her next show, outside of cyber-space, is a collaboration with the Flatfoot Dance Company called Hope. It forms part of the Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festival. This will be her second performance of the show which she describes as an incredible experience. “I wrote the soundtrack and collaborated with the dancers. It is the most insane experience watching dancers interpret my lyrics. The show is primarily about the fragility of relationships and the hope that is within relationships.”
A year ago she was asked by TEDx to write a talk and initially refused as she didn’t believe she had achieved success. However, after thinking about it she started writing and soon had 18 hours of text. The Irrationality of Believing focuses on the nigh impossibilities of being an original piano composer and constantly touring and performing against all odds in South Africa. “The fact that I am still doing this is the story. In the talk I examine the definition behind success and failure. I try and figure out why I am still doing it. I have no choice, I just have to do it.”
GOING PLACES SA, AUGUST 2013
Six of the company’s resident dancers, namely Sifiso Khumalo, Jabu Siphika, Julia Wilson, Tshediso Kabulu, Sifiso majola and Thobile Maphanga played out a series of relationships with Hope pouring her heart into her songs; songs which spoke of desire, desolation, delight and disappointment in love. Julia Wilson’s meticulous attention to detail and the way her body interprets emotional content was particularly evident.
Beautiful projected close-up images of the women dancers’ faces enhanced the scene and, later, the seven participants were observed communicating in a relaxed and natural way. ‘Hope’ is a relatively light piece, with moments of humour and even levity; the power of the emotional content expressed mostly through the extraordinary vocals of Shannon.
Flatfoot seeks out collaborations that add new dimension to their work and, while live musical accompaniment is not new to their repertoire, Shannon Hope’s original singing style certainly contributed something rare and profound.
"YOUR OVATIONS NEEDED WHEN HOPE HANGS BY A THREAD"
MERCURY, AUGUST 2013
All hail to the company's founder, artistic director and choreographer Lliane Loots for a powerful and yet still gentle collaboration of music, dance and film that I would rush to see again and again - and again. At the Playhouse Company's SA Women's Arts Festival last week I was flying solo. What seemed like a hardship at the time turned into an enriching and uplifting experience, one I certainly would not have had staying home to watch another reality TV show. I point no fingers because I am just as much to blame for being unadventurous, apathetic and lazy - promising to see a show or go to a concert and then not following through. We are one of the reasons our artists are under threat. Without an audience they cannot survive and many, sadly, have not. Lliane Loots has spoken often about having to "dodge the bullet of our cultural and artistic extinction", of how art does not "primarily serve to allow us to escape reality through the lights, the music and the dance".
The parting shot goes to the beguiling songstress Shannon who sang: "Take every chance you can possible take, chase every dream you have ever believed in, treat every moment as if it's the last. What are you waiting for?"
So go - to the theatre, a concert, live music venue or church hall performance. Just go.
AND FROM THE HEART"
GROCOTT’S MAIL, JULY 2013
An audience sits in absolute silence as they are taken on a ride by a voice ranging from bluesy lows to diva-like highs in seconds. Every sentence sung seems packed with a thousand emotions.
With sad, dark, from-the-core stuff to light-hearted and almost joking tunes, her music takes one on an emotional roller-coaster ride that will leave your brain in a knot at the most and a little touched at the least.
Although the addition of cellist Mariah Cohen may steal the show from the piano at times, only having the two instruments allows Hope the opportunity to really explore her vocal range.
Honest, emotional, polished: what more could one ask for?
east coast radio
EAST COAST RADIO, JUNE 2013
Miss Hope caught up with East Coast Radio’s Abi Ray a few weeks back about all things music and London and orchestras and dancers and dreaming… with a little curve ball song request at the end.
If you missed it, you can catch up below.
“HOPE HITS LONDON’S
THE SOUTH AFRICAN, APRIL 2013
Shannon Hope has left many an audience awed by her soul-stirring lyrics, powerful vocal performances and musical mastery of the keyboard. She has been described as “thrilling, enthralling, endearing and awe-inspiring performer” and having seen her perform myself, I would have to agree.
With two full-length studio albums already in circulation and years of well-earned stage experience under her belt, Miss Hope brings something definitely worth hearing. I had the opportunity to chat to Shannon about her music and upcoming London tour.
REAL MUSIC WEDNESDAY"
ROLLING STONE, JULY 2012
Hope bangs out her music on piano like a possessed forest banshee, and when she lets go of that deceptively dense voice, it should raise the hair on your forearms. If more of the audience had simply watched and listened, as I did, they may have witnessed something special... as I did.
"WHERE IS HOME?"
YOUR LMG, MAY 2012
In 2004 she ventured abroad to Chicago and was afforded the opportunity to record a 5 track EP with Smashing Pumpkins’ producer Bjorn Thorsrud. Returning Home, it was not only time for South Africa to meet Shannon Hope, but additionally, to hear her. With the knowledge of her goals and desires, the only person suitable to tackle the job of realising these goals was Hope herself. She has become one of the most hard-working and successful self-represented musicians in the country. Traveling up and down the country, she books her own shows and very often sets up her own sound systems because that is the only way people will hear her talent. This nomadic lifestyle is taxing but Hope is driven by her passion, and a sense of adventure that would never have been discovered had she not taken the first step.
In 2009, Hope released her debut solo album “S T I L L” with her follow-up “Fight A New Day” being released to critical acclaim in October 2011. Aside from the obvious national progression of an artist from one album to the next, Hope feels a distinct difference between the two offerings. The constant touring has opened her eyes to the world around her and has helped her develop a strong self-assurance and maturity that was previously absent within her. In conversation, Hope has a natural instinct to read people. She is instantly engaging, humorous and refreshingly not jaded or threadbare from life on the road. I get the impression that the journey may have started as the path to her goal, but has now become her goal. The road, the travelling and the gigging is now the lifeblood for every note she sings. Having graced the stages of Oppikoppi, Aardklop, KKNK and the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Hope is worth her weight in adulation. In 2011 she was awarded the Standard Bank Ovation Award in Grahamstown, an honour previously bestowed upon the likes of Chris Chameleon. Yet, as hard as she works and as much as her following expands, too few people know who she is and every time Hope sings she attempts to rectify that.
Of all the places she has performed, Cape Town holds a special place in Hope’s heart and she always finds a reason to end up in the city. Her pursuit of home keeps hinting towards settling here and for the first time in a very long time, she is throwing caution to the wind. With no clear end to her current sojourn in Cape Town, Hope needs a sign that if she stays she will be embraced and her music will have room to flourish. There is only one thing left to say: Shannon, welcome home.
"HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL"
BLOG, APRIL 2012
Shannon Hope is at once - on the best or worst of her days - a brilliant, broken, surreal, subtle, dark, dangerous, chilling, challenging, multi-dimensional and mind blowing artist and a thrilling, enthralling, endearing and awe-inspiring performer. Shannon rips open a hole in the Universe and invites you to step inside, through the looking glass. Her music is, in a word, transcendent. She sounds like raindrops on your window. She sounds like thunder from the gods. And that was before last night... I have used up every relevant superlative already, and then she goes and does what she did - to me, to all of us - last night. I am not often rendered bereft of words. Bitch. Now I am going to look like an amateur. I'm being forced to use expletives... F*ck. Okay, I'll try, but I can't promise the review will do her unbelievable show last night any justice. In fact, I'm certain it won't... You know when your friends come over to you and give you a hug and a heartfelt 'thank you' for introducing them to something this wonderful, that your opinions are justified and that all is finally as it should be with the world. Sensory overload? Check. Lump in throat? Check. Extreme eargasm? Double check. I even cried. Real genuine tears. But that's because I had a massive coughing attack in the third song and didn't want to spoil it so I fought it til the tears streamed down my face.
Jeremy Douglas quite matter-of-factly opened proceedings in a surprise move that speaks volumes of Shannon's sly machinations. He is one to watch for the future, a bright, fresh singer/songwriter who delivers an accomplished acoustic panache reminiscent of Newton Faulkner. Also accompanying Shannon in a few songs with his understated and brilliant guitar work, don't be surprised if you hear his name in a household near you. Tessa Johnson was magnificent on the cello as an accompanist for the start and finish, lending an even more sincere and sombre beauty to the already achingly exquisite sound. I especially love the cello and it works exceptionally well with this music.
Which leads me to the lady of the hour. In her trademark spiked out coif and some seriously sexy red stilettos, Shannon Hope was mesmerising and had us all completely, silently spellbound. She entertained and entranced. She raised the bar and raised the roof! She whispered and stole a secret moment with each and every one of the rapt audience. She shone, brightly and magnificently, and won the hearts of every man and woman lucky enough to be there. At the end of it all, emotionally drained as we were from the wracked and ravaging journey we'd just had our souls put through, the audience was left feeling somehow more alive, more elated, more in touch, more connected, more honest. And honestly... humbled.
Shannon shares her music. It's polished, yet primal and intensely personal. It's intimate and intimidating at the same time. The heart-wrenching honesty and the climactic crescendos both give you goose bumps. It's an experience that lingers long after the rapturous applause has faded. Shannon touches people. She reaches in and connects with your heart, your innermost fears, your wildest fantasies and your guarded core. It's liberating letting yourself go - surrendering all to her majestic music and allowing yourself to be carried away. To a place she likes to call home.
"TOO MANY PARTIES AND NOT ENOUGH WEEKEND. BUT THERE IS HOPE..."
BLOG, APRIL 2012
I don’t know all the fancy music lingo (base/bass guitar remember) so let me just say that I quite simply blown away. And not just by her fabulous red heels. Her music and her lyrics took me back to places that I thought I had tucked neatly away behind a well-built wall. The pain, the anguish and the reality of love, heartbreak and life. By the end of the evening I felt like I had been on a journey to my inner core and all my old wounds felt raw and exposed. I was exhausted and had a headache. Quite fitting that it was held in an old church, it was almost a religious experience.
She was so good that a girl from Joburg who had never heard of Shannon Hope before that night was impressed enough to go and buy both her cd’s straight after the show. I am definitely going to do the same and am going to drag every one of my friends to her next show. Which shouldn’t be far off as she’s moved to Cape Town indefinitely.
ALBUM REVIEW - "HOPE FOR THE FUTURE"
THE CITIZEN, FEBRUARY 2012
One of the hardest-working independent artists in the country, Shannon Hope would deserve a degree of success based purely on the hours she puts in. But Fight A New Day subtly improves on the winning formula established with debut collection Still, underlining that Hope is about far more than just graft. Her big, expressive voice – more than ever, the “new Lesley Rae Dowling” tag fits the bill – is given acres of room to move by Tim Rankin’s sensitive production. And Hope’s songwriting has stepped up to keep pace. The Waiting Room and Believe differ in tone and intent (the first is introspective; the second inspiring) but are both beautifully written and performed. Why I Bother is a touch more complex in terms of its arrangement, the down-the-line pop of Being Brave has the album’s biggest hook in its chorus and Love Knot is The Cardigan’s come-back hit waiting to happen. Hope’s technical strengths are matched by the passion in her performances, and when she leans into a note she’s singing, it’s easy to picture the front row at a concert having to lean towards her to avoid being flattened by the power of her voice.
BLOG, SEPTEMBER 2012
The show began at 8pm sharp and we were introduced to a young artist who I, in my self-imposed cultural exile of all things Durban, had never heard of before, namely Shannon Hope. She’s a tall, sultry looking young lass who’s short cropped dark hair and long fringe is vaguely reminiscent of one of those backing vocalist chicky’s from The Human League. As she sat down on her own in front of an electric piano I almost caught myself thinking, Oh God, please don’t let me be subjected to any more 80′s revival pop. But then she began to sing in a voice that I can only describe as intensely forlorn, yet at a pitch that almost instantly had the flesh on my arms raised in full goose-bump salute. Wow. What a talented musician she is!
What struck me as significant about her performance was that she sang about 4 or 5 of her own songs and only included a cover of a song I had never actually heard before, simply because (in her own words) it spoke deeply to her. Her musical style is not easily comparable to many mainstream artists of the day. I sat there transfixed, but desperately running through my ageing mental index of known female artists to try and find somebody I could compare her to. I came up with nothing – she’s unique, and apparently proudly Durbanite. I hope to see her play again soon.
Read the review for the full show with Dan Patlansky here.
"SHANNON'S FIGHTING FIT"
THE RIDGE MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 2011
A Shannon Hope performance often starts and ends with the (electric) piano. This is a particularly strong point for the artist, and my eyes are invariably drawn to the measured, firm, yet delicate touches she displays with this instrument. A lot of styles are thrown in there, but musical excellence is the one constant (if I remember correctly, Shannon aced her music exams for voice and piano while at St Mary’s school) that drives her compositions along.
The voice is powerful, very powerful, and Shannon’s not afraid to show it off, constantly stretching her range and launching into powerful wails/roars/soulful pleas (I’m curiously reminded of the famous primal scream, trauma based psychotherapy in which repressed pain is resolved through dramatically reliving experiences. . . anyway, I’m sure that’s a huge stretch, but there are snaps, snarls and even wistful laughs thrown into the vocal performance). The Umhlanga-based artist says she's enjoying performing in theatres these days. This is often when the emotion and honesty really takes off in her music, and looking around the theatre on the night of the Durban launch there were a good few misty eyes hanging on every word, spoken or sang.
While Shannon Hope often performs as a solo artist (due to cost, logistical constraints or artistic preference), she does also perform with a band, on occasion, and has used a full band on her new album Fight A New Day. For an artist who vigorously markets her own product and is extremely active on social networks and through her personal website shannonhope.co.za, songwriting is always going to be of vital importance. Let’s face it, when you’re on tour and it’s you, a piano and an audience, you have to have the material required to keep the crowd interested . . . or it’s going to be a case of Led Zeppelin II (again). While a second album has the habit of being rather tricky, from an artistic and marketing perspective, the material is strong, strong enough to grab the attention for a one-hour show, and I’m pleased to declare that the new album has some really powerful tracks on it. The title number Fight A New Day, Believe, which has been announced as the main single off the album, and I Want You stood out, as did the curious, Lily Allen-esque Happy Song. Just be prepared for an emotional journey. Shannon’s songs, while not necessarily sad, do tend to hit you where you feel it the most.
Talking about influences, I’m taking a wild guess here, but I’d guess Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, Carole King and said Allen could be influences, but as with many top artists, Shannon’s got that something special, which makes her a little unique in the world of music. Check out the album, it’s available at all good record stores, or see the website: shannonhope.co.za
Currently on a break from fulltime touring, Shannon Hope is utilising her other talents in digital creative spaces… but there will be another studio album, and some exclusive performances every now and then. It’s not over. It’s just different.