Bushman Prayers, the Double concerto dedicated to cellist Anzél Gerber and pianist Ben Schoeman, was the last completed composition by the internationally renowned South African composer, Stefans Grové who passed away on 29 May 2014. Former professor at Peabody Institute in the USA, he returned to his homeland, South Africa, where he lectured composition at the University of Pretoria. His passion for music from Africa served as inspiration to compose works that would capture the magical spirit of Africa. Scenes from African landscapes, mythical figures and narratives, as well as native tribes and their lifestyles, are often portrayed in his music. Grové’s concern for the gradual extinction of the San (also named the Bushman) culture inspired him to compose his ultimate works on topics related to the San.
The Bushmen, who has a total population of approximately 90 000, is spread across Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Angola and Zimbabwe. The indigenous hunter-gatherer people of southern Africa are considered to be some of the oldest cultures. In 2012 a set of tools almost identical to that used by the modern San and dating to 44,000 BCE was discovered at Border Cave in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Various studies on Y chromosomes revealed that the San carry some of the oldest human Y-chromosome haplogroups and that these haplogroups are specific sub-groups of haplogroups A and B, the two earliest branches on the human Y-chromosome tree. Research studies on mitochondrial DNA found that the southern African San groups, carry the highest frequencies of the oldest mitochondrial haplogroup, LOd, which is of the earliest haplogroup branches in the human mitochondrial DNA tree.
In this composition, composer Stefans Grové manages to merge antiquity with modernity and western art music with African indiginous sounds. This interesting genre of a double concerto for cello and piano is further enhanced by a narrator, who will read three poems on which the three movements of the concerto is based, namely Prayer to the Sun, Prayer to the Moon, and Prayer to the Brightest Star in the Sky. The poems by Dia!Kwain, is found in a compilation by WH Bleek of stories and poems told by Bushmen from the northern Cape region who served sentences as inmates at the Breakwater Convict Station.
The world première will be performed with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and Japanese conductor, Yasuo Shinozaki, on 11 June 2015, followed by a performance with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra in Durban on 18 June with conductor Carlos Izcaray. Maestro Shinozaki Gerber and Schoeman met with Stefans Grové before his passing, to discuss the concerto. Schoeman is completing his doctoral studies through City University of London, UK on the piano works composed by Stefans Grové.