Tuesday, March 2, 2010
An act of international tenorism
Did you know that a man's voice can change when he gets older? We know about piping little trebles becoming deep baritones as their hormones kick in, but did you know that Elton John used to be a tenor? And that his voice "dropped" with age? Yellow Brick Road will never sound the same again! Gravity is an interesting thing.
That's one of the things I learnt when I had DINNER WITH THE 12 TENORS the other night. "The who?" you ask. Please don't confuse me, as I can be a little musically challenged. No, not The Who. The TWELVE TENORS. Not three, or four, or even ten - which is the last number I heard singing together (those were Australians, I say, whipping out my official anti-Aussie T shirt). These are the 12 tenors, who were put together by Michael King, he of the Spirit of the Dance fame (more confusion: Lord of the Dance? Riverdance?), or so they told me.
The tenors, all 12 of them, were invited to dinner at friend Carolyn Steyn's penthouse in Sandton. There was already one baritone (Timothy Maloi) and I thiiiink, a few other tenors: Craig Whitehead (doing a very breathy Eartha Kitt "I want to be Evil") and Michael de Pinna (who talked about his variety days in the UK when he was told they were the worst act but everyone liked them anyway). When I arrived there was much howling coming from the roof, and I thought, God, it's a Sunday night and they have (a) started without me and (b) I don't think I have the stamina for this. Is it possible that tenors can misbehave so? I thought they all lived on a diet of lemon and honey and had to have resident chefs like Pavarotti.
On arrival at Carolyn's flat, it turned out the racket was coming from a school group who were two floors down. Carolyn and her friends were relatively sedate even though the champagne was flowing. The penthouse had a virtual 360 degree view and the Sandton sunset was gorgeous. The weather held out perfectly throughout the evening in fact, with a bright china moon so we were invested with inescapable lunar energy. That must have been the champagne talking _ I had had two glasses by this stage and was avoiding the edge of the balcony.
We, including Sandton magazine's Josef Talotta, had the roof all to ourselves as the tenors had not arrived yet. They were coming in convoy from the Parktonian downtown. So I had a chance to chat to Michael de Pinna, who amused me with his trip to Tasmania. I had a brush with some Jehovah's Witnesses when I was there many years ago and thought that beautiful as it was, it could, on occasion, be quite an odd place. Michael described the Tasmanian Devil as being like a "woes dassie with Pieter Toerien teeth".
At about 7.30 there was a flurry at the front door. The 12 good men and true looked like someone's childen who had had their hair slicked down for them before being sent off in their Sunday best. Except for LA Lakers soloist Branden James, who was curiously self-assured. And astute. He told me that he had gone to the Vatican to sing for the current Pope's 80th birthday and that word was that the next Pope would be coming from South America. The Vatican politics seem to be as involved, if not more so, than the average American election. Branden said that all the bishops vote but I wanted to find out more. Seems that Popes are pre-elected (what does that tell you about politics in general?). I told him that the previous Pope was my favourite, if you can have a favourite Pope. Who could forget the Popemobile? It had a certain razzamatazz.
Branden, who is used to meeting Hollywood celebrities at the Lakers games, clocked Princess Zenani Dlamini Mandela at 12 o'clock immediately. Not that Zenani would count herself as a celebrity. She is a good person, and so much like her dad. She was still upset about her PA who had died of cancer recently. The health care system in this country leaves a lot to be desired, as the PA had had lupus in her family but this was not diagnosed until it was way too late.
Zenani meets the guys.
The tenors were relieved of having to sing for their supper as their show had been cancelled that day and they seemed happy. It was off to London (home for many). We had to ask them about their washing situation; one of them told me they had been given a few pairs of Bone underpants so that was one problem solved! Carolyn was telling them about the time she was kept in custody at Heathrow for several hours. Her ex husband Dow Steyn phoned Madiba who phoned Carolyn whose phone had been confiscated. She was kept in a long room with a dirty loo, whose only occupant was a poor woman from Burundi who had been there for three days. The Nazis at Heathrow who were holding her prisoner then got a call from Jack Straw and she was released immediately. Good thing the boys were not there or she would have been accused of being a "tenor-ist". She has, incredibly, gone back to the UK several times.
Herbivore and carnivore alike tucked into their dinner with great enthusiasm and Michael (who had been roped in as cook and bottlewasher, so he told us) waved everyone over to bring their plates and start. And very delicious it was, lots of lasagne, chicken drumsticks and gorgeous salads. The champagne had given us an appetite so we joined in the eating fray.
The tenors, sweet young fellows that they were, told Carolyn later that it was the best time they had ever had. And they certainly seemed to want to come back to South Africa, mourning the fact that their tour dates had not coincided with the 2010 World Cup dates.
PS: I just got a comment about how do they split their takings between 12 of them. Good point ...