Strings attached with the Odeion String Quartet
“We can’t go without music and without each other. It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are.” The four members are in total agreement when they talk about their love for the arts, their fondness of Bloemfontein and their beautiful camaraderie.
First, let’s look at the history of this prestigious group. The Odeion String Quartet was established at the University
of the Free State in 1991 as a permanent full-time resident string quartet. Today, it’s the only resident string quartet at a South African university. The quartet is a flagship of the UFS and symbolises the university’s commitment to the arts. Throughout the years, the quartet has taken part in numerous music festivals, both locally and abroad, maintaining our own academic institution’s reputation. The quartet has performed in countries like Norway, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Austria, Belgium, Germany Switzerland and the UK, and has produced several albums. The latest album, Bits and Pieces, recorded in 2014, has been extremely well received.
The quartet has loads to be extremely proud of. Since 2013 the quartet has regularly performed with great success
at all the major national art festivals such as NAF Grahamstown, InniBos, KKNK, US Woorfees and Free State Arts Festival. These performances received several awards such as the Kanna prize for the Best Classical Production at KKNK 2014; the Vryfees award for the Best Debut Artist (2014); the Best Debut Production (2016) and the UFS Alumni Ambassodor’s prize (2014). A great honour was bestowed onto the quartet for receiving two kykNET Fiësta nominations for performances at art festivals in 2015 and 2016.
The quartet currently comprises Sharon de Kock (violin), Jeanne-Louise Moolman (viola), Anmari van der Westhuizen (cello) and Samson Diamond (violin). The four of them have been playing together since Samson was the last to join in 2013. And they are one tight bunch, to say the least. They practise together nearly every day, and have grown to know the intrinsic uniqueness of each other’s personalities and music styles.
Sharon has moved from Cape Town to join the UFS’s music department in Bloem, and she has never looked back. “One of the best things of working at the UFS and playing for the Odeion String Quartet, is that I can live out my passion and actually earn a salary doing it. If you’d like to be part of a music group in other cities, you have to do it after hours and you do not necessarily get paid. We can really lift the standards here in Bloem because of this.” She has recently also learnt to play the saxophone.
Jean-Louise relocated from Pretoria to Bloemfontein in 2008 to pursue her career in music and academics at the UFS. She has two children, Mia (Grade 10) and Cobus (Grade 7) whom she is delighted to be raising Bloem, which she feels is abundant in opportunities and creates a perfect environment for quality family life. Her husband, Piet Moolman, is a pianist and manager of the Free State Symphonic Orchestra.
Anmari joined the quartet when she moved to Bloem from Stellenbosch with her husband and three children back in
2009. Her two boys are 19 and 15, and her daughter is 12 years old. Music definitely runs in her family. “All my children are music lovers. Luckily they’re good at sports too! We love living in Bloemfontein. The schools are fantastic, the people are friendly and there are so many opportunities to develop your talents.”
Samson was born in Soweto, and started taking violin lessons in 1994 as part of a music project by the African Youth
Ensemble. Today, he’s also concert master of the Free State Symphony Orchestra and lecturer at the UFS School of Music. Samson believes education is key to making classical music part of people’s lives and believes orchestras need to do more to engage the public. “Bloemfontein, for example, is very family-orientated. So it is important that we have more family concerts, maybe outdoors on a Saturday afternoon. That is something to explore a little more.”
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