The sounds of South Africa inspired a new generation of Napa Valley students on Jan. 25, as the nonprofit Napa Valley Opera House (NVOH) launched its 2017 community programming with a series of events featuring the world-renowned musical group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The afternoon began with a free educational event during which parents, students and teachers from River School, Silverado Middle School, Justin-Siena, and other local schools and music programs attended a private rehearsal with the South African singers.

The event included a question-and-answer session, touching on topics from the language and culture of South Africa, the genesis and evolution of this multiple-Grammy-winning vocal group, and the influence of Nelson Mandela in championing their work and in uniting the people of South Africa.

Later that evening, the local vocal group VOENA, led by director Annabelle Marie, performed several numbers from their repertoire of African songs to open the Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert.

VOENA has previously performed with the group, and appeared at South Africa’s Soweto Festival.

The two choirs from distant nations enjoyed some lively time together before the show, with veteran group member (and cousin of founder Joseph Shabalala) Albert Mazibuko, complimenting Annabelle Marie on her VOENA song “Sumbaie”: “I am inspired by that song and I feel a strong message with it that says you have a journey to arrive to and you won’t stop until you get to that place. You want love and peace for this world like we do, and you will keep going just to get there.”

Marie responded, “This is really special to us, as our mission is to unite the world and empower future leaders through music.” VOENA will perform next at the Opera House on May 20 at 7 p.m.

“This event was made possible through the support of Blue Note Napa, bringing extraordinary performing artists to the Napa Valley Opera House, and making them available for our education and community events,” said NVOH Director of Partnerships & Outreach Laura Rafaty, who organized the event.

NVOH community programs are sponsored in part by Lagniappe Peak Vineyards and by the City of Napa. Napa Valley Opera House, a 501 c (3) nonprofit, presents its 2017 season of arts, education and community programming, fulfilling its mission to preserve the historic landmark as a venue for arts programming and related educational opportunities. Learn more at www.nvoh.org.

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