Belgian conductor brings nostalgia to Woordfees

Every year The US Woordfees attracts performers and visitors from all around the world. Joining the list of international artists in 2017 was Rik Ghesquière, Belgian conductor and trumpet player.

Together with the Stellenbosch University Music Department, Drama Department and three children’s choirs, Ghesquière produced Lank Lank Gelede, which debuted on 9 March at the Stellenbosch Townhall.

The production was first brought to life in 2016 as part of Ghesquière’s contract to train the University’s wind and brass band. He said that he wanted to combine different performance elements, which led to a children’s choir and voice actors becoming involved in a classic retelling of three Grimm’s Fairytales: Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin and Sleeping Beauty.

The music was written by famous Belgian composer Jan van der Roost and the Dutch text translated into Afrikaans by Karen Maritz.

Ghesquière is well-known in many countries, including Thailand, Japan, Germany and South Africa. His first trip to Stellenbosch was as a replacement trumpeter in 2009 for the annual Chamber Music Festival. He made a great impression, and has visited Stellenbosch and Johannesburg twice a year ever since.

Belgian conductor brings nostalgia to the Woordfees. PHOTO: ANDELINE WIELAND


Ghesquière had always been a huge fan of symphony orchestras, and despite having graduated as a trumpeter in 1985, he aspired to become a conductor. “I would sit with the conductor’s score on my lap during rehearsals and observe how the conductor would lead the orchestra, I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” he said in an interview.

In 1999 Ghesquière received his Masters degree in HaFaBra conducting at the Brussels Conservatory and qualified in Symphony Orchestral conducting in 2000.  He is also the conductor of the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra.

When asked what his favourite part of the production was, Ghesquière answered without hesitation: “The children’s choir, because they bring a strong element of innocence and humanity to the production.”

Audience members were moved by the sweeping music and referred to the production as “nostalgic”.

“These were the tales we taught children in schools back when I was still a teacher,” said audience member Welma Brink. “Listening to the wonderful orchestra and the other performance brought back wonderful memories.” -Andeline Wieland