To mark the centenary of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), the Minnesota Orchestra embarked on “Music for Mandela,” a five-city tour of South Africa this summer. A highlight of the tour—described as the first undertaken by a professional U.S. symphony orchestra to that country—was South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s Harmonia Ubuntu, commissioned in tribute to Mandela by Classical Movements, the tour management company. In Soweto, where Mandela once lived, Harmonia Ubuntu was performed at Regina Mundi, a church that “was the heart of the people’s resistance against the apartheid regime,” as Ndodana-Breen explained in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Beyond performances in Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Soweto, the August 8-19 tour included a residency with the South African National Youth Orchestra and educational activities and exchanges with the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Wind Band and the Cape Town Youth Philharmonic, among others. The tour was presented in partnership with Classical Movements. 

The tour was subtitled “Bringing the World Together Through Music,” and League of American Orchestras President and CEO Jesse Rosen commented that, following the orchestra’s groundbreaking Cuba tour in 2015, “It speaks very well of the Minnesota Orchestra that it is, for the second time now, using touring as a way to put a stake in the ground, to say we have a special role to play in the wider world.”