Bringing Jazz Back with: For the Love of Peace!
Gateway Dance Theatre, GDT, has had several encounters with artists along the way to 50 years. Penny Furgerson, GDT's Co-Founder and Artistic Director, has this charm that pulls people to her, and I, being one of those people, can tell you that you never regret the encounter! Penny and her late husband Lee Furgerson co-founded GDT in 1972. Penny engages dance, art and culture to help us understand it all, and fifty years later, GDT's mission is more relevant and necessary than ever.
Witness and Gateway Dance Theatre
Witness Matlou was just a student of music when he landed here in the United States from Johannesburg, South Africa. He had been given an opportunity to pursue his love for music at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He picked up his bags and traveled to this new country, not knowing what to expect. Over time he made friends and shared his gift of music with his peers, eventually meeting Penny Furgerson on the Drake campus. They connected so effortlessly on several common grounds including art, music and migrating from another homeland. Later that year, the campus closed for Christmas break, and Witness really didn’t know where he should go, so Penny, who had a spare room, invited him home.
Thus started a lovely friendship that went beyond just artistic collaboration. So much so that Penny treats him like a son and Sydney Furgerson (Penny’s granddaughter and GDT’s Program Manager) introduces Matlou as her brother from another motherland!
Witness Matlou: The Performer
Today, Matlou is a composer and performer whose work is influenced by his South African roots, the folk music, contemporary classical music, jazz and other world music. Over the years, Witness has toured through Europe, Africa, Latin America and across the United States, performing at reputed places like the Lincoln Center, the Monterey Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Twin Cities Jazz Festival and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to name a few.
He is an alumnus of Drake University and the reputed Berklee Global Jazz Institute, where after receiving his master’s degree, Matlou was awarded a post-master’s fellowship in 2017 and is a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Department of African and African American Studies. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Harmony and Jazz Composition Department at Berklee College of Music.
Matlou grew up listening to mbaqanga, kwela and marabi music, and such elements are often reflected in his music. His compositions reflect the vibrant energy of life in the townships of Johannesburg, South Africa where he grew up and the ethnic and cultural diversity of the country, embracing the effect that forms the basis between music and language, through experimentation with time, rhythm, harmony and melodic inventions. When in South Africa, Matlou gives back to the community by working with the youth at the Moses Molelekwa Arts Foundation. His current composition and research project is a social and political reflection on the history of South Africa, with a message of love, hope, and unity.
For the Love of Peace!
As part of their 50th Anniversary, GDT brings to you a jazz concert — For the Love of Peace! GDT is ecstatic to have Matlou be a part of the celebration. The concert is inspired by Nelson Mandela, M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. — beacons of Peace around the world. The concert features Matlou’s composition, which is inspired by Nelson Mandela and is a social and political reflection on the history of South Africa, with a message of love, hope and unity. The event will be held in the Temple for Performing Arts, 1011 Locust Street, Des Moines at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. Tickets are available on the GDT website at gatewaydance.org. Matlou will be accompanied by the Witness Matlou Trio with Michael Woods and Eric Krieger, Anne Harris Carter, violinist and the Dancers of GDT who will be honoring M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. through movement.
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Header image of GDT Dancers in a snippet from the Peace in the Heart suite.