Orchestra celebrates 100 years of music
THE year 1914 will always be remembered for the start of World War I, but for the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), it was the beginning of what will be a 100-year legacy on February 28.
Theo Wendt opened the orchestra’s first concert with the Overture to Die Meistersinger, on that day in 1914.
“The passion, the dedication, the fact that these guys work their butts off for not market-related salaries; that’s always been consistent,” CPO strategic marketing consultant Shirley de Kock Gueller said.
In 1914, when it was called the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra, it was made up of 14 members, compared to its current 47. The orchestra, including pianist Adolph Hallis, was given an opportunity to tour to the UK in 1925 with Leslie Heward as the composer.
After Heward, followed William Pickerill, Enrique Jorda and Albert Coates who served as the orchestra’s composers, before David Tidboald took over in 1960.
He composed trombonist Michael Nixon’s first performance in 1972 when it was then called the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.
Nixon said he remembered how different the audience was in the 1970s compared to today.
“Because of apartheid and politics, people of colour were not allowed to go or they were discouraged,” Nixon said.
When CPO principal second violinist Michelle Williams was learning the craft, she was alienated as a result of the government requiring people of colour to have a permit to attend the concerts in the 1960s.
“When 1961 came, they said now you can’t go to concerts anymore, you need a permit and if you went, you had to sit at the back,” Williams said.
The unfair treatment didn’t end, even when Williams joined the orchestra in the 1980s.
While members of the orchestra stood up in her defence, she didn’t see any changes for more than five years until the orchestra was no longer owned by the municipality which also resulted in a dip in funding.
“We’ve got this development of children that are coming up now,” Williams said, referring to the CPO Outreach and Education programme, which was launched in 2003.
The programme focuses on developing the next generation of musicians by providing instruments, study grants and teaching sessions in townships.
CPO chief executive Louis Heyneman said he could already foresee the outreach programme driving more change in the orchestra’s cul-
The outreach programme focuses on developing the next generation of musicians