Bay musicians tune up for a celebration

Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra marks its 20th year

David Bester
David Bester

The 20th anniversary concert of the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (ECPO) is at 3pm on Sunday December 2 at the Feather Market Centre.

The orchestra came about when Capab (the Cape Performing Arts Board) withdrew from the Eastern Cape after the new division of provinces in 1994.

The ECPO’s first concert, Celebrate the Philharmonic!, was presented in May 1998, with Alan Stephenson conducting and pianist Erika Bothma as soloist.

The 2018 concert will carry the same name and this time ECPO current concertmaster David Bester will be the soloist, performing Bruch’s first violin concerto.

Gill Barnett, orchestra manager for 17 of the 20 years, remembers the highlights as well as the lean years, when lack of funding threatened to close the orchestra.

“Somehow we managed to keep playing even when it seemed almost impossible,” she said. “This was largely due to the goodwill of our wonderful players who, on more than one occasion, have volunteered to play for no fee just to keep the orchestra going.

“There have been so many highlights, with some superb conductors and soloists over the years.

“I remember conductor Alex Fokkens once suggesting a young UCT student for an Opera Gala concert he was conducting for us. Although unknown, he assured us she was extremely talented. That student was Pretty Yende, who subsequently performed with us on a few more occasions.”

Fokkens will conduct and the programme will begin with Offenbach’s Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld. Featuring the Infernal Galop – generally known as the music for the Can-Can – it should put the audience into a party mood.

Conductors and players alike have noted the enthusiasm and energy Bester brings the orchestra.

The strings lecturer in the NMU Music Department, he has two MMus performance degrees, both cum laude – one from Stellenbosch University and the other from the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp in Belgium.

He received numerous bursaries and won the String category in the 2015 ATKV Muziq competition.

Bester’s performance of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 – one of the most popular and beautiful of all violin concertos – will be a highlight for the orchestra.

The final work celebrating the Philharmonic is César Franck’s only symphony – the Symphony in D Minor.

Tickets are R90 and R110 at Computicket, with limited tickets for pupils and pensioners at R75. Inquiries: Gill, 041-581-7747.