ArtSpoken & Reviews

Musical musings from the Cathedral

Moira de Swardt
11/23/2009 09:11:14

Moira de Swardt: St Mary's, the Anglican Cathedral in the Joburg CBD, celebrated their 80th birthday with an organ symphony concert.

Their magnificent organ is the only remaining grand pipe organ in Johannesburg capable of backing a symphony orchestra. The last symphony concert at the Cathedral was 30 years ago for the Cathedral's Jubilee. That, I suppose has given people time to forget how horrible the acoustics are for a big orchestra.

Having whinged about the acoustics, the evening was marvellous. The new trend of people actually using Park and Ride services kicked in for many people who were invited to park at the Johannesburg College of Education outside the Linder Auditorium and travel by bus. This bus trip could be included when doing the ticket bookings through Computicket. The rest of the audience had to find parking and walk.

The message from The Very Revd Gerard Sharp, Dean of Johannesburg, hinted at the decline of the area round the Cathedral and the absolute dearth of support or even respect for the artistic, cultural and architectural heritage of our city.

The programme notes for the evening spelled out the history of the organ and the specifications of its pipes. The cathedral organist, Sidney Place, a man who has devoted much of his life to preserving the organ, playing it and bringing joy to those who worship at the Cathedral, played the organ part for Edward Elgar's famous Pomp and Circumstance March, as well as the organ in Camille Saint-Saens' Symphony No 3 in C minor, with organ. Sidney Place also wrote the programme notes.

Liesbeth Schlumberger-Kurpershoek, South African born, now resident in Paris, was the soloist for the two pieces which thrilled the appreciative audience after interval. We were treated to Concerto in G minor for organ, strings and timpani by Francis Poulenc and the Symphony No 1 in D minor, op 42 by Alexander Guilmant.

The Johannesburg Philharmonic was under the baton of Allan Stephenson.

There are at least two ways of enjoying glorious classical music. The one is to concentrate on the music, listening for all the things that are in the programme notes, picking out the melodies, the harmonies and finding pleasure in the interplay between instruments.

The other is to relax and let the music take one's mind wherever it wishes to go. This latter method is what happened to me during the concert. I share with you one of these journeys. There is a certain joy in seeing our Cathedral being used as part of the life of the city it serves. It can only expect financial support for its preservation in as much as it provides a service to the community in which it functions.

 I have often wondered why the Anglican community doesn't make better use of it to host displays of religious art, art for projects of deep social concern such as women and child abuse, AIDS etc.

Some time back I suggested that I would love to attend a production of "Murder at the Cathedral" at the Cathedral. Also a while ago I attended a musical event at which the young musicians at Parktown Girls played the marimbas. What about a glorious display of floral art such as was hosted at St Francis in Parkview a while ago?

All in all, the evening was a resounding success!

Moira de Swardt
Freelance Journalist
011 482 7320
082 553 2457