The Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town is one of Cape Town’s oldest and best-loved choral groups. In 2017 we celebrated our 50th anniversary! The choir was formed in 1967, and has been described as ‘the jewel in Cape Town’s musical crown.’ It comprises more than 120 amateur singers, of all ages and backgrounds, who seek to contribute to the South African musical landscape by performing a diverse and challenging repertoire of music.
Each year the choir performs three or four major choral works and a few smaller concerts, including some at outreach events. It typically performs in grand historical venues such as the Cape Town City Hall, St. George’s Cathedral, the Bishops Chapel, and Groote Kerk. It has also sung in popular public areas, including Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and the Oude Libertas amphitheatre.
The Philharmonia Choir has had a number of important engagements with visiting international artists, including Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Luciano Pavarotti, and Renee Fleming, and conductors John Rutter and the late Sir David Willcocks. We have collaborated with some of South Africa’s best professional soloists and conductors, including Violina Anguelov, Sunnyboy Dladla, Levy Sekgapane, George Stevens, Arthur Swan, Pretty Yende, Richard Cock, Raymond Hughes and Vetta Wise. We have also had the privilege of performing regularly with The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.
The choir has a history and reputation of engaging up-and-coming young artists as soloists, many of whom go on to develop international careers.
2017 sees our well-loved choir celebrate 50 years of choral music in Cape Town.
The Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town boasts working under the baton of several well-known local and international conductors, as well as being trained by choir conductors of the highest quality. The varied repertoire has catered to both serious and popular musical palettes and includes well over 50 choral works.
The Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town was founded by the late John Badminton in February 1967 with a nucleus of experienced singers from its predecessor, the Melodic Choir, directed for many years by the renowned Dr Claude Brown. Its repertoire, which has catered to both serious and popular musical palettes, includes over 50 choral works. An important tradition since 1968 has been the annual performance by the Philharmonia Choir of Handel’s great oratorio Messiah every year at Easter. For many of Cape Town’s music lovers this has become an integral part of their Easter worship.
The choir has had a succession of outstanding Directors of Music, including Christine Reynolds, Raymond Hughes (later the Chorus Master at New York’s Metropolitan Opera for twenty years), Vetta Wise, Margaret Barlow and Antoinette Blyth. In January 2013 Richard Haigh, widely acclaimed as a church musician and music educator, was appointed to this post.
Over the years the choir has had a number of important engagements, working with luminaries such as the late Lord Yehudi Menuhin and Luciano Pavarotti, John Rutter and Sir David Willcocks (who was our Honorary President and Patron of the choir from 1974 until his passing in 2015). In 1998 the Philharmonia Choir participated in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan by singing at Cape Point as part of a unique “round the world” performance of the choral movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in which choirs on different continents were linked by satellite television transmission to the conductor, Seiji Ozawa, in Japan.
A very happy and fruitful collaboration was that with the late Reinhard Schwarz, who visited Cape Town regularly as a guest conductor, directing the choir on numerous occasions. As a result of this, the choir was invited to participate in the Schubert Bicentenary Festival in Vienna in May 1997, singing both there and in Munich under his baton.
In June 2004 Maestro Schwarz, nearing the end of his life, chose for his last concert in Cape Town to conduct the choir in a performance of the Dvorak Requiem that was a profoundly moving farewell to this much-loved mentor and friend.
In 2001 the choir undertook another successful tour, giving concerts in several cathedrals and churches in England, the highlight being a critically acclaimed performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius in Worcester Cathedral on 2 June, the anniversary of the composer’s birth.
This performance, in which the choir was joined by Dr Donald Hunt’s Elgar Chorale, was conducted by Dr Hunt, another musician of international renown who has shown great interest in the Philharmonia Choir, conducting it frequently on his numerous visits to Cape Town.
Other eminent visitors to Cape Town who have worked with the Philharmonia Choir include the British conductors Nicholas Cleobury (2003, 2006 and 2010) and Sarah Tenant-Flowers, whose Harlow Chorus sang with the Philharmonia in the Easter performances of Messiah in 2005, and the Norwegian conductor KÃ¥re Hanken, who has directed our performances on several occasions, most recently in Bach’s St John Passion (March 2011), has also shown much interest in the choir. In September 2009 the choir had the honour of being engaged by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of the American conductor William Eddins, to participate in a concert given in the Cape Town City Hall by the renowned American soprano Rene Fleming.
In October 2010 the Philharmonia Choir, singing together with the Symphony Choir of Cape Town, gave two highly acclaimed performances of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, which were conducted by Victor Yampolsky, and in November 2011 the choir collaborated with the New Apostolic Church Choir in a performance of Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, under the baton of Martin Panteleev. Highlights of 2012 were performances of Haydn’s The Creation in the original German and a very successful joint concert with the Cape Town Youth Choir.
In 2015 the Philharmonia Choir collaborated with the Johannesburg Symphony Choir to sing Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, and just recently in October 2016, our two choirs teamed up again in both cities to perform Karl Jenkins The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace. In Cape Town we were accompanied by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, with the soloist Maudee Montierre, and the impacting Armed Man film. An incredibly powerful and emotional work which members have described as being memorable for a lifetime.
We have a record of all our past performances, spanning 50 years! Click on the link below to download it (PDF).Download
OUR MUSIC DIRECTOR
Richard Haigh is an experienced church musician, organist and educator. He is an ideal Director of Music for our choir, because he is passionate about choral music and is able to get the best sound out of the choir.
Richard is the seventh Director of Music of the Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town. His career to date has been primarily that of church musician, working in the Anglican tradition of Organist and Choirmaster, and also as educator, presently working as Head of Music at Wynberg Boys’ High School.
Richard began organ lessons with Garmon Ashby at the age of 14. He won the Claude Brown Organ Scholarship for 6th Form Post-Matric studies at Diocesan College in 1996. He graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1999 with a B Mus (Gen.) degree having majored in organ under Prof. Shirley Gie. He also holds Performer’s Licentiate Diplomas in Piano and Organ from Trinity College of Music, London, The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and the University of South Africa, as well as a B Ed (Hons) Degree. He was awarded a full scholarship to Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas in 2001. Here, under the under tuition of Dr Larry Palmer, he graduated with a Master’s Degree, with distinction, and was elected to the Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society. He remained in the USA for a further four years, working as Sub-Organist at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, Dallas and Organist and Choirmaster of Christ Episcopal Church, Plano. While living in Dallas he sang as a bass in the Dallas Symphony Chorus (touring with them to Carnegie Hall, New York) and as a counter-tenor in the Schola of the St Mark’s School of Texas Men and Boys Choir.
In August 2007 Richard returned to South Africa and became the Organist and Choirmaster at Christ Church, Kenilworth in Cape Town. He established a seasonal orchestra and the St John’s Chorus, who sang at the Third International Lausanne Congress in Cape Town in October 2010. Richard has had a long association with the Philharmonia which started in 1996 when he was a member of the basses. Over the years he has acted as organist, accompanist and choir trainer, and has been Director of Music since January 2013. In this capacity he has grown the choir, formed relationships/partnerships with other choirs, raised the profile of the choir through radio and television broadcasts and conducted the choir in several performances.
Richard Cock is well loved and known for his irrepressible and ebullient nature. He has an ability to bring music to tens of thousands of people and to make converts to the cause of orchestral and choral music in particular, and of ‘music’, in its broadest sense, in general.
Richard Cock has made a significant contribution to music in South Africa since returning in 1980 from an 8-year sojourn in the United Kingdom. During those years he studied at the Royal School of Church Music and then gained experience in church music and education ending his days abroad as assistant organist and Director of Music at the Cathedral Choir School in Chichester.
Since returning to South Africa he has been an SABC producer, Director of Music at St Mary’s Cathedral, Director of Chanticleer Singers and Symphony Choir of Johannesburg, and a conductor of note.
He continues this work throughout South Africa – in particular with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra, and, with his irrepressible and ebullient nature, to bring music to tens of thousands of people and to make converts to the cause of orchestral and choral music in particular, and of ‘music’, in its broadest sense, in general.
Richard is equally at home making music with children in a classroom, with leading soloists of the day in the concert hall, with choirs in churches, spectacular concerts like Starlight Concerts or inter-active concerts with his audience-friendly presentation, or with the orchestra in Tulip fields.
Amongst others he has worked with Julian Lloyd-Webber, Lynn Harrell, Joshua Bell, Florian Uhlig, Lesley Garrett, Zoe Beyers Corinne Chapelle and Patricio Buanne. He has also worked closely with Pavarotti and the 3 Tenors on their South African Tour.
Richard Cock is first and foremost a musician and conductor who conducts throughout South Africa and its adjacent territories and further afield.
Many people feel he has done more than anyone in South Africa to popularize classical music and he is always looking for new and innovative ways to bring music to new audiences. He is also active in choral music – often in small towns building up community activities through music, or leading team building exercises for large corporates to big choral works with full orchestra.
Richard Cock and The Johannesburg Symphony Choir regularly collaborate with the Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town to perform big works which require a larger choir. This is a great source of excitement and reward for members of both choirs, not to mention the audience.
Victor Tichart was the choir’s accompanist from 1996 until he passed away in March 2019. In recent years he was the choir’s assistant trainer as well. Victor was a wonderful asset to the choir and was loved by everyone. His piano playing was never anything short of exactly what the choir and their director needed it to be: accurate, adaptable, sensitive, emphasising just what the choristers needed to help them to learn the music and sing with sensitivity and nuance. And he always brought humour and laughter to rehearsals, even when he was struggling with poor health.
Victor was a highly qualified and sought-after accompanist, repetiteur, vocal coach, and music teacher. He held a Master’s in Vocal Accompaniment from UCT, where here studied with Neil Solomon. He won several prizes during his studies, and after graduating went on to tour abroad as an accompanist and coach to the opera singer Sidwill Hartman. He recorded four CDs and also made recordings for radio and television. He worked as a vocal coach, repetiteur, and piano teacher at UCT, Beau Soleil, AFDA Film School and his own teaching studio. He was also the musical director for several productions, such as Cabaret, Carmen, and Marry Me a Little. In addition to his work with the Philharmonia Choir, he was the director of a chamber choir, The Canzonetta Singers.
The Philharmonia Choir will miss Victor immensely – his consummate musicianship, his good humour and wicked jokes, his generous-hearted support and understanding. We thank him from the depths of our hearts for all that he was and did.