MUSIC DIRECTOR’S REPORT 2019
AGM : February 2020
I didn’t think we could do any better than 2018, but we definitely topped it in 2019!!
2019 began strong and continued in the same vein with a number of outstanding performances beginning with Mozart’s Requiem. It was a deviation from our normal programme, starting much earlier in the year as part of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival. It certainly gave us something to work towards from the end of 2018, and the performance came off magnificently, with super feedback from the audience.
Our biennial offering of Handel’s Messiah was, once again, a massive hit, made that much more emotional considering it was Nicholas Nicolaides final appearance in South Africa. Nic has a long history of performing with the SCJ, and it was certainly sad to see him go. The additional performance at Nelson Mandela Square was well received and it is always a nice bonus to be able to perform the work again, considering how much work goes into preparing for all our concerts.
Running concurrently to the Messiah, the choir was also involved in the concert with Andrea Bocelli. It was a taxing time as rehearsals and performances of both concerts meant that choir members were required for many days or nights in a row. I was proud of the stamina which many of you displayed, and opportunities like this are useful for bolstering the choir funds in order to support our other endeavours. Not to mention that we can now say that the SCJ has performed with another of the most famous tenors in the world. These opportunities are few and far between in South Africa, so it is wonderful that when they do come around, we, as a choir, are able to respond positively, learn the music quickly and provide a polished product. You are excellent ambassadors for South African performers!
A different flavour was added to the Last Night of the Proms in the form of the Spanish dancers, linking to the theme ‘Spanish Fiesta’. It certainly created a different dimension and provided a diverse experience for our audiences. It feels like Proms is slowly moving away from the more traditional versions of Proms we have had in the past and it is exciting to see which direction it is going to take. This year we were not able to raise as much for Lifeline as we have in the past, and this speaks to the unsteady state of the economy. The choir hamper is fast becoming a coveted prize as part of the raffle and I look forward to seeing what everybody contributes in 2020. Thank you again to those of you who provided such generous offerings.
It has been 15 years since we last performed Feel the Spirit by John Rutter, and 8 since we did the Vivaldi Gloria. It is always nice to bring things back after such a long period of time, especially works that are more joyous in character. The only disappointing thing about this performance was the audience attendance. We need to work harder, with more input from everyone in the choir, to attract audiences and encourage our friends and families to book tickets.
By far, the most challenging work for the year was the Brahms Requiem. It was lovely that we had plenty of time to prepare for the performance, and it certainly showed in the final product. Feedback from the audience noted that the choir’s diction was precise and the words were clear. From my side it felt extremely tight, and I could sense that the choir felt confident about it. As a result, I think this was the best concert we presented in 2019. Again, ticket sales were a little disappointing, especially considering the popularity of the work.
As we had done a concert very early in the year, we went straight from Brahms into Christmas. The longer preparation time available for the Christmas concert meant that we could attempt more challenging carols, and also a number of unaccompanied carols. It’s a good exercise to include some unaccompanied singing in our concerts as it encourages the choir to listen to each other and work hard on blend and pitching. It is altogether a different experience, and as such pushes choristers to work a little harder. At our Christmas concerts we raised a good amount of money for Autism South Africa, our chosen charity of 2019.
The extra time for rehearsals for Christmas meant that we also had time to start rehearsing for our first concert of 2020: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. I really look forward to this and other works we have lined up for our 40th birthday celebrations during 2020.
Our final ad hoc performance for the year was the carols at Nelson Mandela Square. Despite some logistical difficulties with regards to parking, the experience as a whole was enjoyable, and it was wonderful to be able to perform for such a large audience.
As always, I want to thank you all for the time and energy that you commit to the choir. You play an important role in the musical life of Johannesburg, and of South Africa as a whole. For this I salute you.
Thanks also to Pridwin and St Vincent’s, who generously host our rehearsals, and to the many people who make our concerts possible.
Finally, thanks to the committee, our patrons, sponsors and friends, and of course our audiences, all of whom make this possible.
CHAIRMAN & TREASURER’S REPORT 2019
AGM : February 2020
The Choir undertook a varied and interesting concert programme in 2019. The Choir presented performances of Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Brahms’ Requiem, as well as the usual Christmas concerts.
These works were performed at a gross deficit of R169,369. Income from sponsorships, membership subscriptions, external performances and other income sources resulted in an overall operating surplus of R181,472. The choir finished the year with reserves of R902,145.
My thanks go to Richard Cock and Kate Pape for their ongoing contribution in raising corporate sponsorships. My thanks also go to the regular patrons, sponsors and friends, many of whom are choir members. As in past years, the generosity of the choir patrons and sponsors has made a vital difference to the choir’s financial position, contributing donations of R320,877 for the year.
I also wish to thank those choir members who participated on a voluntary basis in the Last Night of the Proms, the Andrea Bocelli concert, the Opera Gala Concert, and the additional Messiah and Christmas concerts in Sandton. These events contributed R135,000 to the choir coffers and continue to enhance our public profile. I would also like to mention with gratitude those volunteers who made the bells and hats for various concerts and raised further funds in the process.
Thanks are also due to all those who give of their time and skill to ensure that choir activities run as smoothly as possible. In particular, I would like to mention Debbie Kruger, for choir administration; all the members of the Choir Committee, for their advice and efforts; Alex Trinder-Smith, who arranges the programmes for the concerts and performs other administrative tasks; Maddy Farrant, who administers the choir membership subscriptions; as well as Sue Cock and Marnus Greyling, for accompanying the choir at rehearsals.
Finally, of course, I must record my gratitude to our incomparable Music Director, whose expertise, energy, humour and entrepreneurial skill makes it possible for the choir to produce such varied and beautiful music, and to have great fun in doing so.