Cape Town Orchestra

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The Cape Town Orchestra (also known as the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra (1914-1969)

Founding and early history

The Cape Town Orchestra (also written as Capetown Orchestra, and also known as the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra (CMO) was formed by the Cape Town Council in 1914 under the conductorship of Theo Wendt with a strength of 30 players.

The opening concert took place in the City Hall, Cape Town, on February 28, 1914, and marked the dawn of a new era in music in South Africa.

This potent influence on music was felt not only in Cape Town but all over South Africa as the public had the opportunity of listening to the orchestral works of the great composers for the first time.

In an effort to revitalize the orchestra, the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra changed its name to the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra (CTSO) in 1969.

Performance history in South Africa

Concerts of every description were held regularly in Sea Point, Muizenberg, the Pier, the suburban halls, Stellenbosch, etc.

Tours were undertaken in 1914, 1919, 1921, 1922, and 1923 by the Cape Town Orchestra as a means of spreading the love of good music.

During its travels, the Cape Town Orchestra met with great enthusiasm and approval from the music-loving public.

April 3, 1922 - June 13, 1922. The Cape Town Orchestra toured South Africa, playing at Worcester (April 3), Bloemfontein (April 5-8), Johannesburg and Pretoria (April 9- May 7), Potchefstroom (May 8), Klerksdorp (May 9), Kroonstad (May 10-11), Harrismith (May 12-14), Ladysmith (May 15), Newcastle (May 16), Maritzburg (May 17-21), Queenstown (May 24-25), Cathcart (May 26), East London (May 27-30), King William's Town (May 31), Grahamstown (June 2-3), Port Elizabeth (June 5-10), Oudtshoorn (June 12) and Mossel Bay (June 13). Musical Director and Conductor: Theo Wendt, Leader; J Spink, Assistant Conductor; W J Pickerill, Business Manager; A N Dickson.

Aims and function

From March 1921, the Orchestra was under the management of the Cape Peninsula Publicity Association whose first decision after assuming control was to increase the personnel from 32 to 38 players, in order to enable the Orchestra to extend its repertoire.

It was thought the repertoire might well be the envy of the orchestras of many larger European towns as it represented every school and every period of music, from Bach, Handel, etc., to R Strauss and Stravinsky.

It also included, apart from a great amount of light music, about 100 symphonies and symphonic works, 70 suites, 70 overtures and 100 miscellaneous concert works.

The most important of the Orchestra's Concerts in Cape Town were their famous Thursday Evening Subscriptions Concerts and Saturday Evening Popular Concerts.


Souvenir Programme, 1922 Tour. No. IV

Roger Bridger theatre programme, 1923.

Sjoerd Alkema. 2012. "Conductors of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra, 1914-1965: a historical perspective". University of Cape Town. Unpublished PhD thesis.

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