David Foote

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David Foote (b. London, 17/02/1873 - d. Johannesburg, 17/06/1927) was a composer, conductor, musical director.


David Foote’s family came to Johannesburg from England in 1889. As a young man he served his articles in a lawyer’s office, but his real interest lay in the field of music and though completely self-taught, he was highly regarded as a composer and arranger. In 1894 he was appointed conductor of the orchestra at the Empire Theatre, a post he held for many years and when, in 1896, Carl Hertz started touring the county with his “cinematographe”, Foote provided the piano accompaniment. He also played the organ when, on 19 January 1899, Edgar Hyman screened a selection of moving pictures for President Kruger at the Residency in Pretoria, a show that included footage of the President himself. In 1913-1914 Foote became Chief Musical Director for African Theatres and during World War I he was responsible for organising a series of Sunday-evening concerts at the Orpheum Theatre.

Besides looking after the musical requirements of artists performing at the Empire Palace of Varieties and conducting the theatre orchestra, Foote composed music for various stage shows, including a special performance of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1916) to celebrate the bard’s tercentenary (produced by Ralph Kimpton) and popular variety shows such as Follow My Leader (1919), Pantomime Pie (1919), Thumbs Up! (1920), Partners (1920) and The Magic Key (1921). He also conducted the orchestra for a prestigious showing of Sidney Olcott’s film From the Manger to the Cross (1913) and provided the musical score for the first private screening of Dick Cruikshanks's The Symbol of Sacrifice on 21 March 1918. In addition he played the organ at the Park Street Synagogue and composed a number of religious works. He is said to be buried in Brixton Cemetery, Johannesburg.


Jewish Herald, Australia, 19 January 1912

Gutsche, Thelma - The history and social significance of motion pictures in South Africa 1895-1940

Le Roux, André I. & Fourie, Lilla – Filmverlede: geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm

The Shakespearean international yearbook, Volume 9

South African music encyclopedia, Volume 2

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