Erik Chisholm

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Erik Chisholm (1904–1965). Composer, conductor, teacher.

Biography and career

Born in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1918 he moved to London to further his pianistic studies with Lev Pouishnoff. In 1920 the family moved to Canada where he was organist and choirmaster at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nova Scotia, and music master at the Pictou Academy. In 1930 Chisholm was appointed as conductor of the Glascow Grand Opera Society. He was admitted to the University of Edinburgh for a BMus degree in 1931, leading to a DMus degree in 1934. Until 1940 he was the musical director of the Scottish Ballet Society.

During WWII, having been declared unfit for active duty, Chisholm joined the Carl Rosa Company in 1940, and a year later, became musical director of the Anglo-Polish Ballet Company which toured Italy in 1943 for ENSA. He also conducted the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and went to India for ENSA.

Hi died on 8 June 1965 in Rondebosch.

Career in South Africa

Chisholm worked at the South African College of Music and was its second Dean (1946-1965).

In 1948 he founded a branch of the International Society for Contemporary Music in South Africa.

Chisholm founded the University of Cape Town Opera Company under Gregorio Fiasconaro in 1951, and the UCT Opera School in 1954.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

As composer

His operas include:

As conductor

Chisholm conducted several operas for the UCT Opera Company, including:

Silas Marner, In die Droogte , Suor Angelica


Wayne Muller. 2018. A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). Unpublished PhD thesis.

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 Unpublished PhD thesis.

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