John Connell

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John Connell. (1891-1955) Musician, producer, conductor


He was Organist and Director of music for the Johannesburg City Council and Johannesburg’s first City Organist since 1916. A noted musical director in later years. He retired in 1950.

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

In the 1930s, John Connell negotiated with the city council of Johannesburg over the necessity for a permanent professional orchestra, called the African Broadcasting Company (ABC) Symphony Orchestra. In September 1933, Connell started a subscription series of ten weekly symphony concerts. He also regularly invited guest conductors and assembled players and ensembles for his symphony series.

He helped found the National Opera Company, Johannesburg Philharmonic Society, and the Johannesburg Operatic and Dramatic Society (JODS). He presented seasons of up to eight operas in the City Hall in the 1940’s. He was invited by African Theatres in 1941 to present his operas, such as Tosca, at the Empire Theatre.

Connell was also responsible for producing operas such as Bizet‟s Carmen sung in English and Afrikaans in 1946 and Wagner's Tannhäuser. He also started to employ local singers such as Dirk Lourens, Betsy de la Porte and Cecilia Wessels.

He also campaigned seriously for the establishment of a state sponsored national theatre and performing arts sponsorship, along with P.P.B. Breytenbach, Myles Bourke and others, which led to the founding the NTO in 1947.

As conductor and director


Antoinette Johanna Olivier. 2014. 'Exploring contributions to opera by The Black Tie Ensemble: a historical case study'. Mini-dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master‟s in Music at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University.

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