J.H. Ashley

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Mr J.H. Ashley (fl. 1850-1873) was a musician and amateur performer.

Also referred to as Mr Ashley or simply Ashley in some sources.


Nothing about his life, beyond his involvement in Cape Town from 1856-1873, has yet been found.

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

According to Bosman (1980) he was immensely important in various capacities in the theatrical and musical life of Cape Town between about 1856 and 1873, when he withdrew from musical work.

As teacher

He introduced the Tonic Solfa method into the country, offering classes at the YMI and Club (Young Men's Institute and Club, later known simply as the YMI).

Performer in theatre

A member of the short-lived City Amateur Theatrical Society in Cape Town in 1854. He played the upholsterer "Furnish" in The First Floor (Cobb) on 21 August 1854.

Organiser and founder of various musical and performance societies

In 1858 he founded the Cape Town Choral Society, with which he directed a number of oratoria, cantatas, and other "concerts of vocal music" in Cape Town over the years.

In 1870 he is again teaching the tonic solfa method at the YMCA in Cape Town and had apparently founded a Tonic Solfa Choral Union which put on oratoria and other musical works, such as Handel's Messiah, The Flower Queen, or The Coronation of the Rose, A Summer Day (Leveridge, based on the scene with the witches from Macbeth), and the children's operetta The Picnic (Thomas).

According to Bosman (who is really unclear about the specific relationship), he had a rival in the musical director Mr Bucke (fl. 1872-1873), who had founded (or perhaps taken over or resuscitated?) the Cape Town Choral Society in 1872 (or earlier, again Bosman has contradictory information about this).

Director of music and theatre

He was musical director for performances of various oratoria and other works for a range of companies and organisations, the works including The Flower Queen, or The Coronation of the Rose in May, 1866, A Summer Day in 1870, (Leveridge, based on the scene with the witches from Macbeth), the children's operetta The Picnic (Thomas) in November, 1872, and , A Summer Day (1870), The Picnic (November, 1872) and Handel's The Messiah in 1873.


F.C.L. Bosman, 1928. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel I: 1652-1855. Pretoria: J.H. de Bussy. [1]: pp.426-7

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1916. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp. 185, 287-8,

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