Paul Boekkooi

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Paul Boekkooi (194*-) Arts journalist, theatre reviewer and music critic.


Born in Utrecht, The Netherlands, Paul Boekkooi comes from a musical family who emigrated to South Africa when he was a mere eight months old. The family settled in Pretoria, where he also had his school and university education. As a child he started with piano lessons, and between the age of 12 and 16 continued his musical studies as a French horn player. His first public appearances was in concert with his brothers, then known as the Boekkooi Trio and -Quartet, playing not only the French horn, but also a “zink’’ (a Medieval trumpet-like wooden instrument) and various percussion instruments.

Paul is married to pianist, musical director, composer/arranger and writer Dr. Rexleigh Bunyard and they have one son, Bernard, who plays the cello.

For three years in a row he was principal horn in the National Youth Orchestra and played under conductors like Pierino Gamba, Walter Susskind, Leo Quayle and Edgar Cree. After leaving the NYO, he was often called in as an ad hoc player for the then SABC Orchestra. After receiving informal conducting lessons from the late Jos de Groen, snr as well as others, Boekkooi from time to time conducted a wind ensemble consisting mainly of University of Pretoria music students. At the age of 22 he decided that serious music making was no money spinner and got his first full-time job as an assistant at a well-known Pretoria book and music retailer, Universitas.

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

Preceding these years (1973-1975), he started writing on music in the Pretoria Afrikaans daily, Hoofstad and when the post of arts editor at its sister newspaper, Oggendblad, became vacant in January 1976, Boekkooi was requested to apply for the position. Before the demise of Oggendblad, Beeld’s office in Pretoria needed an arts representative and Boekkooi joined that newspaper in early 1983. However, the challenges to experience the inner workings of magazine journalism presented itself when Insig, Naspers’s newly established monthly news magazine required the services of an arts editor, with added sub-editing responsibilities, and Boekkooi joined them in 1987, staying till the end of 1995.

During his Insig years the loss of reporting daily on the arts, was somehow softened through his involvement in various specialised fields at specific newspapers: Since 1990 he became the official opera critic of Rapport, and two years later joined The Star as their music critic till October 2000. After going freelance since January 1996, Boekkooi’s reviews, articles and interviews have been widely published in all South Africa’s major newspapers and magazines. Two specialised beats which continued for some time were his involvement as film critic for The Citizen and theatre critic for Beeld.

He has been commissioned to write for overseas magazines like Opera, Orff Heute, the German mouthpiece of the Carl Orff Society in Munich, while also reporting selectively on the SA arts scene for the Dutch daily, NRC Handelsblad. He’s also well-known as a writer of well-informed but not academically mouldy programme notes, having written for the tours of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, I Musici and Tokyo String Quartet, amongst others, but also for local companies/orchestras like NAPOP, Pro Musica, State Theatre Opera, the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the MIAGI Festival.

Apart from reviewing live events, he keeps up to date with the latest written music, interpretations of older music and the art of performance on its widest scale, by reviewing newly released CD’s. Columns reflecting this activity have appeared frequently in newspapers like Business Day, Rapport and The Sunday Independent.

He was involved as film critic for The Citizen and theatre critic for Beeld.

During 2004-2005 he was the film editor for Beeld but subsequently freelanced for Rapport, Beeld, The Star and Jewish Report on film, theatre and music.

In May 2008 he completed a feature film script as co-scriptwriter for a project involving the South African director Regardt van den Bergh.


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