Organic sounds

2009-05-10 00:00

ORGANIST Christopher Cockburn is looking forward to once again performing on an instrument he describes as the “Rolls Royce of organs”, when he joins the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra for All Time Top Classics in the city hall on July 23.

He’ll be performing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, a piece he first heard in the film 20 000 Leagues Under The Sea in the scene where Captain Nemo is playing the organ on the Nautilus.

Asked what it was like to perform on the English pipe organ in the city hall, Cockburn said: “I think it is one of the most impressive organs you will see anywhere in the world and the sound of that instrument in that building, the physical impact of it, cannot be matched by any set of loudspeakers in the world.

“It’s also a very rewarding instrument to play ... it’s not an instrument that you have to coax or fight with to get the sound you want. It’s the Rolls Royce of organs and I believe that by playing it and letting people hear it, you help to raise awareness of what a treasure it is.”

Cockburn, who lectures at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Durban, is a born and bred Maritzburger, who attended Scottsville Primary and Alexandra High, before heading off to the University of Cape Town to do his Bachelor of Music.

He has recently completed his doctorate in which he investigated the history of Handel’s Messiah in South Africa. “What interested me was how widely known Handel’s Messiah was,” he explained, “and not only among the descendants of British colonialists. I became aware that choirs from black communities also knew the piece and performed it.

“I was interested in how that came about, what the piece meant to people, and how its meaning had changed from one historical period to another and from one culture to another.”

Cockburn discovered that the earliest record of the piece was in Cape Town in 1830, that it was performed in Pietermaritzburg in 1902 to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII and that in the fifties, a choir, conducted by a man dismissed from his post at Orlando High School because of his criticism of the Bantu Education Act, sang the piece as an act of defiance.

Asked when he first started playing piano, Cockburn said: “I don’t know ... I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember. I suppose someone must have shown me, perhaps my dad [organist, David Cockburn], who was a musician. I can tell you that I started formal music lessons at the age of seven.”

His greatest influence is Gillian Weir, who once performed in Pietermaritzburg, and who taught him for three months in his fourth year at UCT.

“She was and still will be recognised as one of the greatest organists in the world. I was incredibly privileged to have had her as a lecturer,” he said.

“Her understanding of the organ as an expressive instrument really spoke to me.”

 

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.