Busy! Brandon Phillips


Symphonic classical music is one thing, but for Brandon Phillips, the CPO’s resident conductor who is conducting the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in its Symphonic Shakespeare concerts at the Maynardville Open-Air Festival, there’s no limit to his love for the classics ….  Hamlet was his matric Shakespeare, and he is looking forward to seeing The Taming of the Shrew at Maynardville soon after.

Also at Maynardville for the inaugural festival will be Les Sylphides (with music by Chopinand The Firebird (with music by Stravinsky) presented by Cape Town City Ballet, a company he has a great relationship with, having conducted Don Quixote last year. Then, also with a nod to the bard, is Jesters in the Park, presented by the Cape Town Comedy Club.

Concentrating on the Shakespeare showcase

And before and after Shakespeare, he has the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra to conduct, leading up to its Rotary concert in May, an outdoor concert at the Silo on February 2, and he is playing principal bassoon in the CPO’s 12th International Summer Music Festival which runs from February 1 to 18 at Artscape Opera, plus  conducting: the sunset concert at Kirstenbosch on February 11, the community cross-over gala on Sunday, February 25, also at Artscape and in March Starlight Classics at Vergelegen in Somerset West.

But for now he is concentrating on the Shakespeare … and that means getting his head around three different composers who concentrated on Romeo and Juliet – Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Berlioz. Then there are the fairies of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and the rousing Merry Wives of Windsor by Nicolai. To cap these works, the CPO and Phillips are  accompanying Louise Howlett, local Cape Town soprano, in a tone poem, As you Like it, by William Walton.

conductor Brandon Phillips

He settled on the bassoon

Coming out of the New Apostolic Church’s superb music programme, Phillips, who was born in Mitchell’s Plain, came to conducting via the recorder, flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone, trumpet, euphonium, guitar, and in strings the cello, viola and violin (no double bass!), and he sings! He settled on the bassoon, which he has been playing as a section principal of the CPO since 2009 because he fell in love with the instrument because of its various tone colours.

How does he see his future? At the moment, he knows he doesn’t have enough hours in his day.

“I spend one-third of  my time playing bassoon, one-third working with the Cape Town Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and one-third conducting not only in Cape Town, but in Johannesburg and later this year with the MIAGI Orchestra in Europe. The time left over I spend adjudicating, and with my wife and two-year-old daughter and my family. We are extremely close – my mother Joan, and brothers Gavin and Ashley who are also musicians. My mom used to play the viola, but sadly she went blind and has to stop playing. Gavin conducts the development orchestra in the New Apostolic Church and also plays the cello; Ashley plays the oboe in the same orchestra. Oh yes, then there’s the 4th Len van Zyl Conductors’ Competition coming up. I won the inaugural competition and have been on the panel of adjudicators ever since. Entries for that close on January 15, 2018, and my work begins at the master classes in June and goes through to the finals in February.”

Perhaps the time will come when he will have to make a choice, but for now he is one of the happiest men on the planet.

Who: Symphonic Shakespeare
What:  CPO and Brandon Phillips (conductor)
Where: Maynardville Open-Air Festival, Wynberg
When: 18- 20 January, 2018 at 8.15pm
Info, book:
 www.cpo.org.za/ Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695 / http://bit.ly/ShakespeareMaynardville