PETA STEWART

Although he has never been to a Viennese New Year’s concert in person, Richard Cock is a great fan, thanks to television … and like the rest of us fell in love with the golden Musikverein in Vienna as the backdrop for the Vienna Philharmonic and its amazingly popular concerts.

Richard Cock: New Year

Two things immediately struck him.  There were many European visitors to Cape Town over the festive season and maybe they would be interested. Plus, there would be many locals who would be, too. So he contacted the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and six years ago he proved with the first concert that beginning the new year with a bright programme of singing and often dancing was just what people wanted.

Early next year on January 5 2019, soprano Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi and tenor Sipho Fubesi, who recently returned to South Africa after being part of a Young Artist’s programme at Covent Garden,  will sing gorgeous arias like Mein Herr, Marquis,  Dein ist Mein ganzes Herz, and Lippen Schweigen. Cock will conduct the CPO in a mix of waltzes and polkas as he takes the audience along the Blue Danube in his inimitable and much-loved style.

Cock also presents these concerts in Johannesburg and in Stellenbosch, just some of the many concerts he produces. Come February 2019, he will be back in Cape Town to rehearse and then take the CPO to Vergelegen in Somerset West for Rand Merchant Bank’s Starlight Classics for the 21st  time on March 1 and 2. Starlight Classics came about when Rand Merchant Bank was looking for an event to entertain clients and potential clients. A team came up with the concert, “we tried it and, as with the Viennese New Year, it worked,” he says.

Richard Cock: Popular presence

Richard Cock is one of the most popular presences on stage in the country. Audiences have been known to beg for more, and he delivers more …not, as he says, necessarily an encore but another kind of concert. It was he who was the driving force  behind the nation building concerts of the 1990s, and it is he who produces the International  Mozart Festival in Johannesburg.

Born in Port Elizabeth, schooled at Bishops in Cape Town, graduating from the SA College of Music, he was soon off to London on scholarship to the Royal School of Church Music.  A few years later, in 1978, he became Director of Music at the Cathedral Choir School and assistant organist at Chichester Cathedral, and also became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.

But South Africa always beckoned, and in 1980 he was back. Amongst his many achievements over the past 50 years is the internationally recognised Chanticleer Singers, which he founded in 1980. He has become one of South Africa’s most famed choral trainers, and was also organist and director of music at St Mary’s Cathedral for 12 years. Another choir he founded was the Symphony Choir of Johannesburg.

In 1999, after eight years as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Johannesburg, Cock went freelance and embarked on his passion to change the face of music in this country, to be innovative and to continually bring new and exciting events to the public.  His success is evidenced by his many awards: an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Rhodes University, a Parnassus Award from Stellenbosch University, a special award from the ATKV for his 30 years’ dedication to spreading the love of music in South Africa and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arts & Culture Trust.

Richard Cock born to music

Richard Cock was born to music.  “My father sang in his school choirs, and my mother played the piano. My grandparents and great-grandparents were more involved, as organists and Gilbert and Sullivan promoters. My grandfather and his brother were choristers at St Saviours Claremont, and after that at St Georges Cathedral.  My grandmother was at St Cyprians, and used to admire the head chorister, and guess what … they married!!!!”

Richard himself married a choir mistress, Sue Cock, and while his children are not musicians they are active around music. His daughter Alexander is a super-efficient organiser working with her dad, and his son Henry, a restaurateur, naturally includes music events at his restaurants.

Who: Richard Cock

What: CPO Viennese New Year’s concerts

Where: Cape Town City Hall on January 5 2019 at 3pm and 7pm

Tickets: Computicket and Artscape Dial-A-Seat on 021 421 7695

WS