Bagpipes, bells… with strings attached


Richard Cock, the conductor of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra’s (CPO) sold-out Gala Concert at the National Arts Festival, is always happy when the concert is sold out as that shows that Festival goers appreciate classical music even when it is disruptive music.

“As with all programmes, I am inspired by themes, and thought of various types of disruption, which can be both a positive and a negative thing. Also there are historical disruptions, like wars etc which can be linked. I was also thinking how things were before and after the disruption,” he said.

One of the disruptive pieces was The Entertainer composed by Scott Joplin, which was used as the theme in the film The Sting in 1974, the year that the National Arts Festival started. This is ragtime piece and normally played on the piano, but in accordance with the sub-title of this year’s concert – “Strings attached” – it was played by the strings section accompanied by a drummer.

To carry on being disruptive, the audience were called back to their seats after the interval, not by a bell, but rather by a trio of bagpipes. They then accompanied the orchestra in Mull of Kintyre by Paul McCartney.

Another disruptive piece was an arrangement of Beatle songs arranged by Ian Sutherland in the style of the ballet music of Tchaikovsky. So instead of playing the music of the Nutcracker, this arrangement was called the Beatlecracker Suite.

The final piece of the scheduled programme was Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance March, No.1, otherwise known as the music for the song Land of Hope and Glory. Before conducting the piece Cock read out new lyrics appropriate for South Africa adapted by Mary Proust.

Land of many splendours

Where we can be free

All standing together

In diversity


Let us build this nation

Working side by side

For a brighter future

For all, nationwide.


Asked what the audience reaction was to the disruptive music programme, Cock said they enjoyed it.

“I think the audience reaction was good. As with many concerts they warmed up as the programme went on. By the end they were screaming for more!” he said.

Cock said he had performed at almost every National Arts Festival since 1984, but he preferred the more intimate venue of the Rhodes Chapel.

“Some of the more intimate concerts at the Rhodes Chapel have been very memorable because of their intimacy and intensity. I love sharing experiences with audiences, and some of those have been very special,” he concluded.

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