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A Brief Biography

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Now in its 59th year,the Rhodes University Chamber Choir (RUCC) was founded in 1953 as one of the first university choral ensembles in South Africa. It was established with the aim of providing students from all faculties with a platform for participating in and enjoying choral music. Prof Georg Grüber, the then Head of the Department of Music, was a pioneer in the field of choral music in South Africa and directed the Choir for 20 years, establishing a fine reputation, undertaking many tours in Southern Africa and Europe and releasing four long playing records. On its two overseas tours, the Choir performed in major centres all over Europe and in England, notably at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. In 1960 the Choir was invited to perform at the Union Jubilee celebrations.

4 October 2012, Rhodes Chapel

Prof Grüber's successor as Head of the Department of Music, Prof Rupert Mayr, took over as director of the Chamber Choir in 1974. Prof Mayr's term as conductor saw the establishment of the annual tours, which have become the culmination of the Choir’s annual work. Apart from taking the name of Rhodes to different parts of the country each year, the opportunity to travel during the September vacation enables the choristers to ‘bond’ and form long-lasting friendships. Under Prof Mayr the Choir sang at the opening of the 1820 Settlers' National Monument in 1974 and celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1978.

On Prof Mayr's retirement in 1987 Christopher Cockburn, a lecturer in the Department of Music, who was also organist and choirmaster at Grahamstown Cathedral, assumed the directorship of the Choir. Under Mr Cockburn the Choir undertook a highly successful tour of Zimbabwe in 1992, participated in the KUESTA student choral festivals, recorded regularly for the SABC and commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Choir with a reunion of alumni in Grahamstown in 1993.

Colleagues in the Department of Music, Daniela Heunis and Dennis Stander, conducted the choir in 1996 and 1997 respectively before Christopher Cockburn took over again in 1998. In 1999 and 2000 Brian Judge, retired Choral Director of St Andrew’s College and the Diocesan School for Girls filled the role of Choirmaster. The conductor of the highly-successful Victoria Girls’ High School Choir in Grahamstown, Denise Lesar, directed the Choir in 2001 while Markus Mostert, a lecturer in the Academic Development Centre at Rhodes, directed from 2002-2004. Mr Mostert oversaw the Choir’s 50th anniversary in 2003. The Anniversary was celebrated with a reunion attended by over 50 former choristers.

Madrigal Dinner, August 2012

In 2005 the baton passed to Philip Burnett, an alumnus of the Choir. He was also working as an organist and taught music at Kingswood College. Mr Burnett led the Choir on several successful tours to various parts of the country: to the Western and Eastern Cape, the Garden Route, Guateng and the Free State and KwaZulu Natal. Since 2005 the Choir has expanded its repertoire to include large-scale works. This saw seen collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Choir from Port Elizabeth. In 2005 the two choirs combined to perform WA Mozart’s Requiem and in 2006 Faure’s Requiem. The Choir also collaborated with other groups to sing FJ Haydn’s Nelson Mass and, on three occasions in 2008, 2009 and 2010, John Stainer’s The Crucifixion.

After Mr Burnett’s departure at the end of 2009, the Choir came under the leadership of John McGuiness, another alumnus. Under his direction, the Choir collaborated with the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of FJ Haydn’s The Creation. 2010’s tour saw the Choir travel around the Eastern Cape. At the beginning of 2011, the Choir came under the direction of Dario Broccardo, who led the Choir on its first tour to Gauteng in several years. During the eight-day tour, the Choir performed in schools, churches and a variety of other venues. The concerts received high praise and were always warmly-received. Most recently, at the beginning of 2012, the baton passed to Peter Breetzke, a choral musician of many years’ experience, who led the Choir on a tour to the Western Cape earlier this year.

Over the years the Choir has built up an impressive and varied repertoire of sacred and secular music in many different languages. The annual repertoire always strives to be an eclectic mix of music ranging from ancient Gregorian chant, through sixteenth century to contemporary and traditional styles. The aim of the Rhodes Choir is to promote all repertoires in order to retain the traditional and old and blend it with new and non-Western additions to the choral repertoire.

4 October 2012, Rhodes Chapel

Last Modified: Thu, 11 May 2017 10:20:33 SAST