Lore Watterson is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Creative Feel Magazine
The wonderful news of the JPO re-launch in Johannesburg is not just about a new image and world-class line up for the embattled Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. It has much to do with the vision and passion of the man who has been instrumental in the re-launch, Bongani Tembe, chief executive of the KZN Philharmonic since 1994 and now the joint CEO and artistic director of the JPO and KZNPO. We here at Creative Feel have worked with Bongani in the past, like the France – SA and SA – UK Seasons and have witnessed his energy, his enthusiasm and his unbelievable networking ability; nothing for him is impossible. When Bongani announced the powerful new board of the re-launched JPO at a press conference at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, it became evident that in typical Bongani style he was bringing together some of the biggest names in the country that include the former Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Dikgang Moseneke, and Nonkululeko Nyembzi, Chairman of the JSE. Nyembzi feels strongly that it’s important that Johannesburg, like all great cities around the world, should have a sustainable world-class orchestra and a vibrant cultural scene. Most importantly, when he was appointed, Bongani managed to turn their financial woes around and managed to clear all the legacy issues. The JPO is now out of business rescue, with the help of big sponsorships, and partnerships, as well as a new board of highly credible business and political figures.
The Executive Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, himself a long-time supporter of the Field Band Foundation, responded to the JPO re-launch by committing millions of Rands to the sustainability of the JPO for at least the next three years. He stressed that it was important for Johannesburg to have a vibrant cultural scene and emphasises the work the JPO will do in reaching out to communities to uplift, inspire and educate through the power of music. At the same time, a sponsor who wants to be kept anonymous also donated millions, and others like the JSE and the Javett Foundation announced their support. Beyond bringing world-class talent to the city, a clear goal of the JPO is to attract a new, younger and more diverse audience to this type of music. In the concert programme, Bongani started his message to concertgoers by referencing this brand vision. ‘The new identity of the JPO has been inspired by the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge, coupled with a movement motif. With one note, the audience can be transported across time, place and setting. Music has the ability to transport us, to tap into our emotions and to move us. In a city that has a natural beat and energy, music is very much part of our everyday lives. The JPO exists to bring our stories, culture and city to life through excellence in musical performance and community engagement.’ Last month, the newly re-launched JPO presented their first and totally sold out concert, featuring superstar American conductor Roderick Cox, and Russian-American pianist Olga Kern to a spellbound Joburg audience. The applause, the standing ovation and the demand for an encore just showed how much the people of Joburg appreciated that THEIR orchestra is alive and back.