Johannesburg Festival Orchestra
The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra (JFO) made its debut in concert with Julian Lloyd-Webber at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre in 1998. The musicians were key members of the National Symphony Orchestra, the State Theatre Orchestra and the National Chamber Orchestra, all of which had been disbanded. This JFO is unique in the South African context, because of its versatility. In any given week, the musicians can be called upon to play school concerts in Soweto, while at the same time rehearsing for big outdoor pop concerts, and preparing for overseas artists such as Joshua Bell and Lynn Harrell or Bocelli and the late Pavarotti.
The management and the musicians are totally committed to bringing music to as wide an audience as possible. They believe sincerely that the youth in South Africa will be the audiences and performers of the future, and are doing as much as they can to educate and touch the lives of as many South Africans as possible through live performances, television and radio.
Some notable artists with whom the orchestra have worked include Joshua Bell, Andrea Bocelli, Pavarotti, Sarah Brightman, Pretty Yende, Kanye West, Katherine Jenkins, Josh Grobin, Yehudi Menuhin, Julian Lloyd-Webber and Florian Uhlig.
Local TV broadcasts include Starlight Classics (winner of a Raptor Award in 2002 and a SAFTA award 2007), Woza Xmas, Sewende Laan Ball, and Nation Building Massed Choir Festival. Annual concerts include the 702 Zoo Mother’s Day Concert, Last Night of the Proms and outreach concerts in Eldorado Park. They also have performed shows such as Rock Legends, Rat Pack, The Merry Widow, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Simply Ballroom.
The JFO has recorded two Starlight Classics CDs, the Bala Brothers album, as well as two CDs with the Symphony Choir of Johannesburg: Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Christmas with Richard Cock.
The JFO has accompanied the South African Ballet Theatre in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, La Traviata, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, and played for the William Kentridge production of Mozart’s Magic Flute to great critical acclaim. For three years (2005 to 2007), the JFO was proud to be the Orchestra-in-Residence for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. They are the resident orchestra for the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival, which takes place at the beginning of every year.