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Unisa online - Organ concerts salute the classics

A close up of the Rieger Organ

Johann Sebastian Bach, Arnold Schoenberg and François Couperin are some of the world’s most famous composers and classical artists. Their music and memories were celebrated during a weeklong Organ concert, part of the Unisa Organ Symposium which started on 9 July 2012.

A number of people turned out at the ZK Matthews Hall to listen to renditions of their favourite composers. The university’s Music Foundation Symphony Orchestra, Jeremy Joseph and Zorada Temmingh, among others, all gave performances. According to Alet Joubert, music events administrator for the institute’s Music Foundation, the popularity of the concerts has warranted their return, but education is another key aspect. “As part of the Community Music Development Project, young students have been incorporated into the Orchestra as part of the final concert. The event can therefore be seen as supporting the arts as well as making a strong educational impact on society.”

Unisa has a long history of promoting the arts, with music examinations presented all over South Africa for more than a century. The Foundation was established in the 1980’s to promote music by presenting concerts and competitions and since 1982 has hosted many acclaimed local and international artists.

Ockie Vermeulen’s (Organist), debut album, Highland Cathedral topped the South African music charts for over 50 consecutive weeks.

The concert began with a jazz version of Bach’s, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which has been popularized by theatre and films including Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera.

The main attraction of many concerts for the past two decades has been the infamous Rieger Organ. “In 1992 the Rieger Organ was installed in the hall, after tremendous efforts by an organ committee lead by Prof Antony Melck, the eventual Vice-Principal of Unisa. It was imported from Austria and has about 3500 pipes, most hidden behind the large pipes in front and is used during each graduation ceremony,” says Joubert.

World renowned organist, Ockie Vermeulen, led a small group of musicians for the concert, Organ in a contemporary idiom, to showcase the Rieger’s versatility. “I would like to thank Unisa for hosting these concerts. Music from this organ is not something you can eat, but hopefully you’ll like the taste.”

Concert goers turned out in their numbers.

The young, old and not so old.

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