Meet choir’s new conductor

Dr Sjoerd Alkema

Dr Sjoerd Alkema from Brackenfell took over earlier this year as conductor of the Con Spirito Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, and one of his first major projects will be conducting Handel’s Messiah on Saturday November 26.

Ernst Conradie, the founder and director of Con Spirito Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra retired at the end of last year, after an illustrious 10-year term with the popular orchestra that was launched in 2006, the same year Mozart’s 250th anniversary was celebrated.

Con Spirito promotes the performance arts by presenting regular classical music concerts in the northern suburbs, and in the capable hands of Dr Alkema, a veteran classical musician and academic who lives in Vredekloof and also owns Brackenfell’s well-known Allmusic store, audiences can look forward to the tradition, started by Mr Conradie, being continued in the same vein.

The Messiah was performed under Mr Conradie’s baton, and Dr Alkema says he is honoured to be presenting this highly revered choral work under his baton.

He says the work is a magnificient celebration of spirituality, and is also considered a perfect Christmas performance, with its well-known Hallelujah chorus.

Dr Alkema says timing is of the essence in conducting a work of this nature, where the orchestra and the choir need to be perfectly synchronised.

“I am taking a fresh approach with the work and the tempos have been chosen in such a way to present an authentic feel,” he says.

Having conducted the Bloemfontein Philharmonic Choir Society for 10 years with similar works, Dr Alkema told Northern News he plans to build the Con Spirito Choir, not only with his own interpretation of the Messiah, but next year with Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

His experience as conductor includes Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Haydn’s The Creation, opera and operetta excerpts, a concert with Zanne Stapelberg as soloist and various other orchestral concerts.

He started his musical career in the early 1980s in Windhoek. Ever since then he has been building it by wearing many hats, as performer, teacher, examiner and adjudicator.

A highlight of his career was a two-year sojourn in Salzburg. “This famous musical city is where I specialised,” he says.

For the completion of his conducting degree there, he held the baton for Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and a symphony concert with the Mozarteum Orchestra.

Back in South Africa, memorable productions include Il barbiere di Siviglia; Aida; La traviata; Fidelio; La Boheme; Lucia di Lammermoor; Nabucco; and Showboat.

He has conducted numerous performances of Fledermaus; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Camelot; Sound of Music; and Evita. During his 18-year stay in Bloemfontein, he started the Bloemfontein Philharmonic Choir and conducted Mozart’s Requiem; Handel’s Messiah; Haydn’s Creation; Rutter’s Gloria and Requiem; and Faure’s Requiem, among others.

As departmental head at the Free State Musicon, he accompanied students and lecturers at regular concerts; conducting the Free State Youth Symphony Orchestra (with which he toured the country annually); and taught piano and music theory lessons.

Handel’s Messiah, sponsored by the Rupert Foundation, will be performed on Saturday, November 26, at 7.3 0pm at the Bellville Uitsig Dutch Reformed Church, Mountain View Road, Ridgeworth. It tells the story of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. Soloists include Lente Louw, Minette du Toit-Pearce, Nick de Jager, Barend van der Westhuizen, and the orchestra under Dr Alkema.

Book at Computicket.

Tickets are R110 and R75, concessions for pensioners and students, available at Allmusic at 021 981 5551.