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Just in: Last chords tonight for South Africa’s failing orchestra

The Johannesburg Philharmonic gives its last concert tonight before closure. It has been placed under bankruptcy protection and is emitting airy talk of reorganization.  Brahms has been replaced by Beethoven’s first symphony in the final concert in order to employ fewer players.

There has been a stench of decay around the orchestra’s management for many months. However, the boss, Shadrack Bokaba, will not be sacked. It is the players and the audience who will pay the price as, from tomorrow, Johannesburg disappears off the orchestral map of the world.

Read today’s trenchant article by man on the spot, John Ellis.

UPDATE: The musicians haven’t been paid for months. I guess Mr Bokaba’s still drawing salary. Maybe he’d like to share.

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  1. eitan bezalel says:

    What a disaster….

  2. Timon Wapenaar says:

    Careful there, people… Bokaba certainly has been criticised, but accusations of fraud in this matter are NOT a matter of record, probably due to the very real threat of being sued for libel. Norman, I will go with your “stench of decay” line, but cannot countenance any of John Ellis’ airy accusations of fraud, for which not a single thread of evidence is mentioned. This kind of witch-hunting gives Bokaba the opportunity to play the victim, a pantomime which he certainly does not deserve a part in. If you want a real angle on a real victim here, you will find it in the disbanded cadets program, and in the character of the youngsters for whom the JPO had undertaken to provide a future, who were given accommodation in Johannesburg, and who have now been kicked out. Some of them will have no choice but to return to places as far afield as Mafikeng. Too soon, they have learnt a hard lesson in how not to run a modern orchestra. Who will teach them the right way?

    Who is John Ellis, anyway?

  3. Stuart Green says:

    Why do the bosses always survive,after all without the orchestra their job doesn’t exist. Take note Michael Henson!

  4. Sorry, so sorry..I played with them 6-7 years ago, many musicians from abroad, it was good orchestra with his own audience…
    Good luck to everybody!!

  5. Dear all, what a tragedy!! Forget about the mud throwing, but Is there really nothing that can be done to save this orchestra? Bravo to the players and Bernard Gueller for hanging in there!!

  6. mary soilex says:

    It’s a shame I say! Why oh why must they ruin an institution like this. Its a disgrace and I am
    infuriated that such a stench of decay can persist for so long,to no end but this.
    For shame to the management and for shame to the South African Minister of Culture for not stepping in to save this great institution. Culture is important, no? Or is this culture to ephemeral for that country now?

  7. Shirley de Kock Gueller says:

    Tonight and tomorrow are the last concerts of the season and let’s hope not the last of the JPO. While there’s a business rescue plan out there, there’s still hope and the concert tonight is Dvorak New World, as planned, and thanks to the support of many musicians who are playing for the love of the JPO despite what has happened and been done to them. Agreed, Conrad, bravo to them all. I am sorry not to be there.

  8. Very sad indeed! …But In order to be able to help one would certainly need to see figures (present and past)? Or is just writing a blank cheque? Don’t mean to be despondent: many people (including myself) would love to help but if all remains the same in the management, what is really the point?? Sounds a bit like the rescue plan in my own country…

  9. peter kramer says:

    what a real tragedy…….they need to take lessons from the ecpo under gill barnett as well as kzn phil and last but not least the ctpo under louis heynemann……they all seen to be ok….run like a tight ship….and run with vision for the future.go for it guys!!!!!

  10. Whether fraud was involved or not, surely mismanagement has to be sheeted home to the CEO, Bokaba?

    How on earth does he remain standing while everyone else gets the flick? That is all arse about face.

    By all accounts he has been useless at schmoozing performers – competence in that area might, at least, have constituted some redeeming virtue. As it is, I see no signs of anyone having anything good to say about his time as boss.

    Get rid of him, find someone competent to run the thing, and start all over again, giving priority to the performers, not to idiots waving advanced diplomas in leisure management.

    • Timon Wapenaar says:

      I think a case for mismanagement can surely be made. The whole point is to get him out of the picture quickly and with as little fuss as possible.

  11. Just to get even more clarification on the reality of this issue, please read:

an ArtsJournal blog