Van Wyk is one of a select few South African organists who have been invited to perform in the Abbey’s 950-year history, where famous composers worked and are buried
A FORMER Kimberley schoolboy, Professor Theo van Wyk, now head of UP Arts at the University of Pretoria, has been invited to perform a solo organ recital at the prestigious Westminster Abbey in London later this month.
Van Wyk was born in Roodepan and completed his schooling at Floors Secondary School in 1992.
He currently resides in Pretoria.
According to a statement issued by the university’s public relations department, Van Wyk is one of a select few South African organists who have been invited to perform in the Abbey’s 950-year history, where famous composers such as Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) worked and are buried.
Van Wyk will be playing exclusively South African organ compositions for this momentous occasion during the month of Africa Day, including Surendran Reddy’s “Toccata for Madiba”, a work dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela featuring various African music genres such as marabi, kwela, mbaqanga and township jazz.
He will also be playing works by Professor Henk Temmingh (former head of the Department of Music at UP), called “Three Organ Pieces”, as well as a composition titled “Kahlolo” (Judgement) which Van Wyk commissioned from Professor Alexander Johnson (current head of the Department of Music at UP).
“It will be the UK premiere of the latter work which I first performed in the USA in 2016,” Van Wyk said, adding that he was obviously thrilled at the prospect of performing in such an internationally recognised and sought-after venue.
For Van Wyk it is a childhood dream coming true, as not many musicians have the privilege and opportunity to perform at Westminster Abbey, especially not an organist from South Africa.
Van Wyk started piano lessons at an early age. After completing his high school education, he enrolled for the four-year Bachelor of Music degree at the University of the Free State under the mentorship of Dr Ernst Conradie (piano and organ), Professor Deon Lamprecht (organ) and Professor John Wille (viola).
During this time he received several awards and study bursaries and was a violinist in the Consortium Musicum string ensemble under Professor Derek Ochse.
He obtained the Performer’s Licentiate in organ at Unisa in 1998. He completed his BMus (Hons) and MMus degrees under the supervision of Professor Wim Viljoen at the University of Pretoria in 1999 and 2001 respectively. All of these were conferred cum laude.
In addition, Van Wyk trained as a choir conductor under acclaimed musicians, including Professor Petru Grabe (UP) and Professor Volker Hempfling (Germany).
The degree DMus which was conferred upon him in September 2005.
Van Wyk has attended various masterclasses, seminars and workshops, both locally and internationally, under distinguished musicians and conductors such as Marie-Claire Alain (France), Jacques van Oortmerssen (the Netherlands), Harold Vogel (Germany), Daniel Roth (France), Pieter van Dijk (the Netherlands), John Scott (United Kingdom) and Ludger Lohmann (Germany).
He is frequently invited to serve as a judge for national music competitions such as the Unisa Overseas Music Scholarships Competition and the SAMRO Overseas Scholarships Competition.
The iconic organ of Westminster Abbey was built by the firm Harrison & Harrison and was installed for the coronation of King George VI in 1937.
With five manuals and 84 speaking stops, it incorporates some of the pipework from the previous instrument built by William Hill in 1848.
The organ plays a central role in the Abbey’s daily liturgy, and accompanying the choral music with distinctive colour and sensitivity; it is also a powerful and versatile solo instrument.
Organ recitals by the Abbey organists and prominent performers from across the world take place every Sunday.