A highlight of each year’s Summer School programme at the University of Cape Town (UCT) is the series of musical lecture-performances in the Baxter Concert Hall. VOX is delighted to be a regular fixture at these presentations, bringing choral music to a much wider community.

Previously, VOX Cape Town participated in the following courses at the UCT Summer School:

UCT Summer School is a public education programme that offers a range of short courses to all, regardless of educational qualifications. Summer School seeks to make the academic resources of the university accessible to a wide range of students.

2023: Music Across Time


Grant McLachlan, composer

In the late twentieth century, several composers reacted against the inaccessible and difficult music of the avant-garde. Among these were the composers Arvo Pärt, Henryk Gorecki, Kim André Arnesen from Eastern and Northern Europe, and Eric Whitacre from the United States. The ethereal beauty of this music has captivated audiences worldwide. We will be presenting a selection from these composers performed by VOX Cape Town, interspersed with chamber music for strings and flute, including the sensitive and delicate miniatures of the British composer Jeremy Dale Roberts as well as music by Debussy. The performance Of Light, a setting by Grant McLachlan of four South African poems, will conclude the programme.

2020: A Brief History of Harmony, the Universe, and Everything


Grant McLachlan, composer

This course, which covers a thousand years of classical music, is designed for the classical music lover and concert-goer. It will give participants an understanding of the extraordinary journey that harmony has gone through as it developed over the centuries, and how it has arrived at the musical language we understand and love today.

The first lecture-performance covers medieval plainsong up to the age of discovery and the glorious flowering of harmony after 1500. The second lecture-performance explores ways in which music is designed from the early eighteenth century to keep the attention of a concert audience. The chamber music ensemble is led by Becky Steltzner. The final evening looks at how harmony and dissonance interact to affect our emotions. The baroque orchestra will be led by Lucia di Blasio-Scott with Nick De Jager as countertenor.


  1. Medieval to Renaissance: Plainsong and music by Dufay, Sheppard, Tallis and Tomkins performed by VOX Cape Town
  2. The age of the concert: Mozart, Chopin, Debussy and Messiaen
  3. The Baroque period: Gibbons to Bach: Monteverdi, Gibbons, Purcell, Vivaldi, Bach
2020: Homage to Handel


Dr Barry Smith, conductor, organist and musicologist 

Handel and Bach are often called “The Gemini of the Baroque”, but their works demonstrate that they are by no means identical twins. Bach wrote principally for the church, with passions, cantatas and organ works dedicated to the glory of God. Handel’s compositions are intended for the sheer enjoyment of his secular audiences and royalty, as well as for the church, with much-loved orchestral works, oratorios and operas. These two lecture performances will show Handel’s all-embracing and genial genius in a cheerful concerto grosso, some catchy harpsichord and organ music as well as in evergreen vocal and choral highlights from works which have stirred audiences over the past three centuries.

To mark Barry’s eightieth birthday, UCT Summer School thanks him for the wealth of superb music he has brought to participants over the years. The invitation to present this course is a tribute to his special feeling for Handel.

2019: A Beethoven Bouquet


Dr Barry Smith, musicologist and organist

Three concerts on successive nights will pay tribute to the genius and versatility of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) as reflected in his chamber works. The lecture-performances will include the mighty and tragic Pathétique piano sonata, the lyrical Spring Sonata for violin and piano, and a late string quartet. Beethoven’s moving song cycle for tenor, An die ferne Geliebte, will also feature, as will the Elegischer Gesang for choir and string quartet. The choral component will be performed by the acclaimed VOX Cape Town conducted by John Woodland.

The concert on the final evening will consist of the composer’s Trio in B flat for piano, clarinet and cello, Opus 11, and the Septet in E-flat major, Opus 20, with Dr Peter Martens and his fine colleagues. Dr Barry Smith will introduce the pieces, relating them to Beethoven’s life and work, and discussing their unique musical qualities.

2018: The Magic of Mozart


Dr Barry Smith, musicologist and organist

On three successive nights of lecture-performances, Dr Barry Smith and distinguished musician friends will conjure up an exciting selection of the musical treasures of Mozart, some of which are rarely heard live in Cape Town. The first evening will see his first and last string quartet framing a sublime selection of choral and vocal pieces, performed by the acclaimed group VOX Cape Town under the direction of John Woodland. The first string quartet (K80) was written when Mozart was just 14 years old. The final string quartet (K590) in F major was written in honour of the King of Prussia shortly before Mozart¹s death in 1789.

The second evening will feature chamber music, beginning with a popular early sonata for violin and piano K304, his second piano quintet in E-flat major, and the masterly and moving clarinet quintet that Mozart wrote for his clarinettist friend Anton Stadler. The course will conclude with an orchestral programme on the third night, with a performance of Symphony No. 29 in A major and the Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major for solo violin, viola and orchestra, in which internationally acclaimed local cellist Peter Martens will play the viola part on the cello.

2017: Three Brilliant Bs


Dr Barry Smith, musicologist, conductor and organist

The great trio of German composers, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, will be celebrated in three evenings of lecture-performances, with a focus on examples of their choral, organ and chamber music.

Although their lives did not overlap, the period of their compositions spanned almost two hundred years of exceptionally rich music in Germany – religious, classical and romantic – to which each contributed his unique creative gifts.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is often regarded as the greatest composer of all time. In its outstanding innovation and variety his work foreshadowed many later developments in music. Bach was an organist of wide renown in his lifetime. The first evening will feature one of his compositions for his favourite instrument, also a choral work and some chamber music.

The second lecture-performance will be devoted to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and particularly his chamber music. The performances will include a violin sonata, a cello sonata, and the piano trio Opus 70 (the ‘Ghost’).

The focus of the final evening will be Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and will include a choral work with organ accompaniment, and two of the composer’s best-known chamber works: the piano trio in B major which he revised, and the great G minor piano quartet.