The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra made its debut in concert with Julian Lloyd-Webber at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre in 1998. The musicians were all key members of the National Symphony Orchestra, the State Theatre Orchestra and the National Chamber Orchestra, all of which had been recently disbanded. This orchestra is unique in the South African context because of its versatility. In any given week, the musicians can be called upon to play school concerts in Soweto, while at the same time rehearsing for big outdoor pops concerts and preparing for overseas artists such as Joshua Bell and Lynn Harrell.
The management and the musicians are totally committed to bringing music to as wide an audience as possible. They believe sincerely that the youth in South Africa will be the audiences and performers of the future, and are doing as much as they can to educate and touch the lives of as many South Africans as possible through live performances, television and radio. Some prominent overseas artists accompanied by the JFO to date include Julian Lloyd-Webber, the late Luciano Pavarotti, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Joshua Bell, Lynn Harrell and Pinchas Zukerman.
Local TV broadcasts include Starlight Classics (winner of a Raptor Award in 2002 and a SAFTA award 2007), Woza Xmas, Sewende Laan Ball, and the Nation Building Massed Choir Festival. Annual concerts include the 702 Zoo concert (16th year), Last Night of the Proms (12th year) and outreach concerts in Eldorado Park (9th year). They are also the Orchestra-in-Residence at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre and have performed shows such as Rock Legends, Rat Pack and The Merry Widow and Thoroughly Modern Millie.
They have made the trip to Gaborone, in Botswana, to play at the Maitisong Festival for 12 years.
They have recorded two Starlight Classics CDs and the recent Bala Brothers CD. In recent years, the JFO accompanied the South African Ballet Theatre in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, La Traviata, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, and most recently played for the William Kentridge production of Mozart’s Magic Flute to excellent reviews. The JFO was proud to be the Orchestra-in-Residence for the 2005 to 2007 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.
The Johannesburg Festival Orchestra is an active partner in the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival.