Concert announcer goes underground

Mr Fixit Alexios Vicatos with the City Halls carillon which he restored and played on Armistice Day. He also restored the silent 18th century grandfather clock at the College of Music.

Some of the changes to the revamped City Hall which went unnoticed when first we were admiring the new seats and the restored and repainted mouldings, are now becoming obvious.

Such as the “disappearance” of certain musicians and that Rodney Trudgeon, Fine Music Radio’s live concert announcer, has gone underground.

No longer do he and his Afrikaans counterpart, Waldo Buckle, deliver their broadcasts of the CPO’s concerts from the special space built above the balcony where they had a bird’s-eye view of everything.

Now they are like a couple of moles buried underground at the back of the stage, dependent on closed-circuit television from two cameras in a roof to see the orchestra, conductor and audience.

This new commentary box was created during the process of installing the piano lift under the stage. Builders digging out the ground extended their excavations to create a few useful rooms, one of which is now where Rodney and Waldo deliver their broadcasts.

Some concertgoers sitting downstairs have been put out that they no longer can see the woodwinds, brass and percussion players. In response Louis Heyneman, the CEO of the CPO, has explained that the raised platforms – which these musicians have used for decades – are now in tatters.

“During our first concert after the renovations, the sharp edges damaged the new stage and any new platforms will have to be designed with rubber coverings to protect the stage and backboard.”

However he said, due to the CPO’s “financial predicament” it was in no position to pay for this equipment.

“It is our view that any auditorium should have its own platforms and we hope the City of Cape Town will include this in the current year’s budget, which started in July. We will continue our negotiations with the City and keep our patrons posted.”
So till then, the disappearing musicians will be heard but not seen.

Mr Fixit to the rescue

Alexios Vicatos is fast proving to be a “Mr Fixit”. Not only did he get the City Hall’s carillon going again after 17 years of silence, but in 2011 he resurrected the handsome 18th century grandfather clock in the foyer of the College of Music.

His mother, Evelyn, recalls that in 1959, when she was eigh8 and taking piano lessons at the College, the clock was silent. And on my many visits to the building as a kid, music student and a newspaper reporter, I never saw it in action.

Luckily for the clock, one of Alexios’s interests is horology – the art of making clocks or watches, or of measuring time. While studying for his BSc in Chemistry at UCT he also took organ lessons at the college and noticed how the clock was 
gathering dust, which turned to mud after heavy winter rains in 2011 fell directly from the leaking roof on to the tall, handsome timepiece.

He approached Gillian Lindner, the efficient and friendly concert co-ordinator for the past 19 years, and offered to repair it. University permission was duly approved and he took out the rusty and dusty parts, polished all the gears and plates that hold the gears together and gave the clock a thorough going-over.

Luckily the clock didn’t suffer the fate of Humpty Dumpty who nobody could put together again and for the past seven years Gillian has enjoyed hearing it chime the hour from her office nearby.

Another feather in Alexios’s cap was that in 2016 he played the organ at his own UCT’s graduation ceremony when he received his Honours degree in Chemistry along with his sister Giselle, who earned her Master’s in Chemistry.

The two siblings were hooded by their parents, biomedical engineer Associate Professor George Vicatos and his wife, Evelyn, both in the faculty of Engineering and Built Environment.

Alexios is now studying for his PhD in Chemistry.

Man on the moon

On July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong was about to walk on the moon, Capetonians abandoned their desks and duties to crowd excitedly around the radio to hear his famous first words.

A friend flew to London to watch the historic event as South Africans were still denied television.

Nearly 50 years on First Man, a brilliant movie based on James R Hansen’s excellent book on the Apollo 11 mission, drew only 10 people the night we saw it.

Real brave men strapped into narrow seats and brutally shaken and rolled before a bone-rattling, ear-scorching trip that may end in death, is obviously not as thrilling for today’s audiences as computer-generated adventure movies.

One critic wrote that to be an astronaut you needed to be the bravest person on Earth, or have a death wish.

Ryan Gosling’s Armstrong falls somewhere between. Gutted by the death of his 2-year-old daughter from a brain tumour, he shuts down his emotions and enrols in the Apollo programme as a distraction. He leaves his wife, Janet (Claire Foy), out in the cold to become a reluctant single mom to two sons, while Neil devotes his energies and mind in helping NASA sort out the dangers that could cause the failure of getting to the moon and back.

Watching the couple’s troubled relationship unfold proved as absorbing as realising what an amazing human achievement it was for NASA to succeed. It just seemed a pity that more Capetonians missed the chance to salute the roughly 399 999 involved, before Armstrong finally pulled it off.

Honeymoon phase

The honeymoon’s over when he phones that he’ll be late for supper – and she has already left a note that it’s in the fridge.