The Johannesburg Bach Choir was established in 1964. The following is a short history up to 2000, written by Ken Fuller, a former chairman of the JBC.
The Johannesburg Bach Choir was formed in 1964 by Tony Fell (pictured below) with the object of performing the lesser-known and smaller-scale works of J.S. Bach, in particular the cantatas.
Tony Fell, who graduated from King’s College, Cambridge, used to sing in the College choirs and play cello in the orchestra. Once in Johannesburg, he joined the Nicolson Choir and often assisted the conductor, Mr Guy Nicolson, who was headmaster of the Ridge Preparatory School in Parktown. Tony Fell also directed the music of The Beggar’s Opera when this was staged in Johannesburg by the Trinity Players in 1962.
When the Nicolson Choir disbanded due to the ill-health of Guy Nicolson, Mr Colin Anderson, a well-known Johannesburg mining man, suggested that Fell should “do Bach’s Cantatas which have never been performed live in Johannesburg”. This idea was not new to Fell, but, encouraged, he discussed the proposal with musically talented Barbara Bailey of Rosebank, and soon a small choir of about ten voices started rehearsing at the home of her parents, Dr and Mrs H. Epstein in Oxford Road, Illovo.
The Johannesburg Bach Choir’s first public concert, conducted by Tony Fell, was given on 1 September 1964 at St Catherine’s Church in Bramley, one of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.
Since then, and under other conductors, the choir has developed and continues to perform in public, usually twice a year.