Wesley Wolhuter, originally from Johannesburg and passionately inspired by the beauty of music since he was a young boy, has grown with his talents to become one of Cape Town’s skilled composers.
Perfect as the next Cape Town Talent choice, I sit down with Wesley and ask him a few career and lifestyle questions.
What inspired you to take up the cello?
I don’t just play the cello though, I’m also a pianist. I started playing the piano when I was about nine. Then when I went to the National School of the Arts, I was required to take a second instrument. At the time my voice was breaking and, though I used to sing in the choir at primary school, I arrived at the National School of the Arts and the choir master said to me, “Wesley, you’re voice makes the varnish peel of the piano. Please choose an orchestral instrument and go to orchestra rehearsal.” We had gone on a school outing to see the Johannesburg Philharmonic perform, and I was so amazed by the cello section. [Hence the choice of cello.]
The other interesting thing about me, I’m first and foremost an orchestral composer. I’m mad about the orchestra, it’s such a great pallet of colour. I adore performing, it’s such a rush. It’s such an amazing connection as well, when you actually get to see people in front of you when you move them. You actually see it on their faces, you see it in their eyes. It’s the most beautiful thing, and that’s when you get to have some really intimate experiences where you can ‘create’.
I get to make my thoughts manifest in sound.
How did it feel when you took on your first public performance?
I couldn’t wait to get on the stage. I love attention. I love entertaining and I love being entertained. For my first proper public performance on a stage in front of people that weren’t family, I was 11, I was at the music school in Glen Gowrie, Joburg, and it was the end-of-year concert in front of a whole hall of people. I loved the fact that I could keep people quiet for so long.
What 3 characteristics, in your opinion, does every musician need?
- Heart, because music must always come from the heart and speak only to the heart, those are in the words of Rachmaninoff. It’s such an amazing quote.
- Willingness to share and have a jam anytime. Share your experiences, be creative, yearn to create and move someone with the sounds you make.
- An open mind to experiencing any kind of music. Don’t ever become closed mined and say you’re stuck in a genre. Don’t ever not listen to music because of what other people tell you about it.
If you could travel back in time, what one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Practice your fucking scales. Every day!
The only thing that hinders you, I found, is lacking in technique in places. It only comes to bite you when you’re an adult. You finished university, you finished studying and there is no teacher anymore…now you’re the teacher. Practice your scales, very important. And know every key, because if you know every key you have such an endless amount of material to use. Every key is a different colour, a different emotional atmosphere.
Are you an animal lover, if yes, which one is your favourite and why?
I’m a cat lover, not mad about dogs.
Although, I had a Pitbull once, his name was Ziggy…he was lovely.
What are your top 3 favourite spots in Cape Town?
- I love Noordhoek and Noordhoek Beach, I just love how in the middle of nowhere it is, in a way. I lived in Fishhoek for three years, so I love the Southern Peninsula a lot, it’s such a beautiful place, especially during spring.
- Cape to Cube in Kalkbay, because it’s such an interesting experience. I love the fact that the train goes past there, it’s scary and it’s beautiful and it just brings one down to earth.
- Cape Town City Hall, being in there and knowing that we have that beautiful performance space available to us. Originally being from Joburg, the orchestra could never perform in Joburg’s City Hall, because that part of town is just too dangerous.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
I would love to have dinner with Bach, because he’s god on speed dial. I don’t think he’s ever composed anything that was bad. It’s all just works of incredible genius and it’s all from the heart. He just has this way of being so profound, in everything. What I love about him as well is that he almost always brings you to orgasm…and then he slaps you and says “no”.
What are your career plans for the future?
I’m doing the Joburg run with Madame Zingara for four months. After that, I plan to premier some new compositions, my piano concerto. And I’m working on an opera with Riaan Visman, who wrote a play about homosexuality and masculinity, it follows the lives of five different men.
Your vote: beer or wine?
I like both. I really do.
Text: Andy Moller
Answers: Wesley Wolhuter
Photographs: Andy Moller