Newcater, Graham

b. Johannesburg, 3 September, 1941


South African composer. Newcater’s musical career started late – at thirteen when he started playing the piano – although his youthful interest had long centered on the playing wind instruments. He played both the clarinet and the trumpet. His first compositions were etudes devised to overcome certain fingering problems on his chosen instruments. These later developed into sonatas. Newcater is also a qualified motor mechanic. 


Early tuition by correspondence in composition began with Arnold van Wyk from the University of Cape Town. Newcater was then apprenticed to a Durban firm dealing in motor cars (1957-1960). After a few years divided between mechanics and music, he applied for and was awarded the SAMRO bursary, which he utilized to study with the composer Racine Fricker at the RCM in London. During the two years spent in London he supplemented his studies with lessons in conducting, as well as clarinet and harpsichord. He completed his First Symphony, a Concert overture (lost), a Concerto grosso for strings and a Quintet for woodwinds, in London. Some of these works were performed in London and were also broadcast in South Africa. In August 1964 he returned to South Africa as musical assistant at the SABC in Johannesburg. He once again returned to Great Britain for a short holiday course in composition under the guidance of Humphrey Searle, former student of Anton von Webern and a specialist in serial techniques. Newcater was the first South African composer to adopt the twelve-tone method. As a result of this visit to Britain, he was awarded the Vaughan Williams Bursary, which enabled him to devote himself to composition. He was then appointed part-time music librarian and was commissioned in quick succession to write two works that, in their completed form, became the Notturno for orchestra and the Sixteen variations in different timbres (Variation de timbres), a work that confirmed his stature as a composer. He was also commissioned in 1967 by PACT to write a ballet on Van Wyk Louw’s epic poem Raka. His ballet Rain Queen, based on an African legend, offended the then incumbent of that title, who supposedly placed a curse on the work. Within months of the first performance, the choreographer died. Newcater’s output declined as he developed problems with his health. He lives today in Johannesburg.



Instrumental Works:

Adagio, for orchestra. (1958) 


Michael Strogoff, ballet suite (1960) 


Storm Music, tone poem for orchestra (1960) 


Concerto grosso, Op. 6, for strings (1962) 


Symphony No. 1, (1962-1964) 


Czernyana III, a ballet based on music by Czerny, (1966) 


Symphony No. 2, (1966) 


Raka, ballet based on the epic poem of N.P. van Wyk Louw (1967) 


Raka concert suite (1973): 


1. Awakening of the village 


Koki and the children 

By the river 

Koki and the woman 

Raka’s dance 

Funeral and destruction 

Variations de timbres (1968) 


Notturno per orchestra, commissioned by the SABC as an introduction to the twelve-tone style, for the Junior Orchestra. (1968) 


Rain queen, ballet based on an old African legend (1968/9) 


Rain Queen concert suite (1972): 


1. In the cave of the Rain Queen 


2. Magic fire music 


3. Rituals by the lake 


4. Dance of the reward 


5. Thana 


6. The rain gods appear in the sky



Temple music (1971) 


Protea, symphonic march (1973) 


Palindromic structures, for piano and orchestra (1977) 


Symphony No. 3 (1978) 


Violin Concerto (1979) 


Josef en sy broers, (radio music) 


Concert overture (1962) (lost)


Chamber Works:

String trio (1962) 


Wind quintet (1962) 


Three little pieces, for violin and piano Op. 9 (1963)


Solo Works: 

Arietta con variazioni per clavicembalo (1964) 


Partita per clavicembalo (1964) 


Trauervariationen für Klavier (1965)


Vocal Works:

Vier kleine Orchesterlieder, for soprano and orchestra (1978)

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