If you’re in Cape Town looking for an inspiring evening of classical music, the stirring Scottish reel sounds of massed bagpipes or a singing soloist with an angel voice, check out the City Hall at the Grand Parade. This historic venue is the home-base of the world-famous Cape Philharmonic Orchestra.

Did you know?

The Cape Town City Hall has a permanent exhibition honouring the life of Nelson Mandela.

It’s a balmy evening along the Grand Parade in central Cape Town as people dressed in everything from tuxedos to blue jeans arrive at the stately City Hall.

Tonight’s benefit concert for the South African Air Force Association has excited everyone, because they know they’re going to be entertained by the best the city can offer.

The Navy Band will be followed by the rousing skirls of the Cape Town Highlanders in their saucy kilts, the Cape Town Male Voice Choir and a couple of wonderful tenors and sopranos. A popular local radio personality is the master of ceremonies.

A night of superlatives follows, and everyone goes home lifted by some quality music. This is the Cape Town City Hall at its finest, its grand auditorium providing a platform for world-class performances. It’s also very heartening to know that both the Cape Town Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras take to the stage here on a regular basis. It adds even more cultural lustre to this stylish city.

As you pass the City Hall on your ‘dawn patrol’ of central Cape Town, the amber morning light falls directly on its sandstone-coloured Italian Renaissance-style facade. You could be in London, Florence or somewhere in the morning traffic of Rome.

Inside, it’s a symphony of mosaic floors, old stained glass, a classic pipe organ and marble staircase. That bell tower at the Cape Town City Hall has an astounding 39 bells and reminds many visitors of London’s Big Ben.

The auditorium has seen royalty and ‘regular folks’ alike since the opening of the City Hall in 1905. In 1947, as part of the British Royal tour of South Africa, the lovely young Princess Elizabeth was the belle of a grand ball staged here.

But every high-born personal appearance ever made at the Cape Town City Hall was totally eclipsed on 11 February 1990, when a newly-released Nelson Mandela stood on the balcony and addressed the jubilant people gathered below on the Grand Parade square.

‘Today the majority of South Africa, black and white, recognise that apartheid has no future,’ Mandela said. ‘Our march to freedom is irreversible.’

An estimated 250 000 people cheered from the square below. And millions around the world joined them in celebration...

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