Gareth Lubbe who had to miss this year’s edition of the SICMF contacted his friends on the SICMF faculty with the sad news that Denis Goldberg, who had been guest speaking in STOCKHOLM before going on to Germany in the week of the 2017 SICMF, was rushed to hospital. Doctors abroad had detected a ‘shadow’ in one of his lungs and it was diagnosed as a large cancerous tumor. Denis insisted on returning to South Africa for treatment and was hospitalized at a local hospital in Cape Town upon his return. Faculty members and students of the SICMF remember his heartfelt performance at last year’s SICMF, a performance which is immortalized on video and in the public domain on YouTube. There was not a dry eye amongst the performers and audience that night with the Endler Hall filled to capacity for the premier of ‘Moments in a Life’, a patchwork quilt of stories from Denis Goldberg’s life set to music by composer Matthijs van Dijk and narrated by Goldberg himself.

Many of the internationally acclaimed and domiciled musicians involved in that memorable performance have kept contact with Denis and were at the 2017 SICMF, when news of his hospitalization was received. It took just a few hours for a collective of these musicians to come together to prepare a special and spontaneous performance for the anti-apartheid struggle icon to whom they all still feel so close. – Denis has that magical way with people. Even after just one meeting, one feels that Denis is an old friend who truly empathizes with you – The group of musicians that included SICMF Director and cellist, Peter Martens; violists, Xandi van Dijk and Juan-Miguel Hernandez; violinists, Matthijs van Dijk and Bonolo Kgaile and recorder player Joshua Frank rearranged their busy schedules at the SICMF in Stellenbosch and drove to Cape Town to pay Denis an unscheduled visit.

A plan was cooked up to surprise the great man! Gareth Lubbe was called on the phone and the phone was handed to David, Denis’s son who had come down from the UK to be with him at this time of need. David handed the phone to Denis whilst the band of musicians quietly hid in the passage outside his hospital room. Instead of talking to Denis, Gareth, who is a renowned overtone singer and for whom a special part was written in ‘Moments in a Life’, began singing on speaker phone. That was the cue for the musicians to enter and join Gareth in a moving rendition of Casals’s ’Song of the Birds’. Denis, who was already in remarkably better spirits than the previous day was quite taken by the whole initiative and the group spontaneously struck up an improvisation with a distinctive township flavour. Although the musicians were almost late for the evening performance in Stellenbosch a recorder solo was followed by the granting of Denis’s request to play the Habanera from Carmen. Bach and more improv followed leaving Denis in a jovial and deeply thankful mood.

Racing back to Stellenbosch in a SICMF sponsored car, the musicians laughed and reminisced about previous encounters with Denis Goldberg. Sure – Denis Goldberg had been moved by this gesture, but it seems that even whilst facing adversity, he had, in his commanding but ultra humble way, turned the tables. It was he who was yet again the true source of inspiration.


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