Verdi Requiem – October 2010 by Harry Wiggett

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VERDI REQIEM…..October 2010

I am perpetually fascinated and amazed at the experience of life being like a jig-saw puzzle with pieces being fitted into place each day, adding to the wonder and colourfulness of the whole picture as it builds with purposefulness towards an eventual completion.

The Cape Town Symphony and Philharmonia Choirs joint venture in the performances of the Verdi Reqiem proved to add specially lovely pieces to mine and Jean”s joint and individual puzzles:

For over 50 years now Jean and I have derived immense pleasure from attending orchestral rehearsals and concerts in the City Hall. And so it was with a sense of deep gratitude that we were able to sing together for the first time on the City Hall stage with the orchestra under Maestro Victor Yampolsky.

The singing of the Requiem was particularly poignant for both of us because of three deaths within the fortnight prior to the concert:

Jessica Jones, daughter of fellow bass Ed Elderkin; John Ince, my oldest school friend; and June Metelerkamp, Jean”s cousin.

As we were mindful of these three whilst singing, there was a fourth: On 19th March 1987 Jean attended a concert in the City Hall conducted by Victor Yampolsky. The soloist was the American soprano Joy Simpson. She sang the Samuel Barber setting of words from Knoxville: Summer 1915 by James Agee. At the conclusion of the work she collapsed on stage, was rushed to the City Park (now Chris Barnard) Hosptial, and died there a few days later.

The very last words that she sang were these:

…After a little while I am taken in and put to bed.Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, cards as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.

Those last few words have become the springboard for my casino retirement work among recovering alcoholics and drug addicts – helping them into an appreciation of the wonder of their uniqueness as human beings.

It was a lovely fitting together of a jig-saw piece into the puzzle of life when I showed that old programme to Maestro Victor, and together we revelled in the amazing connectedness of life”s experiences.

And then an unexpected and colourful piece was added to my puzzle in finding singing alongside me a Plant Pathologist! And, not only a Plant Pathologist, but a Doctor of Plant Pathology – young Chris Spies whose parents Hester and Johann Spies are members of the Philharmonia Choir. In all my 40 years of pastoral ministry I have never come across such a creature. And what an excellent singing companion he proved to be. He attended all rehearsals barefoot. Hotnroflunchdresxi . I wore sandals. . And so we both admitted that on performance nights we felt that our feet were shod in violin cases as we endured the tightness of black leather shoes.

For Jean and me the singting in the Verdi Reqiem has been a life-enhancing experience, an experience of belonging and connectedness; an experience that in a world in which there are so many shades of sadness these are illumined by moments of exquisite beauty and joy.

Deo Gratias.

Harry Wiggett

Fish Hoek