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Saturday, April 18, 2020


(Heather Brandon)

Heather Brandon (born 20/11/1931), founder and director of the Oriana Choir, Fellow of Trinity College and graduate of London University, passed away peacefully in her sleep at a care home in the Western Cape on April 11, 2020.

She was also well-known as a pianist, adjudicator and lecturer in the Performing Arts Division of the Natal Technikon (now Durban University of Technology).

However, her greatest contribution to music in KZN was in the field of choral conducting and, in particular, her formation of the Oriana Choir in 1965. This chamber choir came to be regarded as one of South Africa’s finest choral ensembles, having been selected by the SABC to represent South Africa in the BBC series, Let the People Sing. The choir broadcast regularly and made highly successful tours of the Cape for CAPAB (now Artscape); undertook several tours of KZN for NAPAC (now the Playhouse Company), as well as presenting its own concerts which it presented throughout KZN.

(Heather Brandon with director Malcolm Woolfson taken from the programme of “Down in the Valley”, the operetta by Kurt Weil, which toured the KZN Midlands in the early 80s)

Heather Brandon was also founder and Director of the 120-strong Durban Symphonic Choir which won acclaim for its performances of the large choral works. She conducted the Durban Symphony Orchestra and was also a SABC recording artist.

Maggie Reynolds who was a member of the Oriana choir for many years pays this tribute: “Beloved Heather, you gave so much to all of us. We learnt everything there is about music from you. Rest in peace, dear friend.”

Durban arts practitioner Thanduxolo Zulu was a choir member in all three choirs and was the first black singer to join the Oriana Choir when apartheid was still in place. He comments: “A very sad moment indeed to us all former Royal Singing Zulus, Durban Symphonic Choir and Oriana Choir members. We learnt so much from this gallant of a lady. She has now joined the heavenly voices that forever sing “Hosanna”. May her soul rest in perfect peace.”

Bongani Tembe, CEO and Artistic Director of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, adds: “I first met Heather Brandon around 1982 and she was warm, vibrant and welcomed me with open arms to the Durban Symphonic Choir. It was a choir of about 80 people and less than five of us were black but both Heather Brandon and the choir appreciated our talent and presence. She was also a good musician and did a lot to inspire Durban musically with her infectious positive energy. May her soul rest in peace.”