It’s the simple things in life.
A bright and nearly cloudless morning greeted the Gustavus Symphony in Cape Town on Day Two of our concert tour to South Africa. “Nearly” cloudless as the veil of clouds that has shrouded Table Mountain since our arrival remained. “No worry,” our new friends told us, “in South Africa, we can have all four seasons in one day.” We have much to see and the mountain will still be there when we return.
Our day of exploring the Cape, which Sir Francis Drake called the “most pleasant” cape in the world, began with a bus ride to Hout Bay to visit a colony of Cape Fur Seals a short distance out of the harbor. The Cape Fur Seal lives only off the coast of Namibia and South Africa and was nearly hunted to extinction before the government of South Africa banned hunting of the large mammal in 1990. While hunting is still legal in Namibia, the population of the seal is recovering.
We parted company with the Companion Tour at Hout Bay and continued west, across the cape, to False Bay and the protected colony of another endangered species, the African Penguin, at Boulder Reserve. Much smaller than its Antarctic cousin, the African Penguin nearly disappeared due to loss of habitat and overfishing of its food source. In the shelter of Boulder Reserve, the penguin’s population has recovered from only 2 mating pairs in 1982 to over 2200 today.
After lunch in Simon’s Town, it was time to leave the emerald green waters of False Bay at the edge of the Indian Ocean and make the trek inland to Worcester and South Africa’s Institute for the Blind. Founded in 1881, the Institute has served the needs of South Africa’s blind population for over 130 years. The community is home to nearly 400 adults, many of whom work in industries on the grounds, and 200 students. It also includes a large library of braille music scores. The community welcomed us as warmly as the African sun and we made new friends quickly.
Dr. Lin led the symphony through a rigorous rehearsal, before dinner, and the ensemble made final adjustments for its first concert on African soil. Nearly 200 members of the Institute and the surrounding community were seated in the audience as Freddie Botha, Executive Head of the Institute, introduced and welcomed the Gustavus Symphony and explained to the audience that the Gustavus Symphony was the first ensemble, African or international, to perform a concert for the community.
As the concert began, the powerful opening section of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man surprised a number in the audience. For many of them, this was their first exposure to a symphony. They listened intently to the Americonic Copland, laughed at the antics in Leroy Anderson’s Alma Mater, and applauded eagerly as they recognized melodies in the Star Wars Suite by John Williams. At the finale of the suite, the applause began well before the final notes were sounded. The audience was clearly not disappointed.
Following the concert, our new friends were eager to invite us to return and tell others of their community. Young members of the school sang for us. Others simply wanted to see and feel the instruments, to strum the strings of the harp, to visit with us. For those of us with sight, it was easy to see the excitement our gift of music had created in the faces of those who greeted us following the concert and difficult to imagine a life without the sight we so easily take for granted.
But at that moment we were joined in our mutual love of music, musicians and audience. New friends. Brought together by music. Before we left the grounds, our new friends gave us each a pen with the Institute’s logo as a gift of their thanks. A simple ball-point pen with a ribbon and a simple note that read “Thank you for caring.”
It is certainly true what is said about the simple things in life.