The Garden (Barry Smith)

The garden is quiet now.
Stirred by a sudden, unexpected breeze
The autumn boughs bend down,
Pleading with the half-blown roses
To part with their last white petals.

The garden is quiet now.
Sitting within this dreamy touch of autumn
I half expect a figure to slip silently
From between the green, brooding trees.


In May 2019, Cape Town musical icon Barry Smith celebrated his 80th birthday. In recognition of Barry’s immense contribution to music over many decades, we hosted a special gathering on the afternoon of Sunday 19 May at St George’s Grammar School. In between the festivities, musical items were contributed by some of Barry’s closest friends.

The afternoon’s entertainment began with a set of variations on Happy Birthday devised by Peter Heidrich, representing a host of musical styles from JS Bach and Brahms to the tango. These were played by the Amici Quartet, and a special highlight was the inclusion of an extra variation based on the first movement of Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite written especially for the occasion by Grant McLachlan. For the second musical item, the Amici Quartet played Schubert’s incomplete string quartet, Quartettsatz. Broadcaster Rodney Trudgeon, one of the guests, casually “interviewed” Barry about his career and his most memorable musical highlights.

Next, Lente Louw presented the sublime aria Erbarme dich from JS Bach’s St Matthew Passion, accompanied by Lucia di Blasio-Scott and members of Camerata Tinta Barocca. Thereafter, Erik Dippenaar played two solo movements from a Handel Organ Concerto. For a choral contribution, VOX Cape Town presented two works of special significance to Barry – Benedicamus Domino by Peter Warlock and There is no rose by John Joubert, the Cape Town-born composer who passed away early last year.

Composer Grant McLachlan then presented a special gift to Barry – a setting of one of Barry’s poems, The Garden, that had been especially set to music for this celebration. It was sung by Nick de Jager with the composer at the piano. Theo Magongoma, accompanied by Danie Fourie, performed Without A Song from the musical Great Day.

Finally, as the “grand finale”, a combined chorus comprising members of the St George’s Singers and VOX Cape Town joined forces with Camerata Tinta Barocca to perform excerpts from Handel’s penultimate oratorio, Theodora, which Barry memorably brought to Cape Town in 2014. They presented the chorus Queen of Summer, Queen of Love, after which Lente Louw and Nick de Jager sang the heart-breaking final duet, Streams of pleasure ever flowing, and then all the musicians came together for the final chorus, O Love Divine.

A special photobook, commemorating this memorable occasion, was delivered to Barry for his 81st birthday in May 2020. We are now excited to share these photos with you!

We wish to record our thanks to Stephen Bornman and the Old Georgian Union for allowing us to host the celebration at St George’s Grammar School, where Barry was a teacher for many years.