Thank you for joining us at Timeless Whispers – if you were there, please share your experience with us by telling us what you enjoyed the most!

“In South Africa, the Karoo is always ‘over the mountains’. Wherever you come from, you must cross high blue mountains by dangerous passes that corkscrew up into the sky and then let you down again on the other side. It is very beautiful. It is very big. It is very dry – except when rivers run in flood and whole towns could be swept away. It is the heartland of a nation and the stone heart of a continent.” – The Time Trackers

Strap up your veldskoene and join VOX Cape Town on another musical journey – this time, to the expansive Karoo in an all-South African programme featuring music by Péter Louis van Dijk, Hans Huyssen, Jan-Hendrik Harley and Denise Onen.

Our musical postcard will evoke the rugged landscapes and vibrant heritage of this remarkable region, from the San-inspired rhythms of Péter Louis van Dijk (Horizons and the San Gloria) to the ‘awe, wonder and environmental existentialism’ captured in a new work composed by audio alchemist Denise Onen (Usque ad sidera tellus). We can’t wait to give voice to the first performance of an a cappella choral cycle written by Hans Huyssen (Weggewerp) that incorporates poems by W. E. G. Louw and C. Louis Leipoldt and was inspired by scribblings on the walls of an abandoned Karoo cottage.

Let your senses awaken as we travel down dusty roads and marvel at sparkling night skies. Join us in the morning for moerkoffie and rusks, or in the evening for a glass of muscadel, and be seduced by the timeless whispers of this unforgiving landscape. A pre-concert talk, 45 minutes before each performance, will unpack the music on offer. For this fifth instalment of VOX’s series of ‘New Soundscapes’, immersive concerts designed to expose Cape Town’s audiences to fresh choral sounds, we return to our roots.

VOX Cape Town and John Woodland
Mikyle Adams (organ)
Catherine Stephenson (flute), Ashlin Grobbelaar (cello), Chris Njapha (cello)

Chris Burgess, Laudice Domingo, Amy-Joy Bailey, Ruben Botha (percussion)

Saturday 14 October 2023
St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, De Waterkant
R240 | R180 (seniors and students)

These two performances will also celebrate the publication of The Time Trackers, a children’s book set in the Tankwa Karoo and written by award-winning author Lesley Beake. The proceeds from book sales will support the work of local non-profit organisation Children’s Book Network. Shortly after the morning performance, Lesley will be in conversation with John Woodland to discuss how the book came to be and the important work that CBN does to inspire our young communities to read.

Interview on Fine Music Radio's 'Cape Diary' 06.10.2023

by Beryl Eichenberger and John Woodland

You may recognise the poster which has once again been designed by our talented soprano Vera Vuković! It is intended to complement (and contrast) our previous visual identity for Eternal Echoes. Photograph courtesy of Leslie Jacobs

Featured composers and compositions

We are thrilled to introduce you to the quartet of local composers whose swirling soundscapes and spirited rhythms will feature in Timeless Whispers. The Karoo has been a major stimulus for all four composers – from its landscapes and languages to its sands and skies – and most of the music we will be singing has been especially written for us or has never been heard before! Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate the timeless allure of this extraordinary region – in musical whispers that span generations and geological eras.

  • Hans Huyssen, who wrote the choral cycle Weggewerp for us in 2019/2020. Inspired by a poem scribbled on the walls of an abandoned Karoo cottage, it includes settings of poetry by W. E. G Louw and C. Louis Leipoldt. Although delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, this will be the first performance of the work ahead of Hans’s 60th birthday celebrations in 2024.
  • Denise Onen describes herself as an ‘audio alchemist’ and has written a new work for us entitled Usque ad sidera tellus (Earth rising up to the stars) capturing (she writes) “the emotional journey of awe, wonder and environmental existentialism I experienced the first time I traversed the Karoo”.
  • Jan-Hendrik Harley, whose Karoo Polfyntjies for flute and two cellos (with drumkit obbligato) will receive its first performance. It was inspired by a poem by C. Louis Leipoldt; a ‘polfyntjie’ is an archaic Afrikaans term for a souvenir or a memento. We have previously worked with Jan-Hendrik for Follow That Star and made virtual recordings of his arrangements and compositions.
  • Péter Louis van Dijk, who celebrates this 70th birthday this year. We will be singing his well-known compositions Horizons and the San Gloria, both of which are inspired by vibrant San rhythms.

By commissioning and performing new choral music, VOX demonstrates its commitment to local South African composers. We hope to share our excitement with other choral singers and the music-loving public!

(Clockwise from right) Denise Onen, Jan-Hendrik Harley, Hans Huyssen, Péter Louis van Dijk

What you had to say…

“I can still hear the Timeless Whispers… Thank you for a wonderful presentation on Saturday. It certainly was an authentic Karoo experience. Your attention to detail was outstanding – the décor, sound, audio, clothing, the coffee and rusks afterwards and, of course, your singing.”

“Congratulations on a splendid performance last night. I loved your ‘décor’, slide shows, choice of new music, etc. Just marvellous!”

“I cannot praise your Timeless Whispers programme enough. The Karoo and San Gloria choral works were sung with abundant sensitivity and verve – all shining a hopeful light on the future – so much needed when awful things are happening in the world.”

“What a visual and aural spectacle! Just love the fact that you are creating this brilliant platform – true ‘musicking’ (Christopher Small) which includes performers, composers, logistics, audiences and the general interested public. Thank you for the fantastic evening – I feel privileged to have been there!”

“A memorable performance from VOX Cape Town this morning! John Woodland, Kyle Paulssen and the team consistently produce creative, innovative concerts for our delight. Timeless Whispers was exceptional! Bravo!”

“Do you have any idea how uplifting your brilliant production Timeless Whispers was amongst all the angst of our current affairs? Fabulous choir, brilliant set design, moerkoffie, etc. Even the title… Reading it again this morning brings back such pleasant thoughts. Well done and a huge thank you from a very grateful admirer!”

Did you join us on this choral journey? We always love to hear about your experience! Did you enjoy the atmosphere beforehand and the complimentary moerkoffie/muscadel/port afterwards? Was the pre-concert talk informative? What did you think of the presentation of the music and the singing? Are there ways in which we can enhance your experience next time? Do let us know how we can continue to refine our multisensory presentations and push the Mother City’s musical boundaries by dropping us a line at [email protected].


“As repeat customers will know, an event put on by VOX Cape Town will be a special event and a feast for the senses. Their latest project, Timeless Whispers, a programme devoted to South African music, was no exception.


“Everything is unified: from programme content to the poster to the decoration of the performance space, the creative intelligence behind the endeavour is clear. We were treated to choral and instrumental music, some of these world premieres, and a South African classic. The theme – musically, visually and poetically – was the Karoo. A giant wind-pump and Karoo plants and atmospheric lighting set the mood, and John Woodland and Hans Huyssen gave an interesting pre-concert talk to whet the appetite.


“The three movements of the Karoo Polfyntjies by Jan-Hendrik Harley for the unusual combo of flute, two cellos and drumkit, were performed in between choral works, providing a change of colour and a palate cleanser. They were delightful. The third was a kind of ‘bovine foxtrot’ with an ear-tickling rhythm.


“Hans Huyssen’s new work Weggewerp seemed quite challenging and the percussive effects of the singing was interesting and creative. Denise Onen’s Earth Rising Up To The Stars was beautiful in a timeless sense, and definitely is a work to hear again.


“Two works by Péter Louis van Dijk framed the programme. It was a surprise but also a delight, that these works felt comfortable and familiar. Having worked on the San Gloria in the past, I remember how intimidated we were – it used to be such hard, difficult ‘modern’ music with a deliberate intent to be ‘African’ with all the complex conversations that comes with that sentiment. The ‘Africanisms’ in this performance were not overplayed or downplayed as they have been in some performances which seem to want to disguise where this work was written. Instead, the performance was settled and relaxed and we could just enjoy.


“A lovely glass of port on the stoep helped to fortify against the sudden chill in the air. We had a wonderful evening out with something new to challenge us, something familiar to comfort us in these difficult times, and the result strangely ‘uplifting’ – the wrong word, but better ones aren’t suggesting themselves. I left happy. My eyes and my ears had a feast.”

Albert Combrink