Tribute; Jean Kudernatsch

2009-03-17 00:00

“A TERRIER who never let go” — that was Brendan Bell, director of the Tatham Art Gallery’s response when asked to describe the late Jean

Kudernatsch.

“Concerts took place come hell or high water, and were only cancelled if there was labour unrest at the gallery or in the city centre,” Bell added.

“She had the ability to coerce people very nicely into playing. Her concert programmes were remarkable for their scope and variety. She had no qualms about throwing amateurs and professionals together — classical music (and jazz) in any form had to be aired to as wide an audience as possible.”

Kudernatsch, the woman behind the weekly lunch hour concerts at the Tatham Art Gallery, was a dedicated piano teacher, who taught in Pietermaritzburg for more than 40 years.

Born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, she studied music in London and Manchester before moving to South Africa in 1966. Kudernatsch initially taught at Anne’s Diocesan College and later at Pietermaritzburg Girls High School and The Wykeham Collegiate.

When she retired, Kudernatsch, who was at the time chairman of the South African Society of Music Teachers (SASMT), started the concerts at the gallery, while continuing to teach students privately at her home in Athlone.

Helen Vermaak, a fellow member of the SASMT, said Kudernatsch believed passionately that the free concerts should be kept alive in the centre of the city.

“She believed amateur talent should be encouraged in a non-threatening environment — that the experience in a lovely concert hall would give young performers confidence,” Vermaak added. “She drove this process and was responsible for the programmes, performances and publicity.”

Bell said of her dedication to the weekly concerts: “She and [her husband] Otto would always arrive early on Wednesdays to ensure that all was set up correctly — and there were times of crisis, like when we had forgotten to put out chairs. It was virtually a full-time job — and all done for the love of music.

“Last year we celebrated her life and contribution to music at the gallery with a Sunday afternoon tea party. We wanted to honour her while she was still able to enjoy such an occasion. I’m so pleased we did.”

— Arts Editor.

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