Concerts celebrate John Tungay’s life in music as he retires

2018-10-10 06:01
John Tungay at the console of the John Hill Organ with Howick trumpeter Claire Cumming. The Thembelihle Children’s Choir were performing an anthem while the Howick Choristers, to their left, rested from singing a joint item with the children.PHOTO: howick choristers

John Tungay at the console of the John Hill Organ with Howick trumpeter Claire Cumming. The Thembelihle Children’s Choir were performing an anthem while the Howick Choristers, to their left, rested from singing a joint item with the children.PHOTO: howick choristers

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JOHN Tungay is set to be honoured with two musical concerts in Howick to celebrate a life in music.

Now 83, the founder, financer and first conductor of the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir, has decided to retire as founder-conductor of Howick Choristers and the Thembelihle Children’s Choir, which he founded when the school opened seven years ago.

One of the Thembelihle children’s greatest achievements was their sopranos and altos participation in the 150th anniversary of Handel’s Messiah with the Pietermaritzburg Amateur Music Society (PAMS) choir, orchestra and organ.

Tungay has also retired as organist and choirmaster of St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Howick, after 19 years at the console.

He found the organ for sale at St Andrew’s Church, Holt, in Norfolk, England, after the local organist had installed a new, three-manual organ. Tungay persuaded the church management to donate the 120-year-old instrument, which was on sale at £800, and for the organ to be dismantled and shipped to SA where is was refurbished and rebuilt.

To mark his many achievements, the Howick Choristers will be honouring Tungay on October 18 with a farewell concert in the Ambers Auditorium.

A second concert will take place at Amber Glen on October 22. The choir will also be awarding Tungay with an Honorary Life Presidency.

The musician and choirmaster became head chorister of St James’s Church in Durban at the age of 10, playing the organ for the Sunday School.

Two years later he was appointed organist and choirmaster of St Columba’s Anglican Church and, aged 14, he played the Durban City Hall organ with the Orchestra of the International Arts League of Youth.

Appointed band master of the Glenwood High School military band at the age of 16, he had also, by that time, built a two-manual pipe organ in his parents’ Durban home using parts given to him by organist George Hotchkiss.

Tungay spent 13 years in England from 1986, working as an organist and choirmaster of St Peter’s Anglican Church.

In 1966, Tungay founded the Drakensberg Boys Choir School and to mark its golden jubilee in 2016, he co-founded the Drakondale Girls’ Choir School in 2017.

At the recent World Choir Games in Pretoria the Drakondale Girls’ Choir won gold for scoring the highest marks of all children’s choirs, while the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir took gold with their pop choirs entry.

— The Witness.

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