Celebrating local music legends

2018-07-03 06:00
Gordon Abels and Chris Hendricks, current members of the band, wants to uphold the legacy of The Valiant Heart Christmas Band.PHOTOS: aishah cassiem

Gordon Abels and Chris Hendricks, current members of the band, wants to uphold the legacy of The Valiant Heart Christmas Band.PHOTOS: aishah cassiem

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This month marks 60 years since the establishment of The Valiant Heart Christmas Band, originally from Athlone.

To celebrate the occasion, the remaining members from the group are calling on the public to join their upcoming event to commemorate their history and legacy.

The anniversary celebration of one of Cape Town’s finest Christmas bands consists of various programmes, and has already kicked off earlier this year.

“Our main event will take place in September, with a formal programme looking at the history of all these Valiant Hearts. Our members feel that we need to celebrate the legacy of this choir, which we still have here today to celebrate,” explains Chris Hendricks, spokesperson for the band.

The community band was established in 1958 by a group of passionate musicians and held its first meeting at the residence of Daniel Abels, who is a co-founder of the group.

“The choir was established for recreational and social purposes and to give our family and friends an opportunity to participate in activities over weekends.

“The choir is a sacred organisation with an executive body and membership from various faith based organisations across various communities,” he says.

“But as the years passed, it was no longer just a family and friends group. People identified the popular sounds of the group and wanted to also be part of it. In the mid ’60s the organisation had to move to Arend Hendricks’ residence in Nyala Crescent, Silvertown, and later to Dennis David’s residence in Bosduif Weg, Bridgetown due to the fact that the group became bigger.”

Growing in popularity as time went by, the group started participating in several competitions to show off their unique band style. The Valiant Heart’s made history in 2001 when they walked off with 14 awards at the annual Christmas Bands Competition held in Cape Town.

This was a record for any choir in the Western Cape which to date still not been broken, and the selection of trophies received on the day included Best Dressed Band for the senior, junior and tiny tots categories­.

Hendricks says many successful fund raising events followed to uphold the band, which included popular dances, backed up by of one of Cape Town’s top dance bands, The Philadelphia Rhythms Dance Band, established by Hendricks’ grandfather Arend Hendricks.

“The members worked hard at fundraising events during the past, because they had a system where if they sold their tickets they will get incentives toward their band’s uniforms­.

“Fundraiser picnics and tours were also regularly held at beaches around the peninsula. Those days you would find the choir active with the community when the season starts on Christmas Eve, and thereafter every Sunday up until April.”

In the late ’80s the choir was forced to move to Mitchell’s Plain as most of its members resided in that area, and this after the forced removals of the Group Areas Act, during the apartheid era.

“This never stopped the band at all. Going forward, the choir continued to have many successful events and successes at competitions, and was known for their unique uniform almost every year. There were also low points in its history when they had to shut the choir down for a season to rebuild.

“But they turned out to be much stronger and continued the band like Valiant Hearts due to discipline, and hard working members who served on the executive. These legends like Dennis Abels, who passed away in 2015, were one of the top secretaries in this choir fraternity and stalwarts up until his passing.

“As per the words of Norman November, one of the long serving members, one of the best aspects for him belonging to the group was the camaraderie of the members and being active most of the year. Valiant Hearts was not a competition choir but would give of their best when they participated in one.”

Today the band operates independently as a non-profit organisation and is not affiliated to any union, as previously attached to the Western Cape Christmas Band Union.

“We still operate throughout the city and have several programmes which include youth upliftment and getting them to join the band for the love of music. We are forced to do fundraising to uphold the band and its legacy and entirely grateful for the communities’ support who we hope to see at our big event this month,” he adds.

V For more information on the group and their anniversary celebrations email vhxb@live.co.za.

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