Preface and Acknowledgments

This is the first published edition of all the extant compositions by South African-born Sotho composer Michael Mosoeu Moerane (1904-1980). Moerane may have composed as many as 87 works between the 1930s and the 1970s, the majority of them for unaccompanied choir to Sesotho, isiXhosa or English texts. Manuscripts or typescripts of only 51 of his compositions have survived, however, and these are the works published here, most of them for the first time, by African Composers Edition (ACE). ACE has prepared a Catalogue of Works by Michael Mosoeu Moerane, which follows the General Introduction to the Moerane Critical Edition below. The Catalogue gives information about missing works, while an article recently published in the journal, Fontes Artis Musicae, ‘Michael Mosoeu Moerane in the Museum’ (Lucia 2020b) provides an account of how scores were collected.

Each score is presented here in dual staff-solfa notation together with a translation of the non-English texts, a brief historical introduction to the work, a list of sources used in preparing the score, and a critical commentary. The General Introduction to the Moerane Critical Edition below gives an overview of Moerane’s life and his music, and individual scores supply further information. All 51 works are available for sale individually or in volumes on ACE’s website, which also has audio and visual samples of his music and scholarly access to full scores and selected documentation for bona fide researchers.

Moerane’s works are grouped into four Volumes according to scoring and genre:

Volume I: Fatše La Heso (My Country), Symphonic Poem for orchestra, full score
Volume II: Works for unaccompanied SATB Choir A-L, in dual notation, vocal score
Volume III: Works for unaccompanied SATB Choir M-Z,in dual notation, vocal score
Volume IV: Works for unaccompanied SA & SAA Choir, and arrangements of African
American Spirituals for unaccompanied choir,in dual notation, vocal score.

Only two choral works appear to have been published during Moerane’s lifetime: Liphala for mixed four-part choir and an arrangement of the spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen for three-part female choir, both printed by Lovedale Mission Press in tonic solfa notation in 1938 (Moerane [n.d.1938]; Shepherd 1937). The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) published Barali Ba Jerusalema in 1998 (Moerane 1998), and Della in 2008 (Moerane 2008), although this is a somewhat different version from the Della published here, as is explained on the front pages of the score of Della. A few other works, such as Sylvia, Matlala, Morena Tlake, Tsatsi La Pallo and Ruri have been informally reproduced by SAMRO on demand or by the organisers of choral competitions as prescribed music, over the years.

The process of publishing Moerane’s music in a form that made the music newly accessible to a global public and not only to those who read tonic solfa and understand African language texts, involved a team of workers as I explain in the Acknowledgments. We typeset the orchestral work, Fatše la Heso (My Country) in Sibelius music notation software, working from a copy of the original hand-written manuscript of the full score that is now kept in the Cory Library for Historical Research, Grahamstown. We then generated 30 orchestral parts from this newly typeset score. We researched and collected as many choral scores as we could find and transcribed them from tonic solfa notation into staff notation, using Sibelius. Mrs. Mpho Ndebele translated the texts of the 37 songs in Sesotho by extracting the words from each tonic solfa score and creating a poem from this, following Moerane’s capitalisation of words in order to create the lines of the poem. She then made a literal translation, phoneme by phoneme, into English, and a more idiomatic, poetic translation as well. Mrs. Nosipho Rapiya did the same with the five songs to isiXhosa texts. We kept faithfully to Moerane’s original tempi, metronome marks, dynamics and expressive markings on the newly type-set scores, only modernising the notation in respect to repeat signs and one or two other aspects and formatting the score to show the separate voice parts with their own text and dynamics. A piano reduction of the voice parts was added for rehearsal purposes, and we reinserted the original tonic solfa notation above the staves for the benefit of those who do not read staff notation.

This is a ‘critical’ edition, which aims to present Moerane’s work with accuracy and consistency, respecting the composer’s legacy and presenting it in a form that scholars, teachers, and performers can access. Moerane wrote his choral scores within the literary tradition of tonic solfa, but they were often learned orally and copied by hand or electronically by many different people, for decades. In this process, works were sometimes modified. This edition returns wherever possible to printed, manuscript, or typescript sources in order to prepare a new version of each song, explaining why one source is more authoritative than another. Every score has details on the title page of whom to contact for permission to perform or record the work: the Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), which administers copyright invested in the music, for the Moerane family.


This edition could not have been completed without the generous financial assistance of the Andrew Mellon Foundation, New York and infrastructural support from Stellenbosch University, both of whom I heartily thank. I am particularly indebted to the Director of the African Open Institute for Music, Research and Innovation, Professor Stephanus Muller, for his belief in the importance of this work and for his huge efforts to ensure that Mellon funds were available. Thanks are also due to the Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, Professor Wim de Villiers, who agreed to sponsor a Special Limited Edition of 20 copies published by African Sun Media in 2020.

The Mellon Foundation awarded three postgraduate bursaries, a post-doctoral fellowship and a research assistantship so that training could take place while the edition was compiled. Its production thus became a team effort, and the Africa Open Institute provided the resources and bonhomie for the ‘Moerane team’ to meet periodically between 2017 and 2019. It comprised Mokale Koapeng, Ignatia Madalane, Kgaugelo Mpyane, Mpho Ndebele, Marc Röntsch, Zayne Upton, and in the initial stages Cara Stacey, to all of whom I am deeply grateful. Ultimately, a team cannot do the finicky work of seeing an edition of nearly 700 pages through to publication, and I take full responsibility for the final outcome, relieved to know that mistakes can be corrected on the online edition. (Please notify me of errors, via the contact us page.) In 2017, Zayne Upton converted the online platform of African Composers Edition, originally designed by Albert Sapsford in 2013 for the Mohapeloa Critical Edition and Surendran Reddy Edition, in order to incorporate the Moerane Edition. I am indebted to Zayne for his hard work and continuing maintenance of the site. My profound gratitude also goes to my husband, Michael Blake for supporting me throughout the months of finalisation of the Edition in 2020.

The following institutions are acknowledged for providing valuable material and information:

Cory Library for Historical Research, Rhodes University, Grahamstown
Documentation Centre for Music, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch
International Library of African Music, Rhodes University, Grahamstown
Lukhanji Museum, Komani (formerly Queenstown Frontier Museum)
Morija Museum and Archives, Morija, Lesotho
National Library of South Africa, Pretoria
National Sesotho-Afrikaans Literary Museum, Bloemfontein
South African Broadcasting Corporation Radio Sound Archives, Johannesburg
South African History Archives, Johannesburg
South African Society for Research in Music
Southern African Music Rights Organisation, Johannesburg
University of Cape Town Museums and Archives, Cape Town
William Cullen Library, Wits University, Johannesburg

The following individuals are acknowledged for their intellectual and practical support:

David Ambrose, Michael Blake, Susan Brown, William Fourie, Mark Gevisser, Stephen Gill, Ron and Priscilla Hall, Pamela Hicks, Moriee Khaebana, Victor Lechesa, Eric Lekhanya, John Lucia, Fezeka Mabona, Tseliso Makhakhe, Mafothe Malaoli, Shadrack Mapetla, Mamhlongo Maphisa, Epainette Mbeki, Zakes Mda, Percy and Flesba Mangoaela, Marumo Moerane, Mofelehetsi Moerane, Neo Mahase Moerane, Ms Neo Moerane, Thuso Moerane, Sophia Moerane, Tsepo Moerane, Lebohang Mofelehetsi, Stephanus Muller, Angela Mullins, Mpho Ndebele, Mosa Ndludla, Mpho Ndebele, Sibusiso Njeza, Grant Olwage, Barry Peter Ould, Nthabisng Philison, Leigh Phipson, Mr. T Pitso, Ms Tii Pitso, Matsobane Putsoa, Mr. Ramaema, Gilbert Ramatlapeng, Nosipho Rapiya, Hilde Roos, Albert Sapsford, John Simon, Cara Stacey, Makonye Tiiti, Thembela Vokwana, Zayne Upton, Liz Welsh.

Finally, I heard with great sadness of the death of Thuso Majalla Moerane in July 2020, when this publication was almost complete.[1] This edition of his father’s music was to be dedicated to Thuso, and is now respectfully dedicated to his memory.

When I first met Thuso in 2014, I discovered that he had been curating Moerane’s music for years - he had many scores that people had never seen - and I found him to be a man of immense warmth, humility, and quiet humour. He prepared for my visit in 2014 by getting all the scores in order, checking the lists in his possession and seeking out two unpublished family biographies. He allowed me to scan everything and to interview him, and he expressed relief that all the music would finally see the light of day. I visited him again in 2017, and for the last time in September 2019 in the company of his son, Tsepo, and his daughter, Neo. By this time, it was clear that Thuso was not well. He was unable to join in our conversation, but he responded warmly to the draft edition that I showed him. Thank you, Thuso, for everything that you did for music scholarship in southern Africa, by taking care of this valuable legacy and honouring your father’s memory.

Christine Lucia, August 2020

[1] The photograph of Thuso Majalla Moerane on the Dedication page was taken by the author on 12 May 2014.

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