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, 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:

  1. Volume I: Fatše La Heso (My Country), Symphonic Poem for orchestra, full score
  2. Volume II: Works for unaccompanied SATB Choir A-L, in dual notation, vocal score
  3. Volume III: Works for unaccompanied SATB Choir M-Z,in dual notation, vocal score
  4. Volume IV: Works for unaccompanied SA & SAA Choir, and arrangements of African
  5. 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.

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

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