Unlike Moerane’s other love songs inspired by the poets he set, Sylvia is not about a fictional subject. Sylvia Ntombentsha Zongola was a real person. She was a student at Mfundisweni Teacher Training Institute in Pondoland, near the south-eastern seaboard of South Africa, a college of education where Moerane taught in the late 1950s. The song, Sylvia may have been written when she graduated, and the lyrics suggest that this is when they parted. For some years afterwards, however, they saw each other, because she lived just across the border in South Africa from where Moerane worked in Lesotho. The melodic and harmonic writing is almost Mahlerian – the opening phrase is reminiscent of one of Mahler’s Rückert Lieder. The middle section provides light-hearted relief with its ragtime style, but the overwhelming emotion is one of profound longing. Several very different renditions are available on Youtube including the one below, by the Glorious Sound choir, made in May 2021.
In order to help choirs learn this song, a free mp3 of the lyrics spoken by Nosipho Rapiya is downloadable when the song is purchased along with a rehearsal mp3 of the song at a slow tempo.
The image on the right shows the first page of the score.