This is a love song, and unlike many of Moerane's other love songs inspired by the poets whom he set, this one 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 from where Moerane worked in Lesotho. The melodic and harmonic writing is almost Mahlerian - the opening phrase is reminiscent of one of Mahler's Rüchekrt Lieder. The middle section provides light-hearted relief with its ragtime style, but the overwhelming emotion is one of profound longing. Several renditions are shown below, to give a taste of how this very popular work has been treated in varied and interesting ways.
Sylva – University of Pretoria Camerata Video
University of Pretoria Camerata (TUKS Camerata) conducted by Johann van der Sandt
Sylvia – Durban University of Technology Choir Video
DUT Choir and members of a South African Orchestra
Sylvia – Africappella Video