Roelof Temmingh Photo JPEG

The Beginning Years

“Roelof Willem Temmingh was born in Amsterdam on 28 September 1946, the third of four children. He was born into a musical family; his father was a music teacher and organist, and both his brothers have pursued musical careers. In February 1958 the family emigrated to South Africa and settled in Griekwastad, Cape Province, where Roelof Temmingh senior became the music teacher at the local school. After a year in Klerksdorp (1960) the family moved to Belville, near Cape Town, where Roelof jnr. matriculated at the D.F. Malan High School in 1964.

From a very early age Temmingh improvised on the piano, but not until he was thirteen did he attempt to compose on paper. He continued to compose music for various instruments throughout his teens, although he did not take composition as seriously as one might expect. His savings were all spent on records of music by Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartók and Hindemith. Needless to say, all this music made an important impression on the young composer during these formative years. To this must be added the music of Bach, for which his father had a great love and which he played a great deal. However, Bartók’s music was the ideal Temmingh emulated during these years, and this composer has been an influence on much of his music ever since.

In 1965 Temmingh enrolled at the University of Cape Town, not to study music, despite his obvious talent, but to become a minister of religion. In preparation for theological studies, he followed a B.A. course in languages. In the final examinations he failed Greek and was required to repeat it in the following year. As it turned out, this was an event of great importance in his career, because Temmingh felt that he now had enough time to study some music as well. After an interview with Prof. Gunter Pulvermacher, then head of the College of Music, and Gideon Fagan, Temmingh was admitted to the third year of the B.Mus. course. Music now became his main interest, and in the following year he continued with his musical studies. At the end of 1969 he was awarded a B.Mus. degree as well as a B.A., followed in 1970 by a M.Mus. in composition, also at UCT.”

(Winfred Lüdeman in Composers In South Africa Today, edited by Peter Klatzow. Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 1987.)


I found the following short answers to questions that was asked by somebody interviewing Roelof. The answers were written by hand on a loose piece of paper that I found amongst old class notes by Roelof. It is in Afrikaans and unfortunately I can’t find the name of the person that asked the questions.

Question 1

Vertel my van u musikale herinneringe as kind in Amsterdam. Wie of wat het die eerste musikale indrukke op die jong Roelof Temmingh gemaak en hoe het hy musiek ervaar en beoefen?

“My pa het saans les gegee. Met dié wisselende ‘begeleiding’ het ek aan die slaap geraak. Maar die belangrikste was seker maar orrelmusiek. My Pa en oudste broer het beide orrel gespeel. My vroegste kennismaking met kunsmusiek was daarom Bach, Bach, Bach en nog ’n bietjie Bach. Self het ek by die huis op die vleuelklavier die een improvisasie na die ander ‘gepleeg’. My Ma moes dan besluit watter ‘skepping’ die beste was…… My trots was meestal die stuk met die meeste majeur sewendes. My Ma het nie my voorkeure waardeer nie, het ek aangevoel, maar nogtans gesê dis ‘baie mooi’.”

Question 2

Hoe het dit gebeur dat u gesin na Suid-Afrika - en spesifiek Griekwastad - verhuis het? Was dit ’n werksgeleentheid? En waarom kort daarna Klerksdorp en Belville?

“In die Nederlandse tydskrif Mens en Melodie het daar 2 advertensies verskyn:

                  Musiekonderwyser/orrelis gesoek. In Suid-Afrika en Kanada.

Wat Suid-Afrika betref kon jy selfs kies - Springbok of Griekwastad! Laasgenoemde het ‘gewen’ omdat dit ’n stad was………. In vergelyking met Griekwastad is Klerksdorp ’n wêreldstad. Maar die twee jaar op Griekwastad was die beste ‘leerskool’ in die nuwe land. Die meeste naweke was ons op ’n plaas. My broer Henk, en suster, Jenny, (toe 18 en 16) was saam in Standerd 9. Die rede was sodat ons tuis sou word in Afrikaans. Ek (11) was in Standerd 4 en Lykele, my jongste broer, was maar vier. Van Griekwastad is ons vir ’n jaar Klerksdorp toe (1960). Belville het gevolg toe my Pa aangestel is as orrelis van die Groote Kerk in Kaapstad en musiekonderwyser by die Laerskool Totius in Belville. Hy was later ook deeltydse orreldosent by Universiteit Kaapstad.”


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