Con Grazia, the classical music ensemble consisting of three sisters, Syntiche, Marchelle and Sharon, is deeply rooted in family relationships and a love for music that spans three generations.
“It started with my mother, Priscilla, who was a music teacher for 38 years,” says Marchelle, the eldest of the three sisters.
Marchelle teaches music at the American School of Johannesburg’s Pretoria campus and she plays violin and piano. Syntiche, the middle of the three sisters, also plays violin and piano, and she homeschools her three children. Young sister Sharon handles, among other things, the group’s bookings and marketing, and she plays various wind instruments, including recorder, transverse flute and saxophone.
“I was always a bit of a rebel and didn’t want to play the same instruments as my sisters,” jokes Sharon.
Syntiche adds with a laugh that she does not agree with Sharon. “Marchelle and I naturally think that she actually didn’t want to learn to play the violin, because then she would also have to practice in the caravan like we do on holidays before she could go play on the beach. But today it’s good, because Sharon brings a different sound to the group with her wind instruments.”
Some of their earliest memories are when they made music together at a young age, and in 1993 this joint love for music led to the beginning of Con Grazia.
“From a young age we performed together in churches, old people’s homes, weddings, tea gardens and at school events,” remembers Syntiche.
Since then, the sisters have performed as soloists, duo or trio at weddings, corporate functions and special events. They were also awarded a Ghoema prize for best light classical Afrikaans album in 2017 Cosmos awarded
Their mother still performs with them now and then. She is a piano and accordion player, as well as a singer. As the sisters’ brood gets older, they become just as adept with instruments such as cello, flute, piano and guitar.
“It is a privilege for us to make music together as a family and to do it to the glory of the Lord. We are grateful for the talents he has given us,” adds Marchelle.
Their father, Errol, was a financial advisor and he died of brain cancer at the age of 47. Syntiche says one thing she remembers from that time with her father’s illness is the role music played and how their relationship with God was strengthened.
“After an operation, the doctors gave him six months to live, but luckily he was with us for another four years. It was borrowed time for our family.
“My father gave speeches and gave his testimony at churches and music became a safe haven for us where we could find solace. With the income we earned thanks to Con Grazia’s performances, we made a financial contribution to the house’s maintenance.”
Priscilla has meanwhile remarried and according to the youngest Sharon, Chris Thornhill is like a second father to them. “We are very grateful that my mother has found a life partner again. We also call him Pa Chris, because we don’t see him as our stepfather.”
When you ask Marchelle, Syntiche and Sharon what they enjoy most about making music together, Marchelle says that it’s fun for them to come up with new ideas.
“We love to liven up special occasions by adding creative aspects to our music. Like using a white piano with a gold dress that looks like walking gold when it moves.”
Syntiche expands by saying something about the group’s outfits.
“One of our favorite things about performances is to dress according to the color scheme or theme of a function. As children, we often raided my mother’s closet and played around in her clothes and tiki heels. Now we have a special room with a variety of evening dresses and costumes for different creative themes.”
She goes on to say that it is wonderful that music brings them together. “If we each get busy with our own lives, there is always a performance around the corner where we should be together.”
It has taken them far and wide. Also abroad for performances in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, France, Holland, Belgium and Seychelles.
Sharon thinks she enjoys it the most when they experience fun together; to laugh and hang out while they exercise. “Sometimes we drink a little more tea than practice, but we always get together before a performance.”
In this way, for the past three decades, music has been a bond that binds and shapes Marchelle, Syntiche and Sharon’s sisterhood. Not only is it a refuge for them, but also a way to share their music with other people and cheer them up with it.
“We hope that our music touches people’s hearts. Everyone receives God-given talents that can be lived out. Ours is music,” concludes Sharon.
- Con Grazia will perform on Friday 28 July at Christmas in July in aid of the Louis Botha Children’s Home. click here to learn more about the event.