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Pandemic Stories – Charl du Plessis

June 19, 2020
Posted in News
June 19, 2020 Kurt Schroder

Pandemic Stories – Charl du Plessis

We take a look into the impact on the lives and livelihoods of people during the COVID-19 lock-down.

The unprecedented COVID 19 Virus and subsequent Lock-down has had drastic and differing effects on people in South Africa. This series aims to explore that space, and document a bit of what life looks like during Lock-down in South Africa. All necessary health & safety precautions were maintained in the production of this article, and all persons involved had legal permits to work and travel.

The story is told and was photographed by Bernard Brand.

Time well spent with Steinway pianist Charl du Plessis at his home in Pretoria. I’ve known and worked with Charl for more than 5 years now. In that time he has become more than just a client. I consider him a great friend and confidant.

I can’t say it much better than him so here is a short bio pulled from his website: “Charl du Plessis rose to fame when he was the youngest pianist in Africa to be named a Steinway Artist in 2010. He has since embarked on an international career working simultaneously as classical and jazz pianist and has illuminated the music of Bach to Billie Joel for a new generation of listeners”.
“For the past 20 years he has performed in more than 60 concerts per year with singer and iconic South African entertainer
Nataniël”.

To read the full bio you can go here.

BB: What has been the biggest change or adjustment for you during this time? Personally or creatively.

CDP: The most fascinating thing I think is that I had a tendency to look at my calendar daily to see what was coming up in terms of shows or appointments etc.
So the biggest adjustment was realizing there is no tomorrow or next week or next festival or next flight. There is nowhere to go to. There is here and now.

All of a sudden you are ALWAYS, available except you’re not. It’s almost the biggest loss for me. The certainty of those gigs or shows. Dates mean nothing anymore.

BB: What have you learned about yourself?

CDP: No matter the circumstances it’s really difficult for me to allow myself time to decompress and not do anything. And sure, I have done that, but the guilt trip that comes afterward is crushing.
It’s different for example when you’re on holiday because you’ve saved for it and next week you know you’re back to work. Whereas now you’re saying to yourself, you don’t have an income, DO SOMETHING, think of something creative.

“Something cool that has happened in all of this is that I’ve had to learn some new things. 
I did a few Facebook live shows, but the sound and lighting wasn’t great. I downloaded LogicPro and I set up and mic’d my own piano for the first time. I also have these little LED lights that I set up to have better lighting.
Trying to figure out how to make the online shows sound and look better. Tuning my own piano was another thing. Now I am in a position that I am self-sufficient so that I can do all of this on my own”.

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BB: What do you miss the least?

CDP: The pressure and traveling. It’s lovely being at home and waking up in your own bed and being with Stefan. I don’t miss the airplanes and the hotels and the constant, go, go, go. So that has been nice.

“People definitely romanticize art and music and creative outlets”. I’ve had a few people tell me, oh you must have so much time to dream up new shows and ideas and ventures. It’s tough being a freelance artist at the best of times never mind in this time.

BB: How do you think music and live performances are going to change? Will recorded media have a larger footprint or will shows still trump that?



CDP: I think we’re at one extreme of the pendulum. We were on the one side of being able to do whatever and perform live and now we’re on the other side, where online shows are everywhere. 

I do not believe it’s sustainable, because people want to experience the live performance. That being said I can’t truthfully answer this now, because I don’t know what the performance of the future will look like.

Something interesting that I have been busy with. I collaborated with Mariette Crafford. She wanted me to create a piece for a cookbook she is writing. The brief was to write a piece about food and my relationship to food.

There are two “themes”. The excitement of the food and then the other theme is when you are savoring the bite you just took. Those two ideas. The ability of people that make food to conjure up magic.

You can listen to that piece here below. I highly recommend it.

Here is a small write up of the piece: “Begogel” is the Afrikaans word for bewitch and in this fantasy for piano Steinway Artist Charl du Plessis performs his own composition inspired by the power of taste and how great chefs can bewitch us with their dishes. Food has the ability to bewitch and deceive our sense of taste and smell as a mere impression – a moment in time. The composition contrasts the excitement before the first taste and the timeless moment when the physical sensations of the flavors make time stand still.

BB: What has kept you hopeful?

CDP: Realizing that this is not the be all and end all. Realizing that I could teach myself to edit video and record myself and put out live online performances. That has kept me hopeful. I look at someone like Nataniël and how he’s been hustling. There are the people that sit at home and go; “oh I can’t work because of A, B and C”. And then there are those that make a plan and work within those limitations.

“I also started journaling daily. I don’t want to look back at the end of this and think, what did I do every day? Now I can go back and read and see. I’ve documented it and it’s there, this happened”.

What else is there to say? Charl is a class act. Funny, charming and there is a hint of mischief if you know him well enough. When you can go to a show again I implore you to do so, whether it’s with his trio, Nataniël or solo. He’s a great entertainer and performer.

Thank you for reading.

Editors Note: Answers edited for conciseness.