“Calls us Home” a worthy celebration of Clifton’s Centenary

27 February 2024

To celebrate milestones or significant events, people, at times, opt for a song. The problem is, they’re all too often cheesy and cringe. That’s not the case with “Calls us Home“, Clifton‘s song to celebrate the school’s Centenary.

With music and lyrics by Jane Magner, Clifton’s Head of Instrumental Music, the performers include Magner, on the violin, Head of Choral Music Nina Watson, on the cello, and Max Koenig, who was Head Boy of the College in 2015, on vocals and piano.

It’s all brought together in a beautifully executed video, put together by the Clifton Film Academy, directed by schoolboys’ Jake Savage and Zavar Sayed, and overseen by teacher in charge, Donovan Fletcher.

For Magner, a regular performer as one half of Veranda Panda, it wasn’t difficult to tailor-make a song about Clifton. She explained: “For all of us involved in the project, Clifton means so much to us. It’s not just a place of work. It’s really a family, so we wanted to do something that was special and not just a kind of jingle or cheesy song.

“I’m glad it has been well received, and I think, between myself and Don and the Clifton Film Academy, we are just really happy with the way the product came together.”

Fletcher, she said, was outstanding in his support of the project: “Don was so enthusiastic to get on board. He is so creative and organised, which is a rare combination in the creative field.

“His vision was also to support the boys through this, so he really wanted it to be boy-led, as much as possible. From that perspective as well, it was a great experience for the Film Academy boys, and I think a really great learning experience for them, from which they will take away even more than the final project.”

Fletcher, while deflecting praise towards the boys, sounded very proud of their work. “We happen to have a very talented group of guys,” he said. “The students were keen, so I was pretty confident [we could do it].

“I wasn’t sure it would turn out this well, to be honest. It surpassed my expectations.”

By the latter stages of the project, there were nine boys in the team for the video production.

Apart from the previously mentioned directors, the contributors included Michael Dubock and Shelley Haggard, who looked after makeup and helped transform Ivan Boniaszczuk, Deputy Principal of Clifton Prep, into an older man, and a crew of Michael Howden, Darshan Naidoo, Yasheen Naidoo, Connor Vorster, Jackson Nienaber, Mfiki Ndlovu and Rahil Gopal.

The performers – Jane Magner, Nina Watson and Max Koenig – are joined in the video by Boniaszczuk, Damien Butt, Dino Dranias, Mitch Mun-Gavin, the Prep 3rd XV, Zack Bassa, José Cardoso, Muhammed Desai, Joseph De Billot, Likho Filtane, Zanezinhle Mahaye, Taine McCreedy, Jonty Mun-Gavin, Brandon Munks, Okuhle Ntonga, Vivek Patel, Dharshan Pillay, and Busani Sithole.

A lot of work and detailed preparations went into delivering a polished final product. Meetings began in March 2023, with a deadline of August.

In the spotlight, Max Koenig and ___ under the guidance of the Clifton Film Academy.
In the spotlight, Max Koenig and Dino Dranias under the guidance of the Clifton Film Academy.

Arrangements had to be made to record with Max Koenig, who lives in Cape Town, so he visited Durban over a long weekend in August and the bulk of the shooting took place over a Wednesday and a Saturday.

“It took us about three months to come up with a script, workshop the script in the story,” Fletcher explained.

“On the day that we shot it, I was, essentially, the assistant director, making sure everything had been organised and things were where they are supposed to be.

“Then Jake and Zavar actually directed the actors and made sure we got the shots we needed.

“It was a proper little production, because we spent a lot of time talking about what we needed, what we wanted, Obviously, on the fly, on the day, we got some extra shots, things that occurred to us, but mostly we had a shooting script and call sheets, and we were trying to do this as professionally as possible.”

Discussing the song, Jane Magner said: “What I always had in mind is how it would translate to schoolboys singing it together, which is why the chorus sounds the way it does.

“I was looking for something that could be quite a powerful refrain, and something that’s quite easy to sing and quite hooky. So, from that perspective, I kept our general school musicians and schoolboys in mind.

“Then, the Max collaboration came a little bit later, because I thought it would be special to get an old boy to be the voice of this track. Max is a musician. He has a band called Red Sheep, with a friend of his in Stellenbosch, and he lived Clifton music when he was here, as well. He was in our orchestra, and he learnt piano for years with Tania Rousine, so it was the perfect serendipitous collaboration.”

Feedback about the video has been very complimentary, Donovan Fletcher said. The boys have really enjoyed that. Now, they’re motivated to do more.

Calls us Home has been done right.

It’s a song – and a video – that will maintain its relevance and not be lost once the 2024 Centenary celebrations have been completed. It will, instead, stand as a clarion call for Old Cliftonians to honour and enjoy their roots.


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