Wilhelm Lichtenberg – Sacred Heart
Every time a heart starts beating spontaneously under his fingers after an operation, it is as if in that moment he can observe the absolute miracle of Creation.
This is also one of the reasons why the award-winning classical singer and cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Wilhelm Lichtenberg, who founded Young Hearts Africa last year, which aims to give children a healthy heartbeat again through music.
Wilhelm also approached two former rugby giants, Corné Krige and John Smit, to act as ambassadors for the foundation. In addition, last year he recorded the song Who Wants To Live Forever with the guitar legend Brian May, from the rock group Queen. With the help of these well-known names and many hours of toil and sweat, enough funds were collected to make quite a few children’s hearts beat warm again. It costs around R200 000 to perform a heart operation and funds are very limited.
“We are finally where we want to be and I am very excited to be able to share the next big step in our campaign with the world this week,” says Wilhelm.
Two charity concerts, where he will share the stage with some of the artists who collaborated with him on the album, will be presented in Cape Town and Centurion respectively in the coming two weeks.
During these events, he will also launch his second full-length album Sacred Heart, which will not only be released digitally, but also as a CD. “The proceeds from all CD and digital sales will be donated to the foundation. In this way, we will make children’s hearts healthy again.”
He considers Sacred Heart to be a holy, spiritual album, and also an ideal Christmas present that can end up under the Christmas tree this year. There are eighteen tracks on the album, spanning a variety of languages and styles. He says he is very proud of the final product and is satisfied with all the tracks. Each song was chosen for a specific reason and the repertoire was put together with great care and consideration.
He can’t really name a favorite track, but for sentimental reasons, two songs that he recorded with his twenty-year-old daughter Maria, a second-year student at Stellenbosch, are the two that stand out for him. Lichtenberg says it makes his father’s heart absolutely swell with pride.
Another song that particularly stands out for him is I Believe, which he recorded with Esté Gross. “I have been familiar with her as a radio announcer for years, but I only recently came across her extraordinary singing talent. Her voice immediately charmed me and I am convinced she will make a very big name for herself. It’s a voice you can fall in love with.”
About three years ago, Wilhelm recorded a duet Die Taal van My Hart, together with the singer and songwriter, Stef Bos, and his eponymous debut album, on which the duet also appeared, was nominated for a SAMA award in 2020 for best classical album, something that is almost unheard of in the South African music industry.
Now he has joined forces again with Bos and the result is Koos du Plessis’ Gebed – a well-known song that has been arranged to bring new depth and a distinctive interpretation.
According to Wilhelm, Sacred Heart is a project by South Africans for South Africans. “I did not write my own lyrics on this album, but my extremely gifted friend and colleague Dr Marius Steyn composed a unique Afrikaans text for the Ave Maria, modeled on the Intermezzo from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana. Look out for the song Anker My on the album. It’s very special!”
Some of our country’s best musicians and artists were involved in the project.”The tracks on this album are all well known, but thanks to the phenomenal arrangement skills of Riaan Steyn and the collaboration of inter alia the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tygerberg Children’s Choir, the South African Youth Choir, the Soweto Gospel Choir, the Bloemfontein Male Choir and the Cape Welsh Choir, the majestic ambition of the album has been realised.
In addition to the groups involved above, the sopranos Britney Smith, Sian Atterbury, Elsa Klopper and Sibongile Mngoma, the baritones Conroy Scott and Barend van der Westhuizen, as well as the well-known TV personality and singer Katlego Maboe, add luster to the abum.
Other tracks on the album include an extremely powerful, yet emotional rendition of the Our Father, O Heer my God, Plea for Africa, Be Still And Know and Sunset poem.
Wilhelm is an ambitious artist and has never been afraid to take on “unusual” projects. In addition to the project with Brian May, Healthcare Heroes, which he produced in collaboration with the Cape soprano Britney Smith, and the two aforementioned youth choirs, made headlines worldwide and the music video received almost three quarters of a million unique views on social media. This song is also the brainchild of the Steyn’s musical genius.
During his student years at the University of the Free State, Wilhelm played trumpet in the symphony orchestra of the Free State Arts Council. Only after qualifying as a heart surgeon did he begin singing studies under the renowned mezzo-soprano Violina Anguelov.
Under her expert guidance, his voice has developed into a rich, soaring tenor which enables him to master classical as well as contemporary genres with effortless purity.
His latest project is like a blended wine, where the classic genre tastefully and elegantly crosses borders to make it more contemporary in places for the modern listener.