Several years ago, I got a Facebook friend request from Charl Cilliers, through the common connection of pianist Beth Levin. At the time, I thought nothing of it, but as time went by, I started noticing the poetry Charl posted – and grew to love his writing. Finding one of his posted poems particularly touching and beautiful, I set it to music and sent it to Charl – and that started what turned out to be long distance, virtual perhaps, but nevertheless important friendship for me. He emailed me volumes of his poems, and I kept writing. Wanting to do more than that, I eventually decided to produce an album of art songs, starting with the poems from Charl that I had worked on.
That album came out in 2018, with beautiful performances of the Cilliers songs by soprano Nancy Allen Lundy with pianist Stephen Gosling. After the release of the album, I tried contacting Charl, but never heard back, and guessed that he had become ill and unable to respond. He had already stopped posting new poems or, as he did prolifically, posting beautiful photos of nature on his Facebook page. Searching on-line for his next of kin, I did continue to have occasional contact with his children, and it was through his daughter that I learned that he passed away in his sleep yesterday.
I mourn his passing. There was, I hoped, more poems to come from him.