THE violent death of 60-year-old musician Simon Milliken on Friday afternoon, 31 August, has sent waves of shock through Durban’s music community. Simon was the principal double bass player of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra for many years.
He retired from the orchestra last year but had continued to perform on an ad hoc basis with his former colleagues, most recently in concert this past Thursday in the Durban City Hall during the orchestra’s current Spring Season, performing under the baton of the orchestra’s visiting Hong Kong-born guest conductor, Perry So.
A passionate nature lover, Milliken had taken Mr So on a birdwatching hike in Durban’s Burman Bush Nature Reserve on Friday when the pair were approached by armed men.
The conductor and Milliken fled in opposite directions. Mr So managed to escape unharmed but tragically, Milliken’s body was discovered in the nature reserve early on Saturday morning. He had been stabbed in the chest. Tributes and expressions of sorrow from friends and colleagues have poured in for the much-loved musician.
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Trumpeter Cathy Peacock, a close friend of Milliken was heartbroken. “What has happened leaves me beyond words, trying to process this terrible tragedy. Simon was always such a delight to be with. I loved him for his wry wit, for his whole-hearted enjoyment of life, not least his passion for opera and for his kindly interest in those around him. Working without his benign presence in our midst is going to be very sad for all his friends and colleagues.”
Caroline Smart, theatre personality and owner of the artSMart website described the news of Simon’s death as shattering.
“I am devastated. Simon was a delightful, funny, forward-looking man with a great sense of humour. I have known him since the time he joined the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra many years ago. He was always courteous and kind. He was also pro-active in ensuring that I had photographs and publicity for the Baroque 2000 concerts. KZNPO concerts will never be the same again without his tall figure and tousled hair in the double bass section. Bless you, Simon – be free in your new celestial home.”
Commenting to Berea Mail, friend and colleague, Michel Schneuwly said, “Simon was the most caring person you could imagine. Nature and all that goes with was the centre point of his whole existence. He was an expert in plants, birds, and wilderness in general. At some point and at the beginning of his stay in Durban he lived in Kensington Heights and was in Burman Bush every morning before sunrise to pull out alien plants in the forest. He was a founder member of Baroque 2000 when I launched it back in 1998. He never missed one concert and was passionate for what his involvement in music was. He was an extremely dedicated double bass teacher when I started the GROW2010 project in 2005 and taught with passion many little kids living in shelters in Durban. I miss a friend and a great colleague. I also miss his wonderful sense of humour.”