“When I was 19, I got to meet Princess Diana, Prince Charles and the rest of the royal family,” says British-born cellist Michael Jones (pictured). He is in Cape Town and we are chatting over the phone about his upcoming performance in Durban.
During his college years, he says, he was chosen to play for the British royal family and he got to chat to the late Princess of Wales on the couch for a few quick minutes. Still, that has to be one of the coolest honours ever. “And the wine was quite amazing too,” he laughs.
Jones is easy-going and delightful with a real interest in South Africa. He asks me about Durban, the weather and interesting places he can see.
Jones was three when he discovered his passion for music.
“When I was a toddler, my parents came to South Africa. My dad worked in a business in Joburg, so he took my mum, sister and I to Mozambique for a weekend. I was only three, but I do remember a swimming pool and there was a piano in the room where we stayed. And I reached up to get the keys. My sister and I were playing with it and I was hooked from that moment. So I have a South African start to my roots.”
For the popular UK cellist, music has the ability to touch one’s heart.
“During my stay in Cape Town, I went to a less fortunate community with a family who is hosting me here. They opened their home to me and we visited an area where there are people who don’t have a daily meal. A lot of them have never seen a cello nor heard one. I played Bach and it was like complete contact with them.
“I didn’t have to speak in English, Afrikaans or any other language. The music itself is a direct language to people’s heart. It’s a way to communicate without expressing it in words. That was truly amazing. It proved my point with the reaction from those people who haven’t eaten the entire day. They were silent and they were touched. I could see their expression and it made it worth it.”
He has performed across the globe, from New York and London to Japan and Hong Kong, but Jones is extraordinary and humble.
“I just want people who watch me perform to feel better about themselves and walk away with a kind of well-being feeling, sort of how they feel after a massage.”
He performs tonight along with the Friends of Music at the Durban Jewish Centre. The programme features a selection of Bach suites and Rodrigo’s Fantasia.