Mandy Gurr

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Mandy's Story

Mandy's Story

"If you move with confidence in the direction of your dreams and try to live your life according to the goals you have set, you will succeed!"

This quote, by an unnamed author, takes pride of place on the first page of a scrapbook dedicated to my friend Mandy’s numerous achievements and successes as a singer, pianist, actress, recording artist, singing coach, and director. It epitomizes her philosophy of life, and captures something of her indomitable spirit, as she tackles each day head on and refuses to relinquish control of her life to a debilitating neuro-muscular disease. Sadly, Mandy has had to learn, in a particularly cruel and frustrating way, that merely setting goals is not enough to achieve success. Sometimes, it is harder to let go of ambition and to recognize goals as being unattainable than it is to strive for their realization.

For more than two decades, Mandy Gurr-Snyman held the South African public and theatre critics mesmerized as she captured our hearts with her angelic voice and wholesome good looks. She burst onto the stage in the late seventies and continued to astonish her audiences with her numerous talents until the turn of the century. Music is Mandy’s passion and she loved to sing, sharing the enjoyment of her art with an ingenious delight that was impossible to ignore. Whether belting out her music from an auditorium stage or crooning from the piano of a smoky bar, Mandy involved her fans intimately in each and every performance and left us feeling personally touched by her aura of  stardom.

During her career, Mandy shared her stage with many illustrious and talented artists. Her versatile talent has encompassed various and many genres. Her list of achievements and accolades would justify a book of their own and include some of the following:

Her acting debut was in The Wizard Of Oz and Heidi with Wendy Bowman’s Drama School
In 1979, she was one of the Ster Kinekor and Strand Music House Talent Search Finalists
Also in 1979, she appeared on SABC television’s Video Two with Richard Loring & Delia Sainsbury as hosts
Mandy sang the theme song "Sounds Of Your Life" for Radio Algoa at the stations inception on the first of January in 1986
She recorded many jingles and adverts for S.A.B.C in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg
In 1982, she was the Herald On-The-Go Show’s Best Personality and Best Talent
Together with Jonathan Birin, she sang as Jonathan & Mandy at the Cornflower Restaurant, The Executive, the Elizabeth Hotel, Jack Dempsey’s Bruno’s, and at various functions all over Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape
In 1982, Mandy was nominated as Most Promising Artist of the Year by the University of Port Elizabeth’s "Radio Uppie", under Peter Wise
Also in 1982, she recorded Jonathan Birin’s "We’re Not Just Friends" as a single with E.M.I Brigadiers, and in 1983, her and Jonathan reached the finals together on the SABC talent show Follow That Star with the same song.
Following this, in 1983, she became a finalist with "We’re Not Just Friends" for Springbok Radio’s Sarie Awards.
Together with Jonathan Birin, Mandy recorded eight English children’s cassettes and two Afrikaans children’s cassettes called Sing-A-Long with Phyllis & Friends
In 1984, she performed at the Savoy Theatre in When the Cat’s Away! - an original romantic musical comedy by Jandy Offerman and Terry McCarthy
In October 1984 she played the role of Mary Magdalene opposite Gary Bryden as Jesus in the South African premiere of Jesus Christ Superstar directed by Mark Rose-Christie
Christmas 1985 saw her in the Pantomime Cinderella directed by Robin Williams. Mandy played the lead male role of Prince Charming opposite Jenni Callaghan as Cinderella

In 1986, at the Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuurvereniging Crescendo Awards, Mandy was awarded Singer of the Best English Composition with the song "Forever Free", written by Paul Offerman, her 1 st husband. This song was included on her first LP entitled Heart to Heart, recorded at Genesis Sound in Johannesburg, under the management of Clive Harding of Four Jack’s and A Jill fame
In January of 1988, the LP Heart to Heart was released in South Africa, and at the Cannes Music Festival in Midem, France.
Also in 1988, Mandy was cast as the lead singer in a musical extravaganza Takin’ Off, by Jon & Lian Bevan, which toured South Africa beginning at Sun City before moving to the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, the Sand du Plessis Theatre in Bloemfontein and the  Opera House in Port Elizabeth.
She also recorded a second album with Genesis Sound, entitled Let’s Put Back The Feeling In Christmas in the same year.
In 1989, she played the female lead of Ensign Nellie Forbush opposite Ge’ Korsten as Emile de Becque in South Pacific directed by David Matheson at the Port Elizabeth Opera House
1994 and 1995 were busy years: Mandy toured with the cast of Thank You For The Music : A Tribute To Abba, performing at The Barn Theatres and at the Standard Bank Arts Festival
Mandy has received numerous Showtime Awards for a number of roles; to name a few – Best Actress in a Musical, Excellence in Theatre, Best Director, Best Contribution to Theatre Music, and a Lifetime achievement award in the Showtime Hall of Fame.
After a long break of fighting her illness, Mandy climbed back into the proverbial director’s seat, and produced a benefit concert in collaboration with Magnetic Storm and Algoa FM; all proceeds were in aid of the St. Francis Hospice and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. THUMBS UP- No End to Caring was staged for one night only at the Port Elizabeth Opera House - Friday the first of August in 2008; this night also happened, without coincidence, to be Mandy’s 45 th birthday. The show was a sell-out.

Mandy married Tjokkie Snyman on the first of April in 1989 and eagerly embraced the role of Mom to his two young sons Hanro (five) and Janus (three). On the fifth of November in 1990, they welcomed their son Anton into their family. With a new-born baby and two busy boys, her focus was primarily on her new family, and Mandy turned her attention to opening the "Mandy Gurr Singing Studio", where she could work from home by coaching promising singers.
She proudly presented her pupils annually in an end-of-year concert for eleven years at various venues, including The Barn at the Port Elizabeth Opera House, the Ford Little Theatre in Central, Mount Pleasant Primary School, and the Super Sport Action Café in Humerail.
She also became involved, firstly as Vocal Director and then as Director, in the city’s premiere show for finding and nurturing young talent – Bob Eveleigh’s brainchild, Showtime.
Having established herself as a musical force to be reckoned with, Mandy’s future looked set to continue in a glittering fashion. Her diagnosis of a Motor Neurone Disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in September of 1998 turned her entire world upside down. Even her unwavering faith in God did not prepare her for the radical lifestyle changes her diagnosis would force her to make. Almost overnight, Mandy’s dreams were shattered and her goals had to be re-engineered to accommodate a debilitating and terminal illness. Her future as a performing artist was over and her creative, independent spirit was dealt a near-fatal blow, made even more difficult to bear by the success she had tasted.
In the pages that follow, Mandy allows us a rare glimpse of the emotional turmoil, frustration, anger, and physical disability she endured, as she battled to make sense of the sheer injustice of her diagnosis. While stoically continuing her roles as a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, she reflects on her emotional rollercoaster ride and shares her victories and defeats in a sincere and heartfelt story. Mandy shares her thoughts in a forthright and transparent manner, never attempting to gloss over the physical indignities and lack of independence she continues to face on a daily basis. Her journey from the depths of despair towards a place of tentative hope and eventual acceptance makes for compelling reading.
As a loyal and undemanding friend for many years, "Daisy" (my nick-name for Mandy) has enriched my life with her depth of character and willingness to share my burdens and joys. A true kindred spirit!
"I salute you my friend – for your generosity, as you share your experiences; your music that brings joy to so many hearts; your compassion, as you listen to the burdens of others, your belief in God and your gratitude for His gift of life; but most of all, for your unconditional love that has inspired me to reach for my dreams!"  
.......... to be continued

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