After almost a year outside the country to further my studies in my beloved Tanzania, it was a great time for a wonderful reunion with my friends and fellow academics whom I left behind. It wouldn’t have been much better than meeting them at one of my favorite choral programmes, Fellowship of Songs. It was the second anniversary celebration and ninth edition of Gramophone Ghana’s quarterly program dubbed Fellowship of Songs- FOS, a programme that brings Christians and choral music lovers together to fellowship in hymns, choral and classical compositions from both indigenous and exotic backgrounds.
This edition of FOS was a celebration of the great work of Gramophone Ghana in promoting choral music activities in the country since its inception some few years back. It was a great night to warm the hearts of the audience who trooped in to Trinity United church to join the angel voices, ever singing, round God’s throne of light...
As usual I arrived almost an hour before the commencement of the program to do an official registration with the organizers who received and gave me the necessary directives and insight about how things would be run. I took my seat in the front row a few minutes to the commencement of the programme after taking some time off gallivanting around the premises to familiarize myself with the environment and some old faces.
The program officially started with an opening prayer and the filling in of the choir at exactly at 17:55. The promptness of Gramophone Ghana is impeccable and worthy of emulation; they are never late to start their programs. The drums started sounding and echoing in the auditorium, with the organists beautifully playing the coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest by George Frideric Handel, the composer of the Messiah. A combination of a recital, drum appellation and rendition of Zadok the Priest inaugurated us into a night which served us with variation in performances by the choir.
It was followed with two identical compositions by one of Ghana’s great choral music composers, Dr. Ephraim Amu and Emeritus J.H.K Nketiah (Asem yi di kan & Adanse kronkron), pieces I performed as a music student whilst in secondary school. These songs are identical in two dimensions. First is their musical arrangement- usage of enriched chords and triplet-like rhythms and secondly, inspiring lyrics which remind us of our social, civil and religious responsibilities in upholding the values and heritage of our country and the testimonies given to us by God.
Gramophone Ghana also took us through some compositions by Kenn Kafui (Mida Akpe na Mawu & Dzidzorm with a solo by Richard Kotey Neequaye), Gadiel Acquah’s ( Ↄnso Nyame ye), Osei Boateng’s Gyatabruwa (Psalm 34) which is loved by many, and Newlove Annan’s (Yεbεyε Dede & Senyε Nyame Na W’ayε with a solo by Kennedy Dankwa).
A sermonette was delivered by Professor Kofi Agyekum on the theme: A Tribute to Our Music, which highlighted the contributions by various musicians of different generations in promoting good art music in the country. He also urged the audience to refrain from negative attitudes and behaviour that can bring our country into chaos before, during and after this year’s election.
This was followed once more with the performances of compositions such as Gye Me Taataa (arr. by Newlove Annan) with a duet sung by Sylvia Ofori and Yaw Awuah, former members of the Levites choir of NUPS-G, University of Ghana, and James Varrick Armaah’s Minsi Den.
With the heightened euphoria created amongst the audience by the performances, Dr. Clement Appah, the master of ceremonies led the Gramophone Ghana to launch its newly created website and the cutting of the anniversary cake with a background rendition of Wo Na W’ayε by Amos Tetteh and a solo by Ernest Obeng.
The song Everybody Bring Your Calabash by George Mensah Essilfie ushered us again into an ecstatic atmosphere full of dancing and the chiming of pesewas in the offertory baskets, with many people flooding the aisles to display their dance moves. I could only be gay and watch them since i could barely swing my body into the dancing mood. But I found joy going round and taking pictures of people who had attended the programme and getting glimpses of the old faces I hadn’t seen in “centuries” whilst I was away from the shores of Gold Coast. As usual there were sales of pre-recorded songs by Gramophone Ghana on both CDs and flash drives.
One thing that was very fascinating about Gramophone Ghana on the night was their choice of songs and uniform. They were dressed in their beautiful, newly sewn Bakatari uniform with white long sleeves for the gents and a white kaba for the ladies, which is quite different from the robes we are accustomed to. Bakatari is a traditional outfit worn by the indigenes of the northern part of Ghana. Also, the combination of the patriotic songs and uniform they wore uniform collectively, gave a sense of national unity and harmony, considering the varying background of the audiences and the choir itself, especially in this election period.
We were served with quavering and solemn renditions of Adikanfo mmo (Ephraim Amu), Y’ani Da Wo So (Reginald Watts) and Uncle Ato’s Ↄman BeyƐ Yie arranged by Andrew Baiden ushered us into a time of prayer for our country, Ghana for a peaceful election. This year we have witnessed several choirs organizing peace concerts to sensitize people about the need for peace in our country before and after the election. This is a laudable initiative which should be encouraged in our musical setting- promoting peace through choral music, and Gramophone Ghana and all other choral groups should be commended in this light.
The programme gradually came to an end with the choir once again rendering Zadok the Priest in replacement of the scheduled All for Jesus, which happens to be the choir’s slogan and adopted hymn for Fellowship of Songs in recent years. The entire performance of the choir was under the baton of Theophil Asamoah-Gyadu, who also doubles as the Founder and Artistic Director of Gramophone Ghana.
FOS@2 is a night that will certainly ring a bell in the ears and memories of those that were present, and to those that were unable to show up there, I hope to catch a glimpse of you at the next edition and other choral activities somewhere in the country.
KWAHERI! – Good bye.