The Celestial Evangel Choir, one of the best choirs based in Kumasi, is celebrating five years of existence and ministry with twin concerts to be held in Kumasi and Accra this weekend. The concerts, titled "Magnificat", are the first collaboration of the choir with another major group.
Besides its reputation as one of Kumasi's finest choirs, Celestial Evangel is also noted for its consistent campaign in support of children with cancer. This philanthropic effort has been a part of the choir since it was formed, and, to date, they have raised about 40,000 cedis for the cause. The group's music director and co-founder, Dr. Albert Adusei-Dua, is a well respected young composer and organist who helped popularise Samantha Okai's anthem, "Emmanuel".
We spoke to the PRO of The Celestial Evangel Choir, Mr. Jojo Arhin-Addison, to gain more insight into this weekend's activities.
CMG: Jojo, tell us something about the "Magnificat" concert.
Jojo: The "Magnificat" is the fifth Anniversary grand concert of the The Celestial Evangel Choir. It is a collaboration with our choir (based in Kumasi) and Gramophone Chorus from Accra. It also marks the 19th Anniversary of the coronation of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. The name "Magnificat" was chosen because, as a Christian choir, we feel the need to "glorify and extol" our Lord for our five years of ministry.
CMG: Does this mean that the "Magnificat" combines two celebrations of the choir?
Jojo: Not necessarily. The main celebration is the choir's fifth anniversary. The anniversary of Otumfuo's coronation will also be marked that day because of how important the monarch's patronage has been to the choir.
CMG: Choirs singing together is nothing new, but the idea of a joint concert (particularly between two major choirs) is uncommon. Why is Celestial Evangel collaborating with another choir?
Jojo: When such groups meet, there is sometimes "competition" and hostility between them. We thought that celebrating five years and bringing several guests from the US was a major undertaking, and it will be a shame to do it alone. Gramophone Chorus came to mind because they are very disciplined - from their organisational structure to their time consciousness. Since our first meeting, Gramophone has been as enthusiastic about this as we are.
CMG: Why two Magnificat concerts?
Jojo: We thought it wise to give our audiences in both cities a good treat. Our Kumasi concert will feature the KNUST University Choir at the school's Great Hall, while the Accra concert will be co-hosted with Gramophone Chorus at the National Theatre. The two concerts will also give our international guests a chance to experience these two cities.
CMG: Concerning your guests, who are they and how are they connected with the two performing choirs?
Jojo: Brandon Brown is an accomplished baritone. Alyssa Jenks is coming to Ghana for the third time. She is connected with the choir through Dr. Randall Kempton. She held a three-day voice workshop with our choristers some time last year.
Dr. Randall is a close friend of our music director, Albert (Adusei Dua). After honoring our invitation in 2016 (during which he conducted a concert), Dr. Randall's interest in our choir has grown. It is also his third time in Ghana. Richard Elliott is an accomplished organist and the principal organist of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This is his first visit to Africa. We couldn't bring him down last year because his schedule for the year was booked.
As you can see, Albert's rapport with Dr. Randall has given the choir many important friends. We even hope to bring Mack Wilberg, the current music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, to Ghana in the near future.
CMG: So these personalities are guests of Celestial Evangel Choir.
CMG: What roles will they play during the concert?
Jojo: Dr. Randall Kempton will conduct all but the local songs. Richard Elliott will play an organ from Church Organs Ghana. He will also perform a recital. Brandon and Alyssa will perform solo and with the choir.
CMG: Is this the first official collaboration between Celestial Evangel and another major choir?
Jojo: Yes. Although we've featured many choirs in the country, this is a first.
CMG: So far, the highlights of the concert include the collaboration with Gramophone and the involvement of some high profile personalities. In terms of repertoire, are we to expect anything significantly different from previous Celestial and Gramophone concerts?
Jojo: Not really. There will be hymns with a number of double choruses, classicals and spirituals with a little drama. We will also perform several Ghanaian-language compositions, not limited to Twi.
CMG: Can we talk a bit about the drama?
Jojo: Yes. That will be part of one performance that requires various parts of the choir to imitate different instruments. This is not your "typical" drama, but we have some surprises reserved for the night.
CMG: This concert, and some of the choir's past activities, suggests that Celestial Evangel has strong international relationships. How do these benefit individual choristers?
Jojo: Our members have gained a lot of confidence when singing, and have learned to sing with correct pronunciation. Our visitors train us anytime they come, and they sometimes do so remotely. Our guests are experienced voice coaches.
CMG: Will Celestial Evangel pursue more collaborations with choirs and other groups in the near future?
Jojo: Of course. We are "choral evangelists". We seek to bring all choral musicians "together". We believe there shouldn't be friction or competition in this ministry.
CMG: How does your Childhood Cancer Awareness campaign benefit from this latest concert?
Jojo:All our publicity materials carry a message on our campaign. We are carrying a strong message to the world: children living with cancer must be taken care of. We are pleading with the government to include childhood cancers in its National Health Insurance Scheme to reduce the financial burden it puts on parents.
Celestial Evangel's musical and philanthropic activities have made news on Choral Music Ghana previously. Led by an inspiring director, with patronage from one of the bastions of Ghanaian culture, this choir is one of the most exciting to watch. The collaboration with Gramophone Ghana is a novelty we're sure fans of Ghanaian choral music are anticipating. Just as we are.
More importantly for the choir's charitable program, this presents another opportunity for Ghanaians to help the most vulnerable members of our community. There's a lot to love about the upcoming Magnificat concert. We can't wait.
The "Magnificat" concert takes place in Kumasi, at the Great Hall, KNUST, on the 21st of April at 4:00pm, and on 22nd of April in Accra, at the National Theatre at 4:00pm. Tickets for each concert costs 20 cedis.