In the course of 2015, various choirs released albums and I’d like to share with you what they have for us.
Let’s begin with the youngest one. Taste and See, produced by the Living Choir under the directorship of Mr. Blessed Yawson. The songs on the album are compositions and arrangements by the above mentioned director who is also the founder of the thirteen (13) man choir. And they really do impress!
The arrangement of songs in the album alternate between contrasting styles: local highlifes and more solemn anthems.
The instrumental introduction to the first song takes us to the shores of Ga Mashie, with their gome box drum. Its strong beat, together with other instruments set the rhythm for you to either tap your feet or shake your body alongside; then the voices are added and we have our titular song Taste and See.
The next track, Adoration, is a medley of some contemporary songs, including As The Deer Panteth. In this composition, the chromatic notes add colour to the piece and draws one into the song. The tenor and soprano soloists did a good job; their command over the voice was refreshing.
However, I thought in My Help, which is in classic choral form, the singers did not gel well with their entries at some parts of the song. And being polyphonic in texture, this caused the singing to sound slightly off.
Apart from instances where the singers’ phrasing was not properly coordinated, the harmony was orchestrated beautifully and the chord progressions were good albeit with too many embellishments by the keyboardist.
During the year, the Gramophone Chorus gave us four (4) albums, each from the Fellowship of Songs event they held. I have listened to all but one, their very last one.
Theirs follows a pattern of selected classicals, hymns, Ghanaian anthems and then highlifes.
The first, Pre Easter Meditations, features a majestic rendition of J.S. Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. Then we have some hymns and then comes on Thine Be The Glory, with the opening intro which gets you literally high. The anthem begins with much energy, then falls in ritardando during the second stanza, culminating in a deceptive cadence at the end of the third. The pace of singing returns a tempo and the anthem marches on towards a thrilling end: a truly beautiful expression both by the organists and singers.
The danceable tunes are simple yet harmoniously orchestrated and that’s one big plus for me. There’re not over-the-top embellishments and so it was easy on the ear.
On Prayer, Worship and Thanksgiving, the second album from their staples, the calming rearrangement of Blessed Assurance is one song to look out for. In this album however, Gramophone Chorus adds spice by taking a few songs of the contemporary genre and creating an interesting medley; some of them include Oguanma Se Ayeyi and Wo Kronkron Yi Ye Me F3. Do note that the songs have been rearranged for SATB.
The strong beat of the bass drum keeping time, the keyboard and flute playing the opening intro and coupled with the subtle flute all culminate into the intro of Battle Hymn Republic on the third album, Always On Our Side.
In all three albums out of the four that I have listened to, I must point out that articulation was quite good. Each voice sounded as one (no competition in there for the “best soloist” to be heard). The bass was airy and could be heard and felt carrying each of the songs. Alto was also on point – not sounding nasal but light and fun and thereby adding colour to the harmony.
And finally, Pax Choir KNUST outdoored His Love, Our Thanks, a collection of songs written and composed by Rev. Newlove Annan, a renowned Ghanaian composer. In addition is The Grace, a composition by one of their alumni – Ernest J. B. Danquah.
The sixteen (16) song album starts off with Me Nyame Afr3 Me, written in strophic form as is common of hymns, followed by Mensuro Hwee, a rondo.
The soothing intro of Onim is one that everyone should listen to. The keyboard sets off the tone and gives way to a saxophone, that creates a jazzy feel to the music. This orchestration is refreshing. The four soloists taking different sections of the song totes to the mood as well.
The Grace rounds off the hymns in the album. The Alto carries the melody, just like in Handel’s And The Glory. I must commend Mr. Danquah here for composing a song in polyphonic in texture that is not hard on the ear.
A distinct feature with this choir’s highlifes is that solos were incorporated into each of them. These solos contain chromatic tones that spritz more verve on the songs. They were orchestrated in such a way as to showcase the sweetness of the songs.
For Osoro Nka, children’s voices were added as the song ended till it faded out. Now this “twist” was a bit tricky for me. Even though the lyrics said that God’s children praise Him for what He does for them, the gimmick was really unnecessary. The song could have very well ended without it. However, I do doff my hats off for the arranger’s ingenuity.
In general, the soprano part sounded non uniform. One voice could be heard over the top of the other soprano singers. For all the other three parts, you could hear the oneness of their respective voices although they were many.
As all but The Grace were in Twi, the choir did not have a hard time with articulation and so the lyrics are clearly heard.
There were other albums, including Mpaebo Tiefo by Caleb Joe Baffoe and the Royal Harmonials, Hymns and their Meaning Vol 1 and 2 by the Tarkwa Crusader Chorale and Nya Gyedi by the Gaddial Acquah Methodist Youth Choir that were released as well. I haven’t had the chance to listen to them yet. Do get them as well for your listening pleasure.
Kudos to each of the Music Directors and Music Committees that spearheaded the production of these albums, and especially with the way the songs are interpreted to us the listeners. We expect nothing less from you in the coming years.
What was your favourite album last year? Let us know in the comments!