Friday, July 4, 2008


June 14


Hi, guys. Lots going on. A week ago, Saturday, my choir performed!!!! We had four songs prepared—“You Are the New Day,” “Were You There” (spiritual), “Oh Happy Day” (sister Act II version), and “When You Praise” (Fred Hammond). At Thursday’s dress rehearsal on the 14th of June, the producer of the show (Jacob Zuma’s daughter, does theatre and film) said we were not at all show quality, and she was willing to cut numbers if they were not good (she already cut other things like a poem of another performer’s). So I was done a bit. The choir was infected with stage fright performing for the first time in front of an audience. But I knew they could do better.

Well we went through a lot. The head of music at my church didn’t get me the musicians that I wanted (I wanted people who could listen and play by ear and improvise well), so we worked with what we had. None of the people he gave me felt comfortable playing the Fred Hammond piece, so I had to stop directing the choir and play the piano for that piece. By Friday’s dress rehearsal, the producer (Gugu) was finally happy and felt the choir did a 180 degree turn. The most important thing to me was that they finally enjoyed singing and smiled and had a good time. It was WONDERFUL.

Saturday night came, and before the show I thanked them—the choir—for giving me an opportunity to get back into music, something I missed here in South Africa because I haven’t been drawing, dancing, singing, or acting much, and the one play I got into I was dropped. I told them they gave a lot to me and they had been through a lot. I told them I was proud of them especially because we are not all musicians and many of us don’t read music but had done an excellent job in learning. I said many other things but I would like you to know they went out there and sang their hearts out.

They sang the first two numbers, and then we returned later to sing. In between, I had to play Georgia for a choir member who wanted to sing solo; it required me to play jazz piano style so they got to hear some different chords (remember they look at America and American music as being the bearer of innovation) than we usually hear at church. Right before choir returned I was told by the host to do only ONE of the remaining songs because the show was long. I had to decide between “When We Praise” and “Oh Happy Day.” I chose the piece that more people knew that would get people clapping. We did “Oh Happy Day” and they went crazy. The church has now asked for the choir to be a main stay. Though they don’t want the performing choir model (which I love) I am going to see about this worship-leading choir (where the choir sings with the congregation during the musical worship part of the ceremony). It’s a nice model. If you come from some churches (like the African American church) you know you can hear a new piece, a fast piece, and/or a performed piece and still worship while you listen. It’s been a good week.

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