Review: Black & White Keys, Trumpets and Angels on Earth for a Harmonious Chorale at 10
Deep bass rumbling voices and sopranos bounced over the auditorium roofs like a bunny frolicking through a field. Like trumpets announce an impending doom, these brass instruments too injected some edginess into us. But for the piano’s tranquility.
The last time sounds of this decibel were heard somewhere around the world, walls went crushing down. So, when reverberations began striking each square meter of the auditorium and high pitched voices rose up above our heads, we sat up. We are not sure if the walls of the Dome were stronger than Jericho’s. But we’re sure this isn’t the impact of a multitude; it’s just a group numbering a little over 60 — nothing dramatic, nothing scary. Assuredly, this sound is angelic, this orchestra won’t break a brick. It’s harmonious and rather soothing. This is heaven!
It’s the Nyame Ye concert, 10th anniversary celebration of Harmonious Chorale – Ghana, happening at the Accra International Conference Centre. A talent exhibition of classicals and symphonies has charged up an already spirit-filled atmosphere. Each song is performed with finesse and the realm owes its air of sensation largely to the harmonies.
Music giant, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” and “Hallelujah” were reproduced to near perfection. “Funniculi Funicular” was both addictive and amusing. And for most part of this session, the lyrics were incomprehensible; sounding Italian or Spanish or a cocktail of both.
All these are served in stellar theatrical fashions. Four keyboardists did the job of an instrumental ensemble and improvised for the woodwinds, brass, percussions, violins, viola and cellos. Indeed, theatre came alive!
No matter how many people would want to be part of this event, the Dome couldn’t take much. It looked like a gathering of a selected few. The 1,600 people here looked like the biblical metaphorical 144,000 for heaven. Basically, we are here to patronize an angelic host praising the Lord on the day He rests.
10 years of existence as a somewhat front lining heavyweight, they are now telling a story that goes far into the hearts of the Ghanaian underworld of chorale music. So when James Varrick Armaah took his place as conductor and commander-in-chief of this force, he executes his role with the demeanor of a true disciple, like the Biblical “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Behind him is a loyal crop of audience which has lit his torch with flames for a decade and counting. Facing him is a family that has been endearing to him. The only thing standing between him and them is a rack holding sheet music. From here, a tall repertoire of songs stares at him.
This is the choir that had started off as a quartet, and still remains a living organism, chalking major milestones and is now a precious mine of gifts on the continent. Indeed, the day you stop growing is that day you start dying.
The stage is lit. It was observable the night will be a remarkable one. But the mind cannot hold all the memories. So cameras of varying pixels levitate to capture the moments and voice recorders go down to pick each wave of sound. Social media enthusiasts are at their usual bests.
For hours, the choir treated us to the best classical, contemporaries and hymnals from around the world; climaxing it with purely indigenous Ghanaian compositions. They are the songs we have been humming to on a regular day in the bathroom, on the sick bed, at workplaces. You are sure to come by the most familiar words: Yesu, Calvary, Adom, Nhyira, Aseda, Hallelujah. But a certain novelty accompanied the renditions. The creatives that married the voices brought soul to the art. It was a a sight to behold, as the group switched from one glamourous anniversary regalia to the other. The costumes gave them off as a ready army in battle.
How vain is a man, who boasts in fight. The valour of his gigantic might!
Mention must be made of Nigeria’s celebrated concert tenor singer, Precious Adokiye, whose act exposed him as a well-oiled machine in the business.
Assuming a typical elite South African accent, a boisterous Michael Dingaan also pulls off a show in what appeared like conducting the choir to widespread appeal. He would break the ice with an inspiration or a comic relief at one point or the other.
We got tired applauding. But they haven’t been tired after 10 years of an unbroken praise to God and country. Therefore, on they went to raise the bar on Josh Groban’s “You Raised Me Up”:
When I am down and, oh, my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me
Occasionally, James would fly a hand to throw an invitation to the audience. With or without it, we would frequently hijack the singing and chorus it with so much rudeness. We did it off-key, cluelessly; with pride. Then the choir would take over and finish them to a riveting, thunderous applause.
Newlove Annans “Your Grace and Mercy” brought tears to many pair of eyes, goosebumps to the flesh and a reminder to the mind that life was meaningless but for the doing of the Lord. So everyone snapped off their ego, social statuses and sang along in solemnity, in spirit, in harmony. That was the only time James looked back at the audience, motioning us to keep the unison and chorus. Oh James!
“Drommɔ sɔɳɳ, Drommɔ sɔɳɳ,
Drommɔ sɔɳɳ, kε mɔbɔ nalε,
Your Grace and Mercy has brought me thus far!
Adom ne ahumɔbrɔ, Nε de m’a be du ha nnε
Your Grace and Mercy has brought me thus far”
And then the voices burst out into another one that sent cold chills down our spines: Meye Dede (I Shall Make Noise). It was one of the many others authored by James himself. Nevertheless, this ministration hasn’t been about him or the choir. Nothing has been about them, in a long stretch.. But no matter how much they tried to exemplify this, they failed. We couldn’t take our senses off them.
“Our focus has been on ministering to God, and God thorough the ministry to Him; ministering to human beings”, patroness and Executive Chairman of the group, Rev. Dr. Joyce Aryee had maintained.
In the end, Harmonious Chorale is let down by their own incredible talents. We have become so spoilt by their brilliance that greatness is no longer enough. We expect exceptionalism. The maiden African World Choir Olympics in South Africa which is expected to host them in 2018 will be an opportunity to deliver phenomenal flawlessness to the world like a courier.