In his classic book, The Four Loves, British writer C.S Lewis categorised love into storge (natural affection), philia (friendship), eros (love between a man and a woman) and agape (love for God).
This categorisation of love provides inspiration for a Valentine’s Day concert by The Aurora Chorale and the Strathmore University Chorale titled In Love with Music. The two choirs accompanied by a chamber ensemble present a programme combining a varied programme of music transcending classical and pop genres, spiritual, and secular pieces.
The Aurora Chorale (Latin for the “Dawn Choir”) was founded three years ago and sings during the 7:30am Mass at St. Paul’s Chapel, Nairobi, while The Strathmore Chorale is a widely travelled group that performs a repertoire of traditional, classical and contemporary music.
In Love with Music is the brainchild of Ann Manyara who participates by presenting a narrative through the concert with relevant reflections and quotes from C.S. Lewis, William Shakespeare, Peter Kreeft and St. Augustine. The objective of the narrative is to put the music in context, for the benefit of those unfamiliar with opera or musical theatre.
“Every human being has the capacity to appreciate the beauty of classical and choral music, so we must cultivate an appreciation for this music transcending age or social class,” says Ann, a writer and educationist.
She is also using the performance to cultivate concert etiquette among audiences, especially the younger ones. “They need to understand that we maintain silence to allow the choir to read the music and follow the instructions of the conductor. It is not snobbish but it is just to allow the performers to focus.”
Anne first met the Aurora Chorale when they performed at a Thanksgiving mass for her daughter’s graduation at St Austin’s last year. “I was blown away,” she recalls. “I thought this group is worthy of any international stage.”
“When Ann mooted the idea of the concert in July 2023, we had to consider our other engagements such as preparation for the regular mass, the weekly recording for our YouTube channel, and of course rehearsals for Christmas carols,” says Aurora Chorale director Richard Njoroge.” “Then it was down to a selection of songs, some that we had never sung before as a choir, and others we had never paid attention to, but which fitted the theme of four stages of love,”
The choice of music transcends spiritual and secular pieces from notable composers like Wolfgang Mozart, Georges Bizet, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Andrew Lloyd-Webber combined with choral arrangements of songs by Kenyan legends of contemporary music, Eric Wainaina and Fadhili William. In Love with Music was first performed on November 19, 2023, as part of the annual celebration in honour of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.
Conductor, Elijah Adongo, says his role is to ensure that the singers understand the meaning of the text and interpret that through the music. “Remember that the text of the music is written first, often as a poem, and then set to music, so you can only deliver the performance effectively by interacting closely with its meaning and then the audience is able to share in the meaning of the piece,” says Elijah, a music teacher at Kenyatta University.
Richard acknowledges that the conductor places an emphasis on phrasing and conveying the meaning and emotion of the music. “For instance, when we sing Eric Wainaina’s Daima Mkenya about how our forefathers suffered under the colonialists, then the choir must express that pain and suffering.”
Daima Mkenya is arranged for choir by Joseph Ombati, the Sound of Music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein is arranged by Nicholas Omondi, while Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love has been adapted for choir by Jeff Mukoto. The arrangement of Malaika, made popular by Fadhili William, is one that that the Aurora Chorale is quite familiar with through past performances.
The other notable pieces are Joseph’s Coat by Andrew Lloyd Webber from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Amigos Para Siempre, theme song of the 1992 Olympics. Highlights also include Non Piu Andrai (from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro), Habanera (from George Bizet’s opera Carmen), and the opera J’ai Perdu Mon Eurydice by Christopher Willibald Gluck.
The choir will also perform Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the Coronation of King Charles III.
The singers will be accompanied by a chamber ensemble for piano, violin, viola, cello, and trumpet during the concert tomorrow, Saturday 10 February at the Strathmore University Auditorium.