From traditional Christmas carols to festive pop songs, music provides the soundtrack to the yuletide celebrations and there are a variety of concerts marking the spirit of the occasion over the next two weeks.
The beautiful classical music associated with the Christmas season came to life last weekend as the Nairobi Music Society and the Nairobi Orchestra performed their customary concert at the All Saints Cathedral.
The concert conducted by Levi Wataka also featured the Cavina School Choir performing pieces like Handel’s “Messiah”, “And Peace on Earth” by Bob Chilcott, and “Carol Suites of the Americas” by Mark Hayes.
The Redfourth Chorus led by music director Philip “Filah” Tuju is currently in rehearsal for the Christmas Cantata on 22 December at the Auditorium of the Garden City Mall. The concert will combine Redfourth Chorus choirs, backed by Tha Movement, a highly rated 7-piece band of musicians.
“This is our first Christmas concert and we will now make it an annual event featuring the different choirs under the Redfourth brand,” says Tuju. Besides the regular choir that features 19-25 year olds, there is now a Redfourth Divine for women singers that was launched at the beginning of the month.
There is also a Redfourth Rookie with high school students who are currently on holiday and are part of the concert. Other guest performers are Dennis Baraza who was 2nd runners up during the I Can Sing TV singing competition and multitalented singer, musician and actress Maryolive Mungai.
Tuju says the repertoire of the show will be interpretations of Christmas carols, and choral versions of favorites like “Kutembea Nawe”, “Kuliko Jana” and his own song “Lem Na”, spiced up with spoken word and drama.
One of the busiest ensembles during this season is the Nairobi Chamber Chorus that is performing up to 10 concerts over the next two weeks. Choirmaster Ken Wakia says some of these performances are private but there are those open to the public like this Saturday 15 December at the Village Market and on 19th December at Movenpick Hotel.
The choir is performing new arrangements of traditional carols like “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Jacob Narverud and “Poor Little Jesus” by Alan Raines. Other songs on the repertoire include “Mary Did You Know” by Jack Schrader and a powerful gospel rendition of “Halleluyah” by John Higgins. The performance is not complete without the good old Kenyan Christmas carol “Nyathi Onyuol” by Enrico Owegi.
The Nairobi Chamber Chorus is renowned for adding a Kenyan flavor to their performance of Christmas carols and Wakia says the audience will be surprised by this year’s program of music. “Some of the spirituals we will be performing are arranged in a gospel style and have a wonderful African edge to them,” he says.
The theme of the concerts is ‘A Choired Taste’ and the choirmaster explains that this is an opportunity for people who may not have the appreciation for choral music to listen to the choir and they might leave having “acquired” a new taste for choral music.
“We know that people often go to restaurants for the food and they leave having tasted lots of things. Similarly, music is the food for the soul and we would like our audience to come sample the rich variety.”
The challenge for an ensemble that performs Christmas concerts annually is keeping the performance fresh from one year to the next and avoiding the routine.
“Our audience will hear their favorite Christmas carols in a new sound. We always strive to present something new for their ears. We also have new Christmas songs that have not been performed in Kenya before,” says Wakia.