Best of Classical Church Music

‘The All Saints Cathedral Choir. PHOTO | COURTESY  

The All Saints Cathedral Nairobi is presenting a week of classical and choral music performances this week as part of the cathedral’s centenary celebrations.

The events started with the Choral Night on Wednesday with some of the best choirs in Nairobi performing at a concert in the Trinity Auditorium.

The highlight of the concert was the performance of the centenary theme song “Lord for the years” by the combined Nairobi diocese choir.  

Written by Timothy Dudley Smith, a retired bishop of the Church of England and widely acclaimed as one of the finest hymns of the 20th century, it was chosen from more than 100 songs.

“The message in the song is all encompassing and is very suitable for the centenary celebrations,” said Atigai Luvai, Director of Music at All Saints Cathedral.

The “Organ Night” on Thursday was a special recital including works by composers like Bach and Mendelssohn on the Cathedral organ played as a solo instrument and in combination with other woodwind instruments.

The organ at the All Saints was installed in 1934 and is one of only two pipe organs still operational in Nairobi.

Tonight is the “Praise Night”, a worship concert with the Cathedral Praise teams famously known as “Heavenly Sound” singing contemporary music from Western and African genres.

“There will be a very modern and lively sound with lots of drums, and guitar,” explains Luvai.

The husband-wife duo of Alan Githuthu Wanjohi and Rebekah Dawn from the Nairobi Light House and other performers will be playing original music during the concert.
Saturday’s performance is themed “Sounds of Praise” featuring a combination of orchestra and choral music.

The Kenya Conservatoire of Music symphony orchestra will perform Mozart’s “Bassoon Concerto” with special guest Bernie Childs. Childs, a professional bassoonist is a graduate of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in the UK.

Tomorrow’s programme also features the world premiere of “Psalm 150” written specifically for the centenary celebrations by UK composer Andrew Whittaker.

Other highlights on the night will be a performance of “I was glad” by English composer Sir Charles Hubert Parry whose text consists of verses from Psalm 122.

The anthem has been traditionally been sung at the royal ceremonies in Britain, such as the coronation of the monarch and most recently at the 2011 wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

It was also performed at the installation of Reverend Jackson Sapit as the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya in 2016.

Tomorrow’s repertoire also features Karl Jenkins’s “Palladio” a composition for string orchestra. This is the 10th edition of the Sounds of Praise concert and will be led by guest conductor Alan Childs, also from the UK.  

Childs is an experienced organist, pianist and conductor and has performed with ensembles in many parts of the world.

Another guest performer is Liz Childs, the founder and director of the Bedfordshire Woodwind Academy.

She has performed extensively throughout the UK as a soloist, recitalist and orchestral player. Childs has also trained and performed with young flautists in Nairobi.

A performance of Handel’s “Messiah”, the world’s most famous oratorio, on Sunday will provide a fitting climax to the week’s concerts. “This composition covers every aspect of the life of Jesus so the choir and orchestra will perform the entire piece,” says Luvai.

The symphony orchestra is from Conservatoire of Music and the Nairobi Orchestra and guest players from the Berkshire Woodwind Academy in the UK. The choir consists of 140 singers drawn from the All Saints Cathedral, St. Andrews Church and St. Paul’s Church.

“This is a week of music covering a wide spectrum of performances from classical and choral to contemporary so there’s lots of diversity in the program,” says Luvai.

After this weekend, the next series of performances will be during the main centenary celebrations in November in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and a representative of Queen Elizabeth.