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US-trained classical singers bring charm to Nairobi concerts



Eddy Baraka Mony. PHOTO | INDIANA UNIVERSITY
Eddy Baraka Mony. PHOTO | INDIANA UNIVERSITY  

It is not often that a male vocalist is able to successfully transform his voice range from baritone to tenor.

But for Eddy Baraka Mony, the switch to a higher scale is in keeping with dramatic events in his singing career.

He was not even a singer when he started music. As a student at Starehe Boys Centre, he played clarinet in the school band under the tutelage of volunteer British teacher Christopher Walters and only began singing when he joined Kenyatta University to study music in 2012.

Two years later, a visiting professor from Indiana University in the US heard Mr Mony sing “Ombra Mai Fu,” an aria by George Frideric Handel and encouraged him to audition for a place at the US University.

He sent in a video recording of his singing for the audition and was admitted to join the four-year programme at the university’s Jacobs School of Music.

He has just completed his third year of study is back home performing at different concerts to showcase his remarkable transition from bass-baritone to an accomplished tenor.

Musical journey

“The purpose of these events is to showcase my musical journey,” says Mr Mony.

He credits the Martyn Donaldson Music Trust, a British-based organisation that provides instruments and sends volunteer teachers like Walters to his former school, for supporting his music studies from Starehe to date.

It is a privilege that has enabled him to study at one of the top music schools in the US and to be trained by “world class voices, refined musicians and some of the best pianists in the world.”

Before going to the US, he had performed as a baritone in the role of Guglielmo in the opera “Cosi Fan Tutte” produced by Edita Camm. It was his college voice teacher that identified the potential in him to sing higher musical notes.

“When he heard me singing “La Donna è mobile,” which is a famous showcase for tenors, he was immediately convinced that I had the ability to sing this range comfortably,” Mr Mony says.

Private clubs

This was affirmed when he was chosen for the role of Father Grenville, a tenor, in the Indiana University production of the opera “Dead Man Walking” in 2015. Last year, he accompanied his college music professor Sylvia McNair to Eldoret for a unique performance.

“We were playing music for patients at Moi University Hospital so that made it a very rewarding experience,” he recalls.

During his current summer break, he is performing at concerts while also training the choir at his former school, Starehe Boys Centre for the Kenya Music Festivals.

Last week, Mr Mony performed at two concerts at private members clubs in Nairobi accompanied by his former teacher at Starehe, Mr Walters and Joyce Tannian who was a voice coach for the school’s production of “Oliver Twist” in 2007.

US-trained

During his third concert this Saturday, Mr Mony is joined by another highly accomplished singer Maryolive Mungai and Levi Matheri Muriuki on piano. Muriuki is a student of music at Malone University in Ohio, US while Ms Mungai has been a professional singer since 2012 and has just completed her studies in Liverpool, UK.

She studied contemporary music and jazz music at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music and Technical University of Kenya and switched to the classical format on the recommendation of one of her teachers.

It took just a year of training voice for her voice to adapt some of the nuances of classical singing.

One of her defining roles was as the Countess Rosina in the 2012 production of the opera “Marriage of Figaro” by Edita Camm where she worked with a cast that included Ian Mbugua, Philip Tuju and the Moipei sisters.
Since then she has participated in two short films, three musicals, theatre productions with Phoenix Productions and as a soprano soloist in concerts in Nairobi.

Sh1,500

In 2015, she received a scholarship to study music at Liverpool Hope University and has just returned home after completing the two-year course and says it will be a great experience to be on stage with Eddy Mony.

“He is a tenor and I am a soprano so our voices complement each other especially in duets,” says Ms Mungai.

The concert features solos and duets by both singers with repertoire of well-known songs by some of the greatest composers including pieces by German composer Franz Schubert followed by arias by Wolfgang Mozart and Giacomo Puccini.

Most of the duets are songs by Andrea Bocelli like “Time to say goodbye,” “The Prayer,” and “Vivo Per Lei” and G.A. Rossini’s “Meow Meow (Cat Duet)” They will also perform songs from popular musicals and negro-spirituals.

The concert takes place at the Purdy Arms, 61 Marula Lane, Karen tomorrow 16 July at 7pm with tickets selling at the door for Sh1,500.

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