MUSON ends 2018 programme with A Night in Bethlehem
It was glitz as the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) ended its year 2018 programme with its annual Christmas concert titled A Night in Bethlehem, a mini opera/play staged with songs.
Composed by the renowned musicologist, Professor Laz Ekwueme, the production featured the announcement of the advent of Christ by exultant and rejoicing angels.
The event, which witnessed elaborate rendition of songs, plays and dances, was centered on the birth of our Jesus Christ in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.
The play continued with the difficult journey the parents of Jesus Christ, Mary interpreted by Ifeoma Ubani and Joseph by Fred Duke, made in seeking accommodation in the crowded town of Bethlehem.
It also featured the visit of the three wise men from the East played by Gasper (David Erinjogunola), Balthazar (Daniel Etim), and Melchior (Chidubem Nwokedi), who finally located Christ with the assistance of a guiding star as the Holy Bible succinctly states: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2: 1-2).
The concert commenced with the formidable MUSON choir (60 strong) and orchestra (40 strong) on stage, with Sir Emeka Nwokedi conducting. The performance consisted of actors in the background enacting the Biblical scenes of the first Christmas Day.
To illustrate the events surrounding the movements of the angels, the choristers and the musicians, all dressed in matching jet-black attire sang Daryl McKenzie’s Angels We Have Heard On High and Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending by David Willcocks.
Halfway during the programme, the orchestra and choir made its switch from the European classical music to the African traditional music, which was laced with the beats of conga drums, tambourines, slit and pot-drums.
The switch to African music was accompanied with a change in the movement of the singers to a uniform swaying from the hips with gyrations.
It is believed that African music comes more naturally to African choirs, as the ensemble rendered Gesu Bambino by Pietro Yon, Keresimesi o de (Christmas has Come) by Aderemi Olajide, and Amuworo ayi otu nwa by Sam Ojukwu to the delight of the audience.
One question that came to the mind as the choir performed was what is to be the future of the African-laced music when many Nigerian child now finds it difficult to communicate in his mother-tongue, as almost all contemporary discussions are undertaken in a English.
How easy will it be to still find traditionalists in the mould of Sam Ojukwu and Aderemi Olajide, when our children are discouraged from speaking in vernacular?
Speaking with The Guardian after the performance, the Director of the MUSON School of Music, and the conductor of the MUSON Choir and Orchestra, Sir. Emeka Nwokedi, stated that the essence of the MUSON Christmas concert was to remind Christians of the import of Christmas, and make them participate in it more consciously with child-like abandon.
He attributed the success he has enjoyed in training the MUSON orchestra and choir to the fact that young musicians are always willing to follow a leader who knows his craft. He added that he is comfortable working in an organisation like MUSON “because it is serious about providing good facilities, staffing and standards that are comparable to those found anywhere else in the world.
“The entire MUSON set up runs like a polished tool with scores of executives, administrators, volunteers, patrons and well wishers, working energetically together,” he said.