‘I have revolutionised organ music in Nigeria’
Lanre Delano, the Chief Executive Officer of Church Organ Projects in Nigeria (CHOPIN) and publisher of Organ and Music Magazine (O&MM), will be forever grateful to his late parents, who he describes as deep lovers of music to have helped find his path early in life.
Growing up as a child, he was very restless but showed keen interest in music rather than physics and mathematics among other subjects, which he eventually realised, also exist in music.
He said, “My father bought an upright piano and hired a private music teacher in the late 60’s. Though my sister and brother played the piano, I was the most involved. We used to play the organ in the morning at 5.30 a.m and evening home fellowship till I left my parent’s house for my own apartment.”
“Playing Piano then was part of home discipline. My father loved listening to hymns, most especially when he returns from St Jude’s Church Ebute-Meta. My mother believed I had special talent for music; though other things often distracted me due to my adventurous nature.
“Sometimes, while playing the piano to her listening pleasure, she would just be getting in the groove of the music and I will suddenly excuse myself with a flimsy reason and never return till the music wore off her,” he added.
Delano, though may not be a performing artiste, his contributions to the entertainment business in Nigeria is unquantifiable, especially classical music, with his supply of organ pipes and digital organs through his organisation, CHOPIN, which now celebrates 18 years of existence.
The tall dark-skin Organ merchant has carved a niche for himself and CHOPIN, as his notable installations are spread across the country in Orthodox and the new generation Churches, schools and private homes. Amongst these notable installations is the Aso Villa Chapel Cathedral, and private installation in Ikoyi, Lagos, one of his biggest, which is an Allen Digital Organ.
“The projects are remarkable because of the caliber of personality involved. Another notable installation is the 64 Step Pipe Organ built by the Oberlinger Orgelbau GmbH, which at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina Lagos. It was dedicated on May 9, 2010,” he explained.
“Unfortunately the ban on social and religious gathering due to lockdown will not enable a proper celebration by CHOPIN of 10 years of this memorable landmark installation of the largest Pipe Organ in Nigeria. The organ has 3,658 pipes on three levels in the Organ Chamber.
“Other astonishing features of the organ are the Spanish trumpets, which are mounted at the West door of the Cathedral. These trumpets blend with the grandeur of the Cathedral building. The sound is exceptional. Very few churches in Nigeria can boast of possessing such trumpet stops on their organ,” he said with confidence.
Also in the vestry area of the church, are a set of beautifully crafted maple and spruce wooden pipes that produce an alluringly warm tone on the pedal, which further enhances the beautiful organ sound.
“The main organ console is not that visible because it behind the choir stall on the right side facing the alter. The pipe system is both aesthetically and acoustically superlative,” Delano stated.
He told The Guardian that a comprehensive compilation and documentation with pictures and videos of the Organ from the first meeting brokered by the prime mover of the project, the late Mrs. Obafunke Akinkugbe of Womens Guild Auxiliary of Cathedral Church of Christ Marina, at the residence of former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, who was Chairman of the fund raising committee, through the visits of late Engr. V.A Haffner (music connoisseur extraodinarie) and Organist, Mrs. Tolu Obajimi to inspect the production processes in Germany, to the dedication at a world class organ recital with dignitaries including members of the diplomatic corps in attendance, held on May 9, 2010 has been produced.
Delano also stated that CHOPIN was the first organisation to organise the first Organ recital at the MUSON, which has helped greatly in developing the interest and awareness for organ music in Nigeria.
He described his journey into the business of organs as a divine calling, saying: “I knew nothing about organ business, I never wrote a feasibility study to start the business; never worked in an organ company in Nigeria or abroad, nor knew anybody working in an organ company.
“Though I was one of the first two graduates of music from the University of Ife, 1978-82; we never had a course on organ studies needless say having an organ in the department. It surprises people when I tell the truth that I never saw a digital organ in my life until 2001 at a small goods and appliances exhibition in Dietzenbach in Germany called Hessentag.
“However, I have been in the business for 18 years now. I sold my first digital organ a week after the launch of the company. It is actually amazing at the huge number of organ music lovers. My goal is to preserve, protect and develop Organ music in Nigeria.
“Although we may not get the kind of crowd that the likes of Wizkid, Sunny Ade, or Davido among other high flying new generation of music acts in Nigeria get; we do get a good audience to listen to matured music.
“I like the sound of the organ, which I got fascinated to in my church, St Jude’s Ebute-Meta, now Cathedral of St. Jude’s whenever the organist, Mr. Yinka Sowole was playing. I also admired the pipe organ in a few other churches like the Cathedral of St Peters, Aremo Ibadan.”
Delano further explained that one of the encouragements he had growing up was being allowed by his parents to go to watch and listen to Fela Anikulapo Kuti at the shrine, stressing that his father insisted he studied music formally by sending him to Pa Kobinna Creppy at Kose Lane, Lagos, where he obtained Grade 5 ABRSM in February 1978.
“My other teacher was Mr. Kayode Oni, who taught me at the music department, The Polytechnic Ibadan in 1977 before I gained admission into University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University, as one of the first set of two students to start the music degree programme in 1978.
“I was under Prof Adetunji Vidal, who was then the head of department. In 1983, I did my NYSC with the Nigerian Police Force Band Ikeja under the then Director of Music, Police Commissioner, Ben Odiase, who composed the present national anthem.
“Some people once said my parents took a risk by allowing me study music in the higher institution as against more dignified courses like medicine, law or architecture.
“Today, the story has changed because I have brought a lot of honour to my family through music and my father, who lived much longer than my mother was very proud of what I have achieved because he attended all my events till he passed on at the age ripe age of 93 years.