The Uncertain Climax of Hallelufesto 2012

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By Manasseh Azure Awuni/The Finder

The atmosphere was charged. As if possessed by the spirit of music, the Novelties of Praise lavishly dished out to the joyous audience one melodious rendition after the other from their inexhaustible repertoire of soul-lifting songs.

Just below the stage where “gods” and “goddesses” of music ministered, a crowd was performing an unrehearsed but well-coordinated choreography. It was a forth and backward movement that employed their own version of the popular azonto dance, with a rhythmic stamping of their feet in unison. Their spirits were high.

The ministration also swept the audience who could not come forward, perhaps for lack of space, onto their feet. Among those that caught my eyes as I scanned through the thick audience for pieces of journalistic threads to weave my story, was a young man in clutches. Leaning slightly on his right clutch and with his left hand holding aloft a white handkerchief, he danced his heart out.

“I’m Alhaji,” he screamed back at me when I leaned over and “whispered” a brief introduction of myself.

“Sorry?” I screamed back. The audience had taken up the chorus and so our whispers were actually screams.

“Alhaji” he repeated the same name I heard at first but did not trust my ears.

“Alhaji?”

“Yes, Alhaji Mohammed,” he added.

“Is that your real name?” I still was not sure.

“Are you a Muslim?” I asked when he said that was his real name.

No, Alhaji Mohammed is Christian. All his family are Muslims, except his younger brother and him. He accepted Christ seven years ago and fellowships with the Assemblies of God Campus Ministry on Legon Campus. He is a Level 200 student of the University of Ghana Business School.

I realised his attention was torn between the performance and me. Besides, the programme was still too young to start getting the audience’s assessment. So I temporarily left Alhaji Mohammed as he joined thousands of ecstatic audience in the Accra International Conference Centre that Sunday evening to enjoy what Hallelufesto 2012 had to offer.

Hallelufesto is an annual musical concert organised by the Methodist and Presbyterian Students’ Union (MPU) of the University of Ghana. This year’s edition, which was dubbed Santa Alabanza (Holy Praise), was held under the theme: “If the Lord had not been on our side.” It was the 16th edition and was massively attended by MPU members, students of the University of Ghana, MPU alumni, special dignitaries and the general public.

The MPU alumni did not come as passive observers, but as very active participants. One of the MCs and the stage manager were alumni. But the alumni whose presence was very conspicuous was the alumni choir. The 28-member choir left the audience wondering where and for how long they had met to rehearse for such a splendid output. They held the audience spellbound throughout their performance until they signed off with a highlife tune that paved way for the MPU Chairman’s address.

The Chairman, Mr Enoch Tham-Agyekum, in a short address, urged the congregation to reflect on the goodness of the Lord by considering the possible dangers that could befall them “if the Lord had not been on our side.” In another short message, the Choir Director, Daniel Amoako Nyarko Jnr, was also grateful to God that despite the numerous challenges, Hallelufesto 2012 had finally arrived. He invited the audience to enjoy themselves.

And indeed, some participants admitted they would forever remember Hallelufesto 2012 with a pang of nostalgia.

The MPU’s drama group, the Heralds of Revival, were the next to engage audience in an intriguing choreographic performance. The group enacted two different scenes before the entire team poured onto the stage to lay bare their enormous talents.

If the audience thought they had seen their GHC10 worth of excitement, then they were wrong. The real show was about to begin. The host choir, the Dynamic MPU Choir, proved why they are called dynamic. Their ministration was punctuated by an eight-scene spellbinding drama that provided the themes for the various songs they very well ministered:

A wealthy couple, Mr and Mrs Appiah Nkrumah’s marriage is under threat because of their inability to have children after six years of marriage. With a mother-in-law cast in the mould of Patience Ozorkor to contend with, Mrs Appiah’s life is hellish. But they still trust God for a miracle. In sharp contradiction to this worrying couple’s daily misery is 65-year old Mamle Tetteh, whose life-threatening cervical cancer is the least of her worries. Mamle is a rare breed, a ray of hope around those who get in contact with her. One of those she inspires is Chukwuma, an embittered Nigerian student who falls in love with Dede, Mamle’s granddaughter. The characters occasionally freeze, making way for Alfred Kwame Afreh, the eloquent and multi-lingual narrator, to give inspirational messages that were greeted with thunderous applause from the audience. The performance was indescribably spectacular.

The Dynamic MPU Choir paused midway through their performance and made way for one of the two guest artistes, Joe Mettle, to send the audience onto their feet as they joined him in worship. But the solemnity of the packed conference centre would soon give way to wild celebration of the Lord’s goodness when the youthful musician led in praises.

The Dynamic MPU Choir returned to end the unfinished business. Mr and Mrs Appiah are touched with Mamle’s words of hope when they meet the old lady in the hospital. Mamle was Mrs Appiah’s teacher back in the senior high school. But the Appiahs joy is made complete when their test finally proves that that Mrs Appiahs is carrying twins. This is at a time when Mr Appiah’s mother brings a pepper-tongued Kotokroba market “gangaria” as wife for her son. The story line appears ordinary but the characters were extra-ordinary.

Clad beautifully in their all-white robes with violet stoles hanging from across their necks, the Dynamic MPU Choir kept the audience spellbound throughout the period before arousing them again with gospel highlife. Unlike with their usual instruments, which often sent Norbert Schall and his entourage of gentle azonto dancers onto the dancing floor at MPU Sunday church services, the choir did their highlife with borborbor drums. This session was also used to take the offertory. Even though the programme was yet to reach its climax, the audience were very impressed.

Rev. Michael Abedu, the minister in charge of Mount Ararat Methodist Church at Bubiashie in Accra could not hide his joy. “The programme as a whole is very educative,” he said. Rev. Abedu, whose daughter, Esther Abedu, sings in the Dynamic MPU Choir, urged participants to give their hearts to the gospel preached through song ministration and drama to “guide their daily lives.”

“It is a very good programme, well-rehearsed, properly organised and focused,” remarked Rev. Michael Agyapong, the minister of Christ Congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Akropong. “This programme gives me hope for the future of the two churches involved [Methodist and Presbyterian Church]. We thought all was lost but what I’ve seen this evening from our youth gives me a lot of hope”

Mrs Araba Osei-Tutu, who emceed the programme with veteran actor Fred Amugi, was impressed with the performance. She however had a problem with the sound control. “The beauty of music is a good blend of the instruments and the singings,” she observed.  Mrs Osei-Tutu is an alumnus of the Dynamic MPU Choir and had participated in Hallelufesto on three consecutive occasions. Hallelufesto 2012 was the sixth edition she was witnessing. “The singing was a bit too loud and overshadowed the instruments. Next time the technicians have to regulate the sound a bit better.”

The borborbor drummers and the organist also struggled a bit to be in tune with each other. The Choir Director, Daniel Amoako Nyarko Jnr, admitted the choir had rehearsed with the borborbor drums only once. The organist and the drummers also sat at the two extreme ends of the stage, a little too far from each other, I thought.

Back to Alhaji Mohammed!

“Hallelufesto is a combination of all you can expect in an entertainment programme. The drama and choral music have blended so well that no aspect of the programme was boring,” he said, visibly elated.

Mr Fred Amugi said the programme had “brought so many youth to booth and must be encouraged. The devil, they say, finds work for idle hands.”

The Assistant Choir Director, Mr Theophil Asamoah-Gyedu said the choir had prepared for three months and said he was generally impressed with the choir’s output that evening. Many participants confirmed this view.

But in the midst of the joy, the fear that Hallelufesto 2012 might be the last of the 16-year old event hung thick in the air. There were speculations about the dissolution of MPU. If that happens, Hallelufesto may be no more.

“I don’t know much about the split of MPU but I think that would be very unfortunate,” Rev. Abedu said.

“Even if there is a split, the choir can still come together to rehearse and hold Hallelufesto,” Mrs Osei-Tutu noted. “I don’t see how the split should affect Hallelufesto.” But Rev. Agyapong holds a contrary view.

“The beautiful worship atmosphere they have created is because they are together,” he said. “If they break up, it will cost them a lot to be able to hold a programme like this.” According to him, whatever the reason, he would not support the split of MPU. “The church is supposed to be one body, just like Christ.”

For Alhaji Mohammed, the breakup of MPU would be “very unfortunate” because he was looking forward to more Hallelufestos in future. “I don’t want this to be the last. My church doesn’t have choral music like this so this is an opportunity for me to experience it.” He was of the view that even if MPU splits, Hallelufesto must be maintained to unite the two churches on campus.

“Last year, Hallelufesto was the happiest moment in my life. This year has not ended but so far, today is the happiest day of my life,” he said, dancing in his chair.

I thanked him while still scribbling his last quote in my notepad. Then he learned closely and said passionately: “If there’s anything you people in the media can do to maintain MPU, try!”

I wanted to ask how we could do that but Alhaji Mohammed was already up and dancing to the tunes from veteran singers, Tagoe Sisters. They climaxed Hallelufesto 2012. And perhaps, the history of Hallelufesto.

Writer’s email: azureachebe2@yahoo.com

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