By Ephraim Nkonya
There is something special about singing. Recent research has shown that people who participate in choral groups have a sense of purpose, are more optimistic, mindful, and resilient than the general public.
The study further shows that 80% of singers expect more good things than bad things to happen to them, while only 55% of the general public has the same positive outlook.
The Bible is full of verses about music and how God intended it to be for praising Him, teaching, and meditation. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” And Psalm 104:33-34 says, “I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in
the LORD.” It is because of this that music is an important service in Christian worship here on earth and in heaven because it provides services that words can’t. Hans Christian Andersen is right “Where words fail, music speaks.”
Since its inception 20 years ago, the TAUS community has depended on individual families and groups to provide musical services during its events. One of these challenges for organizing a traditional choir is distance since TAUS members are in several states in US and provinces in Canada. However, many choral conductors, composers, and others have created “virtual choir” opportunities where singers submit their recorded performance of their choral part of a piece via video or audio for assembly into a final edited piece with all parts represented in beautiful music. This is the story of the TAUS choir, which has been a blessing to the TAUS members, viewers of TAUS YouTube channel, and other outlets.
After 20 years of existence without a choir, Betty Enoch was elected as music director in 2020, and her dream was “to make sure music talents of TAUS members are discovered.” Her dream is rooted in her childhood music life. She started playing piano and singing in front of big churches at the age of five. Betty was the conductor of her high school choir and has since made music her profession. She has played piano and sung for different Churches, weddings, and other big events. She has translated these attributes into building the first TAUS choir, which did its major performances during the covid-19 pandemic TAUS events. Organizing a virtual choir is a challenge since the members are in different times zones and have diverse jobs types with equally diverse office hours.
As Figure 2 shows, the TAUS choir members span over a 10-hour time difference. While it is 6:00am on Monday for Mr. Gideon Kasozi in Uganda, it is 10:00pm on Sunday for the choir members in California and Washington State. All but one member of the choir are in North America. The choir members cover all continental US time zones and five of the six Canadian time zones. About 50% of members are in the Eastern time zone, while 30% are in the central zone (Figure 3). A fifth of them are in the Pacific time zone. This clearly shows the organizational challenges even for the choir members in North America.
Betty drew courage from the Lord and saw an opportunity for every challenge she faced. After earnest prayers, Betty formed a WhatsApp group and invited a few friends who love singing and are passionate. The new members recommended other people they knew who love singing. In a matter of a few months, the choir grew to 66 members. Betty then started looking for Gideon Kasozi – a famous Adventist musician from Uganda, to serve as a producer. Joshua Ndege – a TAUS member from Georgia – connected Betty to Gideon, making a big difference within the choir. She composed songs, and Gideon choreographed them into music. Gideon also helped in composing songs, and he became the music producer.
Each choir member was given the tune and asked to sing the song in their assigned vocal categories (namely Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Contralto, Tenor, Baritone, and Bass). The producer’s challenge (Gideon) was to find an app that could remove the background noise of the recorded pieces. Singers recorded their music pieces at home under different environments. To rhyme all pieces in a beautiful track required some work and technical expertise that the producer felt he needed some help with. He got that help from Mr. Lukas Jisaba, who provides IT support to the TAUS Choir. Mr. Jisaba was able to find the app to remove background noise and harmonize the pieces from choir members.
The choir has composed five songs – and all of them are in Swahili. The Table below lists each song, and its YouTube viewership.
The covid-19 pandemic, in which many TAUS members lost their dear ones, prompted Betty to choose the SDA hymnal song “Roho Yangu” as one of the choir songs. It is a song for helping grieving families to depend on God when visited by the loss of dear ones and to draw comfort and strength in the Lord.
The choir performed many times during the TAUS retreat at Black Mountain in North Carolina. The choir has also been performing during all TAUS events.
An online survey was done to determine the demographics of the choir members. The 66 TAUS choir members reside in three countries – US, Canada, and Uganda. The choir member’s age ranges from teenage to 60 (Figure 5). This means some choir members could easily be singing with their grandchildren.
The members also do all sorts of jobs – including Information Technology, Office Managers, Teachers, Accountants/ Auditors, Engineers, ambassadors, doctors, nurses, Home Health Care, Counselors, musicians, and students. The diversity of the choir members also extends to their background in East Africa. They come from almost all SDA conferences in Tanzania covering the entire country; some are Kenyans and Ugandans. Some are not Adventists but share the same passion for singing and praising the Lord. This underscores the beautiful diversity of the choir that we will see in heaven.
The Revelator tells us: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9, NKJ.
TAUS has been blessed with a choir consisting of a diverse group of members who reflect the diversity that we expect to see in heaven when we sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints” (Revelation 5:3, NKJ). The TAUS choir has taken its blessed role of serving boldly and faithfully through music. They have overcome difficult challenges because they claimed Jesus’ promise, “ I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20 NKJ). TAUS still has many plans to develop its services to higher levels, and they need our prayers as well as spiritual and material support as they serve the Lord through music.