Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Online Again: Second Week of Hymnal Notes

Hooray, Internet access is back! You can't believe how difficult life can be without email, Dallas Cowboy game results, and the Methoblog ...

Anyhow, I have a lot of catching up to do. Here's the second week's worth of posts from John Thornburg concerning his work recording music with the Cameroon Hymnal editorial team:

Subject: First day of recording

Hi, friends. After the extraordinary day of opening for Gateway UMC, today was just as good. I had to start the day in the bureaucratic prison also known as the Air France office in Yaounde. I'll leave it at the fact that when I took a number (72), they were serving #46. Nuff said.

When Wes picked me up from my enforced captivity at Air France, we went to see the Roman Catholic basilica in Yaounde. It's a place John Paul II visited twice, and it is absolutely stunning. There are mosaics depicting the seven sacraments that are simply amazing, and the stations of the cross are just as beautiful. The architecture is meant to portray the Blessed Virgin spreading her protective arms over the 12 apostles, so the ceiling beams are like wings. But it's so hard to see the opulence of the building contrasted with the utter poverty of those who attend. Perhaps like those who went to medieval cathedrals, it stood in stark contrast to their homes. It still gives me pause, even while I stand in wonder of the beauty.

Recording began today. Here are the highlights:

-The ambient noise is a factor, but not debilitating. Just a lot of roosters, and workers digging a trench around the building for drainage.

-We had a wondrous Congolese man join us today to play the synthesizer. To say his playing was amazing would be dramatic understatement. The guy was flat out brilliant, even if the synthesizer leaves something to be desired. I wasn't keen on using the synthesizer because I was afraid the singing would be drowned out, but the team over-rode me. The proof will be in the pudding when I bring my trusty little digital recorder home and we see what we have.

-We had another Anglophone join us for the recording. Her name is Ruby, and she's a true gem (no pun intended). A wonderful voice, a great spirit and she's bilingual so the singing in French didn't bother her. Of the five singers on the recording, four are completely bilingual, and the other is close to it. It’s a gift from God.

-There were lots of great moments; their wonderful singing in Spanish on “Santo, santo, santo”; their really energetic rendering of “Siyahamba”; their passionate and rhythmically intense rendering of “We will not give up the fight.” But the greatest moment was when I felt it was time for us to allow the Anglophones to shine. They’re the more oppressed group culturally, and generally the Francophones look down their noses at them. But I asked Pastor Solomon Mbwoge and Ruby to teach us the pidgin chorus, “Big, big thing Jesus e do'am for me.” It has the wonderful line, “E butter ma bread an E sugar ma tea.” Well, the Congolese guy found licks no one had ever heard, then Ruby went to the standing drum. We practiced for a while, and then the miracle kept unfolding. Ruby realized that Alexis, one of the Francophones, was a better drummer than she, so she pulled him over to the drum, and he took her place as the song leader and enlivener. Then Pastor David realized that he knew a version of the song in his local language, and that made him so happy he started dancing. It was just one of the great moments of the trips here. The group had received two new members, and they didn’t know each other, and it was song that started forming the bonds. Wow. Like the spiritual says, “Give me Jesus.”

Subject: Second Day of Recording

Today's lesson: God even protects Luddites from themselves. We had been having an extraordinary morning, enjoying the immense talent of the Congolese keyboardist and doing songs that we enjoyed. At 12: 15, having recorded 8 songs, I was about to switch on the little digital recorder to capture "O for a thousand tongues to sing", and what appeared on the tiny display screen but "Out of memory." It might as well have said, "You stupid man."

But then, as if coming as a divine piece of forgiveness for my inability to understand my own equipment, the power went off, so we lost the keyboard. That was a Holy Spirit time out, so we quickly re-strategized our afternoon and went to lunch.

The afternoon turned out to be a vigorous and highly productive conversation about how song teaching would take place, and I have spent the last few hours drawing up an action plan and budget for the team to look at. It's an exciting prospect. And my technology hero, otherwise known as Wes Magruder, was able to transfer all the data from my recorder to his computer and put all the files on a thumb drive, so we're good to go in the morning with the remainder of the recording.

Highlight of the afternoon: having Collins Etchi, the mission's office manager and health team leader, teach me a Creole song from Sierre Leone that he had just learned on a trip to a health conference sponsored by the Board of Global Ministries. "Thankee, thankee, thankee. Tell Papa God thankee. Weti i do for me (what he does for me), I go tell am thankee." It's a sweet, wonderful melody.

Blessings to you all. Tomorrow is the final day. Keep us in your prayers.