Home Movies Articles THE TY DANJUMA SPONSORED TWELFTH EDITION OF FESTIVAL OF PRAISE REGALES ABUJA

THE TY DANJUMA SPONSORED TWELFTH EDITION OF FESTIVAL OF PRAISE REGALES ABUJA

The annual concert organised by a group of Christian music enthusiasts led by Prof. Jerry Gana under the rubric of the Festival of Praise has regaled audiences in Abuja for twelve years. Financed entirely by the generousity of retired General T.Y. Danjuma the celebratory event has brought together classical musicians, ecclesiastical choirs, and choral ensembles of varying origins in Abuja each year to perform mainly carols and other religious music with gusto.  However, the 2019 edition of the concert, which took place on the 15th of December, may go down as one of the most remarkable versions of the event ever witnessed by the inhabitants of Abuja.

The International Conference Centre, which has always been the venue, was filled to near capacity for this year’s extraordinary concert. The organisers outdid their previous years’ achievements by booking acts that provided incredible displays of expertise and virtuosity including exciting star performances from the incredible saxophonist Deejay Sax, and a wonderfully original vocal ensemble known as The Royal City Chorale from Owerri

General Yakubu Gowon and Vice President Osinbajo enjoying the gospel music at the event.

The latest edition of the concert was a landmark event for several reasons, not least because it was performed under the direction of a world class German conductor Walter Michael Vollhardt, who is also a virtuoso cellist. His control of both the mass choir and the superb Festival of Praise Orchestra was a revelatory experience. The string orchestra performed with such expertise that it was surprising to discover that it was a new ensemble put together for the first time only this year to replace an orchestra that used to be imported from Lagos. This orchestra is to be maintained as a permanent part of a new music school in Abuja and will be doing monthly public performances in the near future. This plan will enhance the cultural life of the capital to an unprecedented extent and the enthusiasm with which the audience received this year’s program promises to expand the opportunities for musical appreciation in the metropolis throughout the year.

Interestingly the concert appeared to confirm religious faith as an instrument of cultural appreciation as the opening prayer performed as a gospel chorus by a talented pastor metamorphosed into an extended chorus of audience participation. This collective exercise was based on a spiritual that expressed the theme of the concert which was “We Will Praise HIM from Everlasting to Everlasting”. The entire audience sang the spiritual in response to the onstage pastor’s exhortations for over fifteen minutes, and it was only after this public affirmation of faith that the concert really began.

A guest appearance by a female Turkish flautist Leiya Bayramogullari served to signal that this year’s repertoire would not be a narrow menu of familiar local content. This was followed however by a charming sequence of traditional carols sung by a choir of blind youth which was presented as the Chorale of Special Persons. This emotional performance generated much praise and applause from the audience and when the illustrious guests of honour led by the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo showed their appreciation by leading standing ovations the atmosphere grew even more festive. This festive spirit rose to celebratory heights when the Royal City Chorale from Owerri performed.

This group led by a young director who displayed remarkable rhythmic sensitivity in both his conducting and his vocal lead performances brought the audience to their feet several times during a short but brilliant performance which served to set the tone for collective enjoyment of what was to follow. The climax of the concert was a most unexpected and dynamically exciting performance by the Lagos-based saxophone improviser known as Deejay Sax. When he took the stage after a dramatic entrance from the audience everyone took to their feet led by General Danjuma himself and the frontline guests which included former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon, Guest of Honour Vice President Osinbajo and Governor of Taraba State Darius Ishaku. The entire audience was on its feet throughout his extended exhibition of his extraordinary talent as a spontaneous and imaginative improviser.

Report and Photos by Lindsay Barrett

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