The Queen of the Night in Lubumbashi

The Orchestra Néo-Apostolique de Lubumbashi (O.N.A.L.) was established three years ago and has made good use of the time since. The orchestra gave its first public performance on the occasion of the Chief Apostle’s visit on 15 July 2017. And it was a resounding success.

Are African orchestras and choirs better at European or traditional African music? The answer is not easy. In their first public concert the orchestra and choir of the New Apostolic Church Lubumbashi performed both—pieces from the classic repertoire as well as traditional music. And both sounded good.

“We want to encourage young musicians to put their talents to use and become involved in the Church,” District Apostle Tshitshi Tshisekedi says. This is how sixty instrumentalists and 120 choir members came together in November 2014. The District Apostle apologised for the lack of professionalism. “Then again the first airplane did not cross the Atlantic right away either,” he joked. But considering the programme and the power and quality of the performance, such misgivings were completely unnecessary.

From Rutter to Haydn

John Rutter was on the programme as was Gabriel Fauré. His Cantique de Jean Racine for mixed choir and piano has an elegant, quiet, and flowing melody. Higelin Lubanda did his best at the organ playing the ceaseless triplets and helping the choir over the difficult passages of this compelling hymn. And he did an excellent job. Il Divo was also on board: four singers who belted “Ti amero” in Italian. One of the members of this quartet is Bishop Dieudonné Ngombo, the musical director of the evening.

Of course there were also traditional pieces such as “Avuke kile amasango”, a South African spiritual. Or the spiritual “Witness”, which tells the story of Jesus and Nicodemus, and that human beings must be born again …

The children amaze the audience

Then it was time for the children. The mixed choir left the stage to make room for a 164-strong children’s choir. And they were really on the ball. Especially their rendition of “Bananga twimbile Nzambi” was excellent. The song text reads: “We are friends singing a hymn for the Lord”, and no one was left in doubt about that. They blew the audience away and were awarded with a round of thunderous applause.

A good mix across the cultures

Then it was the turn of the mixed choir again. Songs from the Congolese hymnal alternated with classical pieces: Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria from the Magic Flute, for example, or “Gloria” from Joseph Haydn’s Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida. The choir was committed, professional, and powerful—and African. It was a beautiful example of cultures mixing regardless of boundaries and eras.

It was an impressive and compelling concert. The evening before the concert, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider met with those responsible for the music: We do not seek glory for ourselves when we make music in the Church or to fulfil our own professional wishes. In a Church the emphasis is above all on praising God. “We want to serve Jesus,” the Chief Apostle said. And this is exactly what happened: the musicians rose to the occasion and presented a concert not to glory in their artistic abilities—although a lot of talent could be heard—but to put the focus on Jesus Christ and to glorify Him.

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