When choirs travel
Usually they accompany the divine services and define their liturgical framework. Congregational choirs are an important element of New Apostolic identity. Often they perform their task at a high level of quality, and sometimes choirs even embark on journeys.
From Wilhelmshaven to Rome: A concert journey to the Vatican—what choir wouldn’t dream of that? For the chamber choir from Wilhelmshaven, Germany, however, this wish was recently fulfilled: as winners of the musical competition known as the “Deutscher Chorgipfel” [German Choral Summit] awarded by the radio station “Klassik Radio” [Classic Radio], they were off to Rome for four days at the end of November 2019. The concert tour included a performance in the Basilica Sant’Ignazio di Loyola, participation in a general audience in St. Peter’s Square, and the musical arrangement of an evening mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. At their performances, they were accompanied by Apostle Rolf Camenzind, who is responsible for the New Apostolic Church in Italy, as well as a delegation from the New Apostolic Church’s Work Group “Contacts to other Denominations and Religions” (WG CDR). The group was in Rome at the same time to hold ecumenical talks with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches.
“Beyond the great musical events and experiences, the choir also considered itself as an ambassador of the New Apostolic Church,” says choir director Gerrit Junge. He presented a gift from Wilhelmshaven mayor Carsten Feist to Dr. Michael Koch, the German ambassador to the Holy See.
The Wilhelmshaven Chamber choir has been performing since 1995. It is comprised of 50 ambitious singers whose common interest lies in working with a capella musical literature from the past five centuries.
From the congregation to university: A choral summit of a special kind also took place in the Auditorium of the University of Health and Applied Science (UHAS) in Ho, the capital city of Ghana’s Volta Region. It was there, on 30 November 2019, that the New Apostolic congregational choirs of Ho Central and Agortorme performed a sacred evening concert. They were supported in this by a guest choir from the Evangelical Presbyterian congregation in Ho Kpodzi. With the fiftieth anniversary of the New Apostolic Church in Ghana marking the start of their collaboration, the joint performance had been prepared well in advance. The programme incorporated both church hymns and traditional songs.
“It is a challenge to try to describe music with words. We all know how we feel and act when we hear it. Music is the spiritual expression of what we are, of our faith, our knowledge, our wellbeing, and above all, our culture. Music gives us the identity that shapes us,” said Lead Apostle Samuel Oppong-Brenya. In his words of thanks, he also encouraged the choirs to include older adults in their ranks, so that the younger people can pay more attention to their jobs and training.
Role playing for learning: Freetown is located in Sierra Leone. This West African country is home to some 950 New Apostolic congregations. In order to adapt the children’s and musical work to the needs of the congregations, there are frequent training sessions for the responsible workers. This time the training took the form of a seminar for tutors, whose task it is to pass along that which they learn in the training sessions to the congregational level.
It was for just such a “train the trainers” seminar that retired District Elder Wolfgang Oehler travelled to the region from Germany. At the District Church level, he is responsible for the adult education programmes of the West African states in the care of the New Apostolic Church of Southern Germany. A total of 20 tutors participated in the seminar, where they were acquainted with content concerning “Sermons of substance”, Sunday School, and Confirmation Instruction. Numerous role playing games also served to illustrate just how important contemporary communication on the congregational level really is.
One of the seminar units also dealt with music for choirs and organ in the congregations.