A new Afrikaans hymnal

It is being talked about on TV. Congregations are practising. And next weekend there will be simultaneous concerts—all in an effort to launch the new Afrikaans Hymnal.

Many people sing in the shower, but not every one of their oeuvres makes it into the hymnal of their church. Not so with Apostle Jacques Eugene Cronjé. He is a member of the Composers’ Work Group of the New Apostolic Church Southern Africa.

With an ear for local music culture

The Composers’ Work Group was established in November 2003 with a clear mandate to bring as much regional culture into the Church’s music literature as possible. The first project assigned to the group was a choir collection for children Bright and Beautiful (2006). The latest work is a new male choir collection (2011).

And in the middle of all of this work began on the English Hymnal, which was released in 2008. With the release of the new English hymnal there was much excitement because of the new repertoire, embracing a variety of musical styles, and because of a number of compositions by local composers, Kenny Kotze, the Church spokesman says.

English is obviously by no means the only language spoken in South Africa and much less the mother tongue spoken by most Church members in South Africa. That is why the Composers’ Workgroup embarked upon the project of producing a new Afrikaans hymnal in mid 2012.

More important than Spanish

South Africa, the central country of the District Church Southern Africa, has eleven official languages. Although English has established itself as common medium of communication, Afrikaans—once the dominant language—is still used by about 22 million people. Afrikaans developed from Dutch, and well over half of its speakers are native speakers.

Afrikaans has been used in the divine services of the New Apostolic Church since the early 1930s. It was introduced by Apostle Heinrich Franz Schlaphoff shortly after he had been entrusted with the responsibility for the Church in the whole of South Africa.

Currently, Afrikaans is among the top ten languages in the New Apostolic Church. Among the ministers it ranks eighth, ahead of Spanish. Afrikaans is most wide spread in the western part of South Africa, where about fifty per cent of members of the New Apostolic Church speak it. In the eastern parts of South Africa only an estimated ten per cent speak Afrikaans.

The official launch

The new Afrikaans hymnal includes 285 songs. Unlike its predecessor, it is not a translation of the English hymnal. Because 86 pieces were specifically composed by the work group.

One of them is called “Sing Hom ‘n loflied”. It is number 56. When looking at the different categories of songs the work group noticed that there was a need for more songs of praise and some more pieces based on Scripture texts. The words and music for this hymn, based on Psalm 150, came to him while showering one morning, Apostle Cronjé says.

This hymn is one of those selected for a preliminary presentation of the hymnal, which consisted of a video transmission from the Silvertown church, a rehearsal schedule, including the possibility of downloading scores and recordings. In addition, NACTV broadcast programmes and sing-alongs to rehearse at home.

The Afrikaans hymnal will be officially launched with simultaneous concerts across the District Apostle Area on the first weekend of September 2017. But the work for the composers is far from over. Because Lozi and Xhosa are other widely spoken languages in South Africa. Maybe a new waterfall of ideas will bubble from the shower head.

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