Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sierra Leone Blind School Choir singing at Canterbury Cathedral

The Sierra Leone blind school choir’s concert at Canterbury Cathedral was a triumph, say organisers.
An enrapt audience watched as the 25-strong choir filled the historic church with their stirring music.
The choristers, assisted by keyboardist and composer, Alie Conteh, and drummers and percussionists, raised the spirits of everyone present with their powerful and uplifting show comprising traditional songs, contemporary music and African dancing.
The 100-minute concert – entitled Sing Freetown – told the history of Sierra Leone, including the abolition of slavery, the crown colony’s independence in 1961, the 11-year rebel war, the restoration of peace and democracy and the country's hope for a better future.
It also included tributes to Ghana, which celebrated 50 years of independence this year, and to Nelson Mandela.
The concert finished with a medley of songs during which the audience stood and clapped and danced in time to the music.
The clapping turned to rapturous applause as the choir then marched up through the isle to the exit, still singing and drumming.
A collection took place as people left and early indications suggest a lot of money was raised for the school, which depends on overseas donations for its survival.
One audience member said: “It was a truly magical evening presented by a group of young people who clearly enjoyed every moment of their performance.
“What wonderful ambassadors they are for a country which has suffered so much during the past decades.”
The choristers enjoyed performing at Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of the world’s Anglican community.
Alie Mansaray, 13, said: "For me it was very good in all. I enjoyed every performance I did - especially the drumming.
“I was the one leading the drumming so I enjoyed it very much, playing with my other colleagues. It was fantastic."
Immurrana Vandy, a partially sighted member of the choir and an aspiring journalist, said it was "a moment of joy" to be at Canterbury Cathedral after learning about the church while in Sierra Leone.
Kent on Sunday organised the concert with the UK charity that supports the school.
KoS editor Bernard Ginns said: “The turn out was excellent, particularly considering it was on a Monday evening. I would like to thank everyone who came and I hope they enjoyed themselves and will have special memories of this concert. I know I will. And I would like to thank everyone who helped us put on this memorable show.
“The school needs all the help it can get so if anyone wants to find out how to support it further, they can visit the website, www.miltonmargaischool.org.”
The Bishop in Dover and the Bishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Stephen Venner, introduced the concert.
The pupils were accompanied by their headmaster Albert Sandy, the head of the school’s management committee, Henry Samuel, the school’s English administrator Barbara Davidson MBE, and Peter Penfold, CMG, OBE, the chairman of the UK Association for the Milton Margai School for the Blind and the former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone.
The Canterbury concert was the first show in a three-week fund-raising tour of the UK for the school, which is named after Sierra Leone’s first Prime Minister, Sir Milton Margai. Visit the school's website for details of future performances.
The Kent Lieutenancy, which represents the Queen in the county, had a large presence at the show, with several Deputy Lieutenants in attendance.
The audience also included members of Kent’s Sierra Leone community, and many blind and disabled people.
One 88-year-old audience member said at the end of the evening: “That was one of most moving occasions I have been to.”