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Anglican Church changes tune on hymns, lyrics

 All Saints Cathedral choir members [File, Standard]

The growth of the Anglican Church in East and Central Africa has resulted in the loss of the church’s singing traditions. Over the years, the church has come up with different tunes for its hymns.

The same hymns are sung in different tunes by various Anglican churches, and now the church has decided to come up with measures to curtail this.

And like any other entertainment extravaganza world over, Anglican Church choirmasters came up with a forum dubbed the International Hymn Festivals (IHF), which was hatched to shape the growth of singing traditions in Anglican churches in the region.

This year’s event will be held at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania, hosted by the Diocese of Central Tanganyika Anglican Church of Dodoma, from October 26-28.

IHF is the first Anglican Church structure in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania in the Diocese of Eastern Equatorial Africa, started by Bishop James Hannington in 1884.

For the last nine years, Anglican Church choirs from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have been congregating annually to sing and compete in the IHF festival. The festival aims at having all Anglican Church choirs sing uniform hymns, without altering the tunes, lyrics and rhythms.

IHF Technical Director Dan Madalanga said they came up with the event to ensure hymns sung by Anglican Churches in Kenya are the same as those sung in Uganda, Tanzania and possibly Africa as a whole.

“The church was losing its traditional format of singing hymns and thereby tunes and rhythms started to change with drastic speed. This necessitated the need to come up with a common way to address and correct the situation so that we have a unified way of singing,” Madalanga told the Sunday Magazine.

He said the festival, now in its 10th anniversary is making good progress and that it is only a matter of time before the church gets back to its original traditional way of singing its hymns.

“The IHF festivals have made Anglican churches regain their traditional format of singing her hymns. It is our happiness our (choirmasters) efforts are paying off,” said Madalanga, the Director of Music at Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) St Stephen’s Church in Nairobi.

Last year, the IHF festivals were held at ACK St Christine Church in Bungoma and attracted over 30 Anglican churches from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Their festivals are a replica of the Kenya National Music Festival, only that theirs are held annually and are rotated from one church to another in the participating countries.

According to Madalanga, its initiative will soon extend to other parts of Africa as well as the rest of the world, following the growing rate of its popularity. 

He said the IHF, an independent body from the Anglican Church has had its membership steadily growing in membership countries.

“Our membership is steadily growing rapidly in the four countries and sooner than later, we’ll have attracted more members in the region and possibly in Africa,” he said.

The Anglican church has its headquarters in England under the Arch-Bishop Canterbury as the Head of the Church.

This year, the IHF festival has attracted Anglican choirs from Malawi and Zambia.

“The new membership of Malawi and Zambia has set our trajectory in the right direction; we aim to have all members of the Africa Union join us,” said the technical director.

The festivals have always attracted the participation of top choirs in the region, producing top talent.

Tanzanian churches are set to converge in Dodoma for the music extravaganza.

“We will be here (Dodoma) to welcome the AC choirs that will be participating in the IHF festivals this year and beyond at a time the event will be celebrating the 10th anniversary,” said Josephat Samuel, an Anglican Church member based in Arusha.

ACK St Luke Cathedral Church of Kitale have also confirmed participation. Choir Director Aggrey Lugalia said the festivals have uplifted the standards of church music.

“We will take part in the festivals again this year. It is a forum that improves the culture of singing hymns and to some extent in the praise and worship teams within Anglican churches,” said Lugalia, a former Director of Music at ACK Cathedral Church, Nakuru.

Lugalia said that IHF has made it easier for Anglicans from the region to know each other, even as they preach the word of God through music.

Angela Okello, a member of the Anglican Church, Diocese of Namirembe in Uganda said IHF was good for Anglican churches in East Africa because it helps build cohesion and friendship among church members.

“When we worship together, God comes and is between us. It is my belief IHF has the objective of doing exactly this through music,” he said.

Madalanga has welcomed all Anglican Church choirs in the region for the festivals.

“This is a forum that should not be missed by any Anglican Church choir. The membership is set to increase with every event we host from time to time,” he said.

“It is great to hear about events that bring the community together and promote music. I hope many choirs take advantage of this opportunity and join in the fun!” 

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