The Moipei Quartet with officials of the Park Manor Christian Church in Chicago, US and their parents. [PHOTOS: GEORGE ORIDO/STANDARD]
By GEORGE ORIDO
Kenya: The weather is chilly, but the traffic is moving. From Hyatt Hotel in O’Hare in Chicago, the Moipei Quartet has set off in a van for a scheduled performance and training workshop with members of the Park Manor Christian Church in Chicago East 600 at the junction of 73rd Street.
The neighbourhood has been hit with gang crimes and the closure of over 51 schools by the Chicago Mayor ram Manuel has not made things any better.
So, the Gospel powered group has their fate in the hands of the Lord. By 6.45pm, the truck chauffeured by the African American maestro Dr Fred Onovwerosuoke is negotiating a corner off Martin Luther King Jnr Drive and in minutes pulls on the edge of the Church.
Earlier, the members had been arriving in droves to have a personal experience of this group that had taken US cities by storm in the past three weeks.
And when it was time to hit those angelic notes the quartet members of Mary, Magdalene, Marta and Seraphine did not disappoint.
They sang Kokoliko, a song in Luhya about Jesus being denied by his erstwhile Apostle Peter three times before a cock crowed.
The crowd gave a standing ovation but demanded to be taught by the girls.
So, a short session for the crowd to get the refrain was hatched with the girls apportioning themselves into four voices of Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. When they we done they repeated the song but with the whole church joining in the chorus to a huge harmonic effect.
“We shall now sing for you our own arrangement of Swing Low,” announced Mary the eldest of the four.
Then they belted out those lyrics sang by generations after generations years ago when it was composed by the venerable Wallis Willis of Oklahoma in 1862.
Such a blessing
The difference today is that it is a fresh arrangement of the Moipei’s inspired by the waters of Mara River in Masai Mara.
“A band of Angels coming after me, coming for to carry me home,” so they sang as now a moved crowd joined in rhythmic tapping and clapping.
But when they sang Steal Away by the same author, tears rolled over the cheeks of the now adoring crowd as they swayed and moved to the beats of this solemn song had lyrics that referred to the Underground Railroad — the resistance movement that helped slaves escape from the South to the North and Canada.
“They have touched me to the core and in a very special way,” said one middle-aged worshiper after the show.
The Executive Director of Trinity United Church of Christ choir who was present said the Kenyan girls have shown another side of Kenya that is not frequently reported in the US press.
“They are so talented and their music is of such a high quality. I can’t have enough of them,” said Bryan Johnson who ministers at the church where US President Barack Obama wedded Michelle and worshiped for years before moving to Washington DC as President.
The previous Sunday they had performed at the Trinity Church to a 7,000-strong audience to a resounding reception.
“You are such a blessing to this church. Your songs have breathed new life in us and we thank you,” said the Rev Pastor Otis Moss during the service that also saw a group from Namibia render a folk thanksgiving number.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Dr Fred Onovwerosuoke the man behind the Moipei US travel and director of the Africa Musical Arts based in St Louis, Missouri.
“The discipline and sheer acumen in these girls is a real spectacle and we would like them to visit every city in the US.”
The Moipei Quartet had a successful tour of the US performing in Dallas, St Antonio, St Louis, Arkansas, Chicago, New York, and Memphis.
In Dallas a special show was held for Kenyans living there and classical Kenyan titles including Malaika by Fadhili Williams, Musa by Daudi Kabaka, Kokoliko and Niwara Nono rented the air to the delight of many who turned in large numbers.
At University of Missouri St Louis Touhill Performing Arts Centre they serenaded with My land is Kenya, Safari Ya Mbamba, and their flagship Ashe Naleng’.
Dr Wendy Hymes, the director of Fowler Centre at Arkansas State University was mighty impressed with the Kenyan songbirds.
She observed that rarely do they see such pedigree gigs from Kenya.
“The girls have performed beyond our expectations. They are such a delight. The quality in their voices speaks of immense talent and the Moipei Quartet has registered such a lasting impact in our hearts,” she said.
The girls after performing to the university students and community at Arkansas went for auditions that are required as a step towards admission for a degree course at the university.
In the company of their father and director Nicholas Moipei and mother Christine, the group paid homage to Elvis Presley when they visited his tomb in Memphis.
“It was such a breathtaking moment to finally be in the presence and home of such an icon of music of all time,” said Seraphine who is the last-born and sister of triplets of Mary, Magdalene and Marta.
They wrapped up their visit with an appearance on 9AM Live with Tim Ezell on KTVI Fox channel singing a medley of three numbers including Jericho.
Last Tuesday the group returned safely aboard Air Brussels after their flight was postponed following massive Arctic Storm that has swept central and Eastern cities in the US.