ASSOCIATION OF METHODIST CHURCH CHOIR
Currently, the Methodist Church Ghana, is one of the leading Churches in our country, with a total membership of over 600,000. The Church has 17 dioceses, 3,814 societies, 1,066 pastors, 15,920 local preachers, 24,100 Lay Leaders, many schools, an orphanage, hospitals and clinics.
The People Called:
History Of Church Choir In NAMD
The early missionaries brought with them copies of the Bible, Methodist Hymn Book, and the Liturgy, all in English as the only literate for church worship. That time the very few literates, educated through the “Castle School” at Cape Coast were, perhaps, the only worshipers who could participate in hymn singing.
However, as mission schools became established, schools' pupils began forming rudiments of choir bodies, as to sing divine services. And since Richmond College (Mfantsipim School) was in Cape Coast, most of the scholars who became leading musicians in the church were Cape Coast. The early choir movement, in fact, did enlighten young literate in the art of hymn singing. A few others became students of music who could play the harmonium and piano. These became choir organists and leaders of the Singing Bands, especially in the congregation along the coast. Therefore, many choirs formed in the Methodist Church outside Cape Coast in the formative years caught their inspiration from Cape Coast Wesley Choir as their role model.
WESLEY CHURCH CHOIR, CAPE COAST
In the words of the late J. Hector Morris, Choirmaster of Wesley Cathedral, “Wesley Church Choir is nearly as old as the Methodist Church, Ghana itself” But since the significant, historical date of the inauguration of Wesley Choir, Cape Coast, is lost in oblivion, the choir, as far back as 1934, chose to celebrate its annual festival in November which is the Feast Day of St, Cecilia the patron Saint of Music. Accordingly, the choir officially registered in 1934, a member of the Guild of St. Cecilia in London, and started the observance of this Feast on every last Sunday in November each year. Saint Cecilia suffered martyrdom at about 230A.D. for her unique role in promoting the course of music.
ORIGINAL OBJECTIVES OF THE PREMIER CHOIR
To work for the glory of God in spreading the gospel message. In pursuit of this laudable objective, many distinguished personalities down the years, have given dedicated and devoted service to the church. Since its inception, the Choir has given choral, secular and sacred concerts on different occasions such as choral, secular and sacred concerts on different occasions such as Good Friday, Easter and Christmas seasons. Some of the Stalwart choirmasters/ organists who made the choir great in succession were Charles E. Graves (1911-1918). Grave was an educationist, a musical genius, composer of merit, music tutor and a musicologist. He set tunes to the works of the late Rev. Gaddiel R. Acquaah, first African Chairman and General Superintendent of the Methodist Church, Ghana. Graves worked hard to give the choir a sound musical foundation emulated by choir bodies in other denominations and around Cape Coast.
His great helper was the Rev. R. P. Dyer – Principal of Richmond College (Mfantsipim School) who, in addition to his official duties, played the pipe organ from 1919-1924. Then, Dr. J. W. de Graft Johnson – Fellow of the Church Organists Society and Guild of Cecilia, London. He was the appointed organist, 1920-21. De Graft Johnson was very dexterous with his performance at the pipe organ so much so that many a scholar never missed church services, and his pupils joined the choir.
W. E. Sam and Lawyer J. Lazarus Minnow (later of Kumasi Wesley Assistant Choirmaster, when the writer of this book was the second minister, 1953-56). They greatly assisted the choir from 1920-1925. E. F. Biney – Organist/ Choirmaster, 1921-24, was very strict in choir management and a painstaking teacher who enriched harvest services by forming an orchestra to accompany the choir. I. D. Riverson, 1924-37 was well known for his successful period of choir work. As a school master, he had a full control on the boys and girls whom he taught tonic solfa before they joined the choir. He was also a composer of merit. Ernet C. Bilson, Louis Phillips and W. Bessa Simons did follow the role of good Choirmaster/ Organist in succession.
ASSOCIATION OF GHANA METHODIST CHURCH CHOIRS (GHAMECC)
The attainment of Republic status by Ghana from the British Government greatly influenced the attainment of independence by several bodies and organizations that had affiliation with the British Government. This had effect on the Methodist Church, formerly known as the Gold Coast District of the British Conference. The District became autonomous Methodist Church, Ghana in July, 1961.
On Saturday, 29th July, 1961, choirs from Cape Coast, Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi and Winneba Districts (Diocese) met at Wesley Choirmaster/ Organist, I. D. Riverson. In his address he remarked: “I am looking forward to the day when Methodist Church Choirs in the like inauguration of the autonomy of our church, dedication of pipe organs, choir robes and like, but shall be meeting in our own from time to time to exchange ideas for the improvement of our choirs”. This casual remark was taken seriously by the late Brother Henry A. Mills-Robertson of Winneba. Ten years later in 1972 he began making several moves to bring the various choirs under one roof of one national association.
Brother J. H. Morris gave him all financial, moral and material support. In 1974 Mills-Robertson called the first consultative meeting at Winneba, a meeting which gave birth to the Association. Thereafter stalwarts like Justice Kingsley Nyinah, E. F. Godwyll, E. C. Billson Snr. Kweku Okai Odum, Sister Grace Mate-Kole, E. A. Botchway and E. D. Baffoe toiled to lay the foundation and the inauguration of the Association at the National Conference held in Accra at the Accra Academy from the 11th-13th April 1975. The conference was attended by eighty-three (83) delegates. Conference adopted the National Choir Anthem composed by E. C. Bilson Snr, and confirmed the adoption of “SERVICE-TO GOD” as Association’s Motto or Salutation. Justice Kingsley Nyinah designed the National Crest in 1976.
THE NATIONAL CREST
The roundness of the symbolic Methodist Shell represents the round secular world in which we live. The sky blue colour of the shell signifies the dawn of a new era, with all different choirs under one authority. The gold is the colour of royalty. Choristers are a chosen people set apart and belong to the royal priesthood. They are the evangelists who sing the gospel message from hymn book as the clergy preach the gospel message from the Bible.
The Association’s Badge with the crest manufactured in Britain, and blessed and dedicated at the Methodist Conference held at Winneba in 1978, by the Most Rev. S. B. Essamuah GHAMECC was recognized by the Connexion under S. O. 274.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE ASSOCIATION
To bring under one union all Methodist Church Choirs throughout the Connexion. To foster cordial relationship among choirs of the Association and to promote Christian friendship and understanding with, and among other Christian denominations throughout Ghana.
To help improve the standard of music and singing by choirs, and to encourage the teaching and learning of staff notation.To maintain discipline and good Christian behavior amongst all Christians at all levels of the Association.
To represent the Methodist Church, Ghana in this regard, as ambassadors at all national, international and interdenominational meetings.