Wuerzburg Choir VOICES visits Twin City Mwanza

Visit to Mwanza from Oct 30 to Nov 4, 2009

Images: Mwanza-Tournee VOICES 2009

Music Bridges The Gap

A performance in Africa is a dream for many European musicians. What even professionals are dreaming of, the Wuerzburg gospel choir ”voices” managed: In November 2009 they gave a guest performance in Mwanza i.e. Wuerzburg’s twintown. The 28 members of the choir returned home full of new impressions.

A few suffered from painful diseases, but most of the singers enjoyed their stay, at the most the crowded timetable made them suffer a bit.

The official programme did not only come along with several performances, but also with visits of social institutions and meetings with the town’s officials.

Big Open Air Concert

After getting accustomed during the first day they got down to business, told Rudolf Schlegelmilch, the choir’s manager who was favourably impressed as well as the members of the choir were.

In the presence of Leonard Bihondo, Lord Mayor of Mwanza, “Voices” sang together with the Mwanza Town Choir on the occasion of the symbolic handover of one school desk to show the result of a recent Wuerzburg fund-raising campaign for 1000 school benches.

Although there were some minor communication problems “Voices” managed to organize the presentation. They sang by turns with two excellent local church choirs, singing alternatively in English and Suaheli.

After the singers had used a free morning to look around in Mwanza, the musical highlight of the voyage took place. In the Montessori School guided by the Swiss Sister Denise Mattle in the great hall for up to 1000 people a choir concert was announced. 600 to 700 pupils had assembled punctually (which is rather unusual for Africans). Several times pupils consorted with “Voices” onstage to sing and drum together with their guests, reported Schlegelmilch. Benjamin Mgonzwa who originates from Mwanza and had already played with “Voices” in Wuerzburg mixed in the show on stage, too. “The children participated enthusiastically and everybody was in high spirits”, told the manager of the choir. The very emotional event brought a few people to their psycologic limit and in the end even some tears were shed.

Less emotional was a reception held by the Mwanza Lord Mayor the following day. Mr. Bihondo, a friendly and eloquent man, invited the guests from Mwanza’s twin city into his office. After that a visit to Bujora Cultural Centre presenting the culture of Mwanza’s biggest ethnic group Sukuma was on the program. The dance and drum ensemble of this museum appeared and “Voices” performed a short intermezzo.

Invitation for Food

Near the museum is Kisesa, the village of Benjamin Mgonzwa. To this place the singer invited his German friends for food and soon “half of the village arrived”, Schlegelmilch remembers. And of course everybody sang and drummed and danced again.

Then came the time to say goodbye to Mwanza. Afterwards the Wuerzburgers made a safari through the adjacent Serengeti National Park. Then they went back to the November-cold Wuerzburg.

Rolf Schlegelmilch draws the balance of the safari: ”This was a widening of their horizon and a great experience for the group”. Thanks to the extraordinary care and good contacts of the head of MWANZA e.V, Michael Stolz who mentored the group, they gained much more insight into the African everyday life than normal tourists do. And it proved true again that in a foreign country or even continent with the help of the international language of music it is possible to understand each other without knowing the local language or culture.

Author: Karl-Georg Rötter, journalist

Report summarized:

The VOICES’ Mwanza Tour 2009

The Wuerzburg choir VOICES visited the twin town Mwanza from Oct. 30th to Nov. 4th. This group –28 people- was the largest to cover the more than 6000 km to Tanzania. There were four concerts on the programme: The open air concert on Saturday afternoon on the Furahisha open space was marked by the numerous children and youngsters listening enthusiastically until the end and they couldn’t even be chased away by the coming up thunderstorm. The Kiswahili-songs were liked best, songs which Benjamin Mgonzwa had already rehearsed in Würzburg. At the end there was a real African highlight with the Mwanza Town Choir of the African Inland Church. On this occasion the official handing-over of the “1000 school desks for Mwanza” took place. The Mwanza mayor, who has been in Würzburg several times, praised this helpful action and symbolically received a desk from Micheal Stolz, chairman of the M. W.A.N.Z.A Association.

On Sunday several religious services in the catholic Nyakahoja church were supported by the choirs and after the ceremony three choirs joined into one Tanzanian-German choir which Fred EIsner led to a rejoicing climax. “Music unites people and surmounts misunderstandings of the language”, as the conductor of the “VOICES” knew from long experience.

On Monday all pupils assembled in the big hall of the Montessori Kiloleli centre. The common school song with their own percussion group marked a counter accent to the more than one hour programme of the Würzburg Rock-Pop-Gospel-Choir. At the end Benjamin Mgonzwa’ s songs carried along everybody and when the VOICES sang “Heaven is a wonderful place” with 600 people joining in, there was rally something to feel of the wonderful unanimity and the heavenly impetus the song is about.

This was also the occasion to celebrate the shell construction of a boarding school for girls which is being built at the moment on the initiative of M.W.A.N.Z.A. Association, particularly with the means of the German Ministry of Economical Cooperation (BMZ).

In Kisesa, a village on the outskirts where Benjamin Mgonzwa comes from, our stay became rather informal, but also full of contrast. Not only that there were different presentations from snake dance to lrish travel blessing songs, but at the end all guests from Würzburg were invited to a meal in Benjamin’ s house. The yard, the roads, the fences filled very quickly while new dancers appeared and choir plus villagers were again “in heavenly form”.

After five hard days on tour the choir members had really merited the safari through the Serengeti National Parc that followed. In the meantime Michael Stolz tried to enlarge the network of connections which had enabled the organisation of the choir programme. The result of these efforts are more school-books, support of local AIDS-initiatives, an exchange of students studying domestic science and of artists.

“It is unbelievable what we have seen and experienced there in human and also in musical respect during these few days . I have become very attached to the friendly people of Mwanza,” thus choir manager Rolf Schlegelmilch summed up his impressions.