The scintillating & uplifting choral music of Melanesia
20 January 2019
MORRISET – When I first went to Papua New Guinea, my pastor Dad gave me one bit of advice.
"Peter you must listen to the church choirs."
And, what do you know, my university-assigned house at Fort Banner was next door to Vincent's, who was the conductor of the local Catholic church choir.
I was able to enjoy hearing them practice every Friday evening.
During my time at the university, I was privileged to travel all around PNG from Tabubil to Bomana to Buka and never missed the chance of listening to a church choir.
They were wonderful experiences, so thank you Vincent and your choir members, wherever you may be. You gave me hope, and a belief that humanity and its love of beauty is universal.
I know this choir is from the Solomons but the spirit of the music is the same as it is in Papua New Guinea.
And be assured Vincent's choir practising at Fort Banner was even better.
Here the choir of All Saints, Honiara, is singing ‘God yu tekkem laef blo mi’ (God, take my life).
It’s a remix and the original is better but it's so beautiful I felt I must share it with you this Sunday morning.
Papuans also have their version of uplifting choral music.
Peroveta (Prophet) singing introduced to coastal Papuans in the late 19th century by Christian missionaries from the Cook Islands are a harmonised version of biblical history.
This clip features the congregation of the United Church, Poreporena Hanuabada singing Peroveta.
Posted by: Geoff Hancock | 20 January 2019 at 12:27 PM
And our Simbu mana, who can't speak English, recorded songs for us in Kuman a few days before we left PNG. I believe her last words were 'remember this.'
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 20 January 2019 at 11:38 AM
This is not directly related to choirs but around 1970 I was on an exploratory patrol way up the headwaters of the Elevala River. We had just found a small groups of hamlets not recorded before.
It was all very friendly and everyone came to our camp in the evening to talk and socialise.
While we were talking the village women began singing.
It wasn't really singing with words but more of a humming thing. There were high notes and low notes and voices coming in and out in amazing and beautiful synchronicity.
It was one of the most surreal experiences of my kiap career.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 20 January 2019 at 09:38 AM
Thanks, Peter. Most enjoyable.
Posted by: Robin Lillicrapp | 20 January 2019 at 06:57 AM
Peter - Many of us pastors and priests would have to humbly admit that it was not our sermons but rather the community singing that drew people to church.
In addition the singing may have helped to protect some of the local languages, as hymns were often sung in the local language.
The various church choirs really drew people to worship.
While in my experience the Tolai people seemed to have the best choral tradition, other cultural groups also were very good. I remember beautiful singing coming from a small community at Kawi near Kudjip in Jiwaka.
Posted by: Garry Roche | 20 January 2019 at 06:04 AM