Page 30 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 30

From RSCM South Africa comes an inspiring story of how sacred music was brought to some of the poorest schools on the Eastern Cape.
 She stood at the front door of her humble home, surveying the poverty and hunger round her in this, a very poor part of Port Elizabeth. The
schools looked drab. Inside, the young children’s voices were feeble. Saddened, yet inspired, she felt God calling her to share her choir experience. And so, this retired committee member approached me (I was then Branch Chair) with her idea of offering help to schools in her area. I gladly gave my blessing. Soon she was to set off with her somewhat battered copy
of Voice for Life on a journey that would have extraordinary results.
Children don’t just sing beautifully, they have to be taught; and in these schools, so did their teachers!
It was here that the RSCM was to play its part. Effective teaching could not be done by rote, nor by teachers who could not read music. So, how was it to be done? First, they needed money, and after months of struggling to find funding, the Branch received a generous grant from the National Lottery! An RSCM Branch project team was formed, a project overseer employed, and five schools supplied with full sets
of primary school music teaching equipment – everything from percussion instruments to song books.
The five school choirs grew in musicality and in number, reaching about 40 choir members per school. Descant recorder groups were introduced. Even more importantly, we were teaching the teachers, largely musically untrained people. In this regard, workshops by Tim Lees and Gordon Stewart were invaluable.
Progress was slow, the challenges considerable. We faced resistance to relinquishing old methods. Worse, we were working against a background of poverty, alcohol, drugs and gangsterism (the schools were closed at various points due to rioting). The
children were often hungry. For some, a daily
ration of porridge from the School Feeding Scheme was their only meal. On top of which, we desperately needed more funding.
Children don’t just sing beautifully, they have to be taught
Nonetheless, interest and numbers grew steadily (we now had a sixth school on board). It was time to take the children out of the school environment and expose them to the wider world of music. Over time, the children took part in:
„ The annual Schools’ Concert presented by the Organ Society. Words cannot describe the jaw- dropping reaction of 300 under-privileged children experiencing the grandeur of the venue and the sound of the mighty organ!
„ Participation in cultural festivals, singing secular and sacred songs in one of the area churches.
„ Ascension Day: a day of great reverence in this community, a day of great pride – the combined choirs of the six schools (now known to us as the RSCM children’s choir) were invited to sing at one of the main services. The hearts of the thousand- strong congregation were deeply moved.
„ The RSCM Christmas Concert in the cathedral, with its excellent acoustics complimenting
a glorious treble soloist and the RSCM children’s choir.
The project has been wholly uplifting. It has expanded beyond all our expectations, and we hope it will grow even further as time goes on. ‘Lead us, Heavenly Father, lead us’ – our constant prayer
as we seek further funds!

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