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Event in Côte d'Ivoire Promotes Cross-Cultural Music Ministry

by Isaac Broune

Bettsy Curtis and Amagos Apollos Kouassi playing djembe drums.
Bettsy Curtis, Minister of Music at Wesley Memorial UMC (USA), and Amagos Apollos Kouassi, who served as Dean of the Training (Côte d`Ivoire), spend time playing djembe during a break in teaching.
Image by: Rev. Debra Tyree
Source: Evangelization and Church Growth

Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, August 10, 2008--Cross-cultural sharing to bring about exciting, meaningful United Methodist music ministries was the focus of a week-long encounter at the Methodist University of Cocody (Abidjan) in Côte d'Ivoire.

Thirty-five United Methodists, aged 12 to 51, from the church in Côte d'Ivoire and an international team of musicians engaged in reciprocal teaching and learning. The event was organized by the Global Praise program of the General Board of Global Ministries.

One overarching concept of Global Praise is that the church is indeed global and that all parts need to be familiar with the gifts of music that various cultures contribute to the whole. This is especially true for Methodists, who belong to a Christian heritage born in song.

Sharing Gifts of Music

Dr. Bettsy Curtis plans to take back to North Carolina the new drum rhythms and Ivorian Christian songs she learned to use with elementary-school students. She directs music ministries at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, Wilimington, and works with fifth graders in a performing-arts magnet school.

Eloise Bodje, a 20-year-old Ivorian with no previous experience in music, made impressive progress in piano skills: "the equivalent of six months of intensive courses," according to Jacques Kangni, a Togolese organist with 15 years of experience

> Watch video of Dr. Curtis with Amagos Apollos Kouassi playing djembe drums:
Windows Media WMV (1950 K) Flash Video Flash (1040 K)

Ivorian Methodist worship incorporates many musicial idioms, according to Dr. Michael Hawn, a professor of church music and director of the Master of Sacred Music Program at the Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, Texas:

"There is a wide variety of songs from Anglican chants to traditional hymns, gospel songs and short choruses, a lot of singing in worship. It is impressive to see how the whole body is involved in songs, not just the voice, how spontaneously a director can continue and vary a song longer in the Spirit. All these are gifts from the Côte d'Ivoire United Methodist Church that we need in the United States."

At the same time, there is a need in the Ivorian church for music leadership, greater skills in teaching the wide variety of songs, and training in electronic keyboards, which are growing in popularity across Africa.

Global Praise brought along ten electric keyboards, which were left with the church. Abraham Arpellet, director of the National Board of Music in Côte d'Ivoire, has set up a ''strategic plan to do the follow-up in order to increase the current level so that in a 12-month time-frame all the students can play all the songs in the churches.''

Dr. Hawn and the Rev. Debra Tyree, minister of music at Bellevue United Methodist Church, Nashville, and a Global Praise staff member, hosted two groups in voice development and choir conducting. They taught music theory, promoted the use of new songs, and shared techniques for effective leadership during worship.

The Ivorians learned how to sing ''Alleluia'' in languages from Syria, India, Zimbabwe, Argentina, and the Caribbean.

Attie Agovi Lazare, a 25-year-old musician, anticipated after the Global Praise event qualitative and quantitative changes in the two choirs he leads: M'Pouto UMC with 45 members and Locodjo UMC with 150 members in his mother's village. He also wants to improve the music skills of the children of his local church.

Cross-Cultural Teaching and Learning

Visitors from the US and Europe learned about the use of traditional Ivorian dance in worship. Their teacher was Daniel Konan, an expert on traditional dance with 11 years' experience teaching at the National Institute of Music, Drawing and Performing Arts.

Every day, after the spirit-filled morning devotions led by Rev. John Thornburg, hymn text writer, the participants separated into four groups to attend various classes.

The Global Praise team included:

  • Jorge A. Lockward, Global Praise program coordinator and co-founder and conductor-in-residence of Cántico Nuevo (New Song), a worship-and-arts ecumenical project in New York City
  • Rev. Debra Tyree, business manager of Global Praise and minister of music at Bellevue United Methodist Church, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Dr. Michael Hawn, professor of church music and director of the Master of Sacred Music Program at the Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas
  • Dr. Eileen Guenther, president of the American Guild of Organists, associate professor of Church Music at Wesley Theological Seminary, and professorial lecturer in Music at George Washington University
  • Dr. Bettsy Curtis, director of Music Ministries at Wesley Memorial UMC in Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Rev. John Thornburg, an accomplished hymn and anthem text author.

They were later joined by:

  • Martin Heider, Lutheran pastor, composer, and musician from Germany
  • Godfrey Taylor, author and organist from Jamaica
  • Simei Monteiro, worship consultant at World Council of Churches, Geneva.

Global Praise is a program of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church created to gather, receive, and share the songs of the people called Methodists and other Christians around the world. For more information, go online to:

* Broune is conference communicator for the Côte d'Ivoire Annual Conference.

See Also...
Topic: GBGM events GBGM news Music
Geographic Region: AfricaCote d´Ivoire
Source: GBGM Mission News

Date posted: Aug 19, 2008