Choirmaster of Uganda Martyrs Catholic Community
c/o St Gabriel's Community Centre
19 Hatchard Road
London N19 4NG
Saturday, 05 March 2016
Now that our great event of 14 February 2016 at St. Chad's Catholic Church in South Norwood is over, I am writing to you to thank you for the great work you did when we asked you to step in at just a few days' notice and deputise for Noah Kyeyune, our regular organist. It was our annual celebration of the day on which a French missionary, our revered and beloved Father Siméon Lourdel (1853-1890), known as Mapera (= Mon père) in our language, Luganda, first stepped on Ugandan soil in February 1879 and introduced Christianity to our ancestors.
You were determined to be well prepared and get things right. You therefore visited me at home five days before the mass to discuss the order of service and to pick up whatever music we had on mostly handwritten and then photocopied sheets.
I briefed you about the traditional style in which we sing these songs, how the congregation (and therefore the organ) interacts with the choir. You took copious notes. I demonstrated how the songs are sung.
Four of the songs did not exist in written form at all. We just know them. Unperturbed you asked me to sing them to you, slowly, bar by bar, and you jotted them down (armed with pencil and eraser) as best you could. Some have quite a few irregularities, e.g. in how the choruses are sung, what repetitions are made, etc. We managed to get three of the songs on paper before running out of time and being overcome by tiredness. You worked on them further after getting home to make them readable and playable. You only had the tunes and during the mass made up the harmonies as you went along, carefully listening out for the choir and adjusting to their way of handling the harmonies. During the remaining days you contacted me several times to resolve some queries. All this effort paid off on the great day itself.
You arrived at the church one hour early, a good idea, because we had trouble in finding the switch to turn on the power for the organ. After a few phone calls, we found a side door through which one could walk into the organ and there, among the pipes, was the power switch.
Since the service was mainly conducted in Luganda (one of the languages of Uganda) with just a few words of English thrown in, and the order of service was not always strictly adhered to, I stayed with you in the organ loft to tell you what was going on, when to start playing and helped you to adjust to the speed and style of the choir. All this worked splendidly and you were very responsive to me. You even managed to play some of the songs at a pitch higher than written when I suggested it. There was one page of music (tune only) which I only managed to write out while the mass was progressing, and you managed to play it when I put the sheet in front of you, LOL.
After the mass had ended, we had our annual dinner in the church hall with many people bringing home-cooked Ugandan food. You joined us for this. I heard many enthusiastic comments about your playing. Many people came to thank you for your music. 'I've never heard our organ played so well,' one old lady said. 'How on earth did you manage to play OUR songs?' said another. A teenage girl, who had dropped out of her piano lessons, came to you and wanted advice on how to learn the organ: 'Was it difficult? Did it take long?' If a teenager bothers to say that, it really means something. Your playing must have been special to impress that girl.
Someone said: 'Will you play for us again? We'll learn you our language in no time.' Our celebrant priest, Father Gerard Balinnya, came to the organ loft after mass and said: 'Your playing was delightful. So you know our language?' One of our guests of honour, the leader of our Luganda-speaking congregation in North London, came and wanted to have your details and wants to invite you to play for his congregation as well.
So all your effort in preparing the music paid off and you helped to make this a really memorable and enjoyable occasion for us.
I asked Noah, our regular organist, how many organists replied to his advertisement. 'Twelve.' - 'And why did you pick Klaus?' - 'I heard his playing online, and then I knew: He's the one for us.' Well, I am mighty happy that Noah picked YOU.
Next time we need a deputy, we will definitely contact you.