After a rather interesting sequence of events I have now officially become a member of the choir at my host family's church, l'Eglise des Martyrs de L'Ouganda. My host brother, Joe, is an active member of one of the eight choral groups that perform at the Catholic church's various services. In fact, my first visit to the church was during a marriage where I ended up sitting in the tenor section of the choir with Joe. That was rather bizarre, since I wasn't singing with them and clearly am not a tenor. Anyways, many of Joe's good friends are fellow chorus members and so I have been getting to know a lot of them during these past weeks. They make up the young adult choir, which includes men and women who are all in their 20s to early 30s. They found out I could read music and had some minimal piano skills and had been telling me I should come to their practices and play for them. Then, last Sunday, there was a huge gathering/outdoor dance party/viewing of the final match for the Africa soccer cup that brought all 40ish members of the chorus to our house for the day. (The photos below are from Sunday, and the one on the left includes my host brother, Joe). After getting to know some of them even better this Sunday, I made a promise to come to Tuesday's repetition.
As I was leaving the house I grabbed a book to bring with me so that I could read during their actual practice (assuming that I was just going to play something before it all started and then watch/listen for the remainder of the session). My host mom, however, stopped me before I could leave and told me to leave the book at home because I wouldn't need it. I tend to just do what she says so I agreed and left with Joe, albeit a bit confused.
When we got to the church (a tad bit late as per usual) they already had a keyboard set up and Joe quickly ushered me over to the piano where my brother's friend Stan was already playing some of the partitions. The director handed me the music and then told me to start giving the notes to the sopranos. I then began to realize that my agreeing to come to their repetitions actually meant that I was joining the choir...as the piano player.
It has actually been pretty neat so far. Most of the singers don't read music, so it does really help to have someone playing the notes along with them as they are committing the songs to memory. At the same time, they are all incredibly talented. The director has an especially phenomenal voice. The songs are also a lot more lively than the ones at Catholic mass back home.
At the end of the first practice the director had me talk about where I'm from/why I'm here in Senegal so those people who hadn't been hanging out with me and Joe were not confused as to why there was suddenly a random toubab showing up to their rehearsals. In that mini-speech I mentioned that I was really a much better saxophone player than a piano player and that I hoped my limited skills in piano wouldn't be a problem. They then immediately got into a discussion about how they might go about finding a saxophone for me to play. I tried to tell them that that certainly wasn't necessary, and that I didn't think that many of their songs would really fit well with a saxophone. I really hope that there will not be a saxophone waiting for me at mass this Saturday.
Our third practice is this evening and I am really glad to have the chance to be a part of the chorus. It's a pretty neat experience that was certainly not what I expected to encounter during my time in Dakar.