In Summary
  • MAKING MELODIES. Founded in the early 1980s, Hossana Choir in Masaka has stood the test of time, as MOSES MUWULYA writes.
  • Iryn Nalunkuma, another member with an exceptional alto voice, says because they sing for God, they do it with a passion. “We treat this as our calling from God. For that matter, we cannot mess with God’s things.”
    The choir has senior members willing to train new members and this has seen them fill the vacuum left by the death of eight senior founding members.

“…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God,” reads Colossians 3:16. It is this bible quote that drives Hosanna Choir of St John’s Kijjabwemi Church of Uganda in Masaka.
Since its inception in the early 1980s led by Drake Kirabira (RIP), father to Pastor Wilson Bugembe, the choir has stood the test of time. Where hope has been lost, Hosanna Choir’s soulful voices have stood tall.

Today, they are the West Buganda Diocesan church ceremonies leading choir. The most notable event they sang at and left many astounded was at the recent consecration of the Rt Rev Henry Katumba Tamale, the sixth bishop of West Buganda Diocese.
At the event, the choir disproved a section of Christians from far and wide, who had illusions that a ‘rural diocese’ had no choir capable of animating a consecration service of a bishop-elect.

Unique songs
However, Emmanuel Mugabi, one of the choir members who sings tenor, says they are hailed for putting up exceptional performances. Besides hymns, the songbirds have composed songs such as Namugongo, Tulina Abajulirwa (Tribute songs to Uganda Martyrs) Yesu Kankwesige, Simwe Mwanonda, in which Bishop Henry Henry Katumba, was the lead soloist and others are original compositions.
The songbirds boast of mastery in solfa notation which makes them unique.
“Solfa notation involves use of symbols to indicate musical sounds produced by the human voice. The solfa syllables; do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti are used instead of letters,” Mugabi explains.

Mugabi adds that most church choirs do not want to train using that style but it helps to improve the quality of vocal pitching, by enabling singers learn better pitch relationships, and come up with good melodies. “Persisting on it has seen us stand out of the crowd,” he says. The choir also boasts of having one of the best organists in the Anglican Church, who also doubles as the choirmaster, Patrick Kyabasinga. Kyabasinga gets music pieces (hymns) from UK where his son and brother are organists in London churches.

What keeps them going?
Kyabasinga says many choirs have collapsed because of imposing rules, a reason Hosanna Choir does not set any.
“Dealing with people who have different responsibilities is not simple. We just understand each other and always accommodate one another,” he explains. He says all the members are devoted because singing is part of their life and thus they give it their all.
The attitude keeps them going without rules. Members use their own monies to fund the choir’s needs.
“For example, we have just finished church service, but we want to train before going back home. Each member will pay for their lunch and we do our business,” he shares.

Frobisher Sennyonjo, one of the choir members who sings bass, attests to this: “When we don’t sing, we feel like something is missing in our lives. This is our calling and we have to give it our best to reap bountifully.”
Sennyonjo, who is also a composer, says singing for God is the only way they can thank Him for what He has done in their lives.
Iryn Nalunkuma, another member with an exceptional alto voice, says because they sing for God, they do it with a passion. “We treat this as our calling from God. For that matter, we cannot mess with God’s things.”
The choir has senior members willing to train new members and this has seen them fill the vacuum left by the death of eight senior founding members.

Christians say
“They have a number of touching songs aimed at evangelising. St John’s Church Kijabwemi brings life to the church and uplifts you when you are downcast. This creates a feeling of being in the right place every Sunday,”
Lameck Kigozi,Southern Region Police spokesperson

“I have just joined the church, and what caught my attention is the church choir. I’m convicted they are far better than the choir I used to sing for. They put in a lot of their time to perfect their work,” Rachel Namaganda, church member