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    HCMC's highest praise concert unfolds treasures

    by Paul Azumah-Ayitey
    posted Wednesday, 21 October 2009 19:55| 0 Comments

    A concert which should pass as one of the best contemporary gospel concerts in a long while should definitely have all the elements to qualify it: warmth auditorium, pulsating sounds, charged and highly expectant crowd, unadulterated live instrumentation by finest instrumentalists, good vocals and highly anointed and rare musical breeds.

    This was what Harbour City Mass Choir’s organised ‘Highest Praise’ brought to the table and patrons could not have asked for any better bargain than to also describe it as a timely statement made for Contemporary (Urban) Ghanaian Gospel.

    Some patrons even felt that it has not only come to stay but possesses the ‘midas touch’ to invigorate passion, ministerial (evangelism) purpose and quality in terms of production onto the gospel scene.

    The concert was organised as part of the 10 years anniversary of the Harbour City Mass Choir (HCMC) and therefore brought together the choir’s partners in ministry, friends, fans as well as music lovers. Held at the National Theatre, ‘Highest Praise’, to many revealed a side of Ghanaian gospel music that is probably new or hidden but exposed to some selected few as many mainstream elements were absent but never missed. However, this is not true; for Ghana’s Contemporary Gospel Music genre has been around since the late 70’s but that ‘thing’ which has kept if from getting to the masses still hangs as a mystery.

    Nevertheless, the 90’s saw massive participation and mainstream attention for the genre as many choirs and groups brought the genre closer to the people rather than confining to the walls of church auditoriums, particularly the charismatic ones. Contemporary gospel is today the most commercial variation of gospel music worldwide. Rather than rehashing the well known elements of traditional gospel music, contemporary gospel has modernised it with elementary fusions of crossover ‘R&B’, Soul and hip rhythms laced with dynamic vocals.

    In Ghana, this brand of gospel is characterised by a blend of foreign gospel rhythms, choral compositions and vocal patterns as well occasional tap into the country’s native rhythms of adowa, kpalogo and traditional hi-life. Aside the messages being well packaged and revered, strictly biblical and inspirational, the quality and creativity of musical compositions, instrumentation and live ministration are of high standards. This, notable groups such as Joyful Way Incorporated, Commissioned Family, etc and artistes such as Danny Nettey, Pastor Helen Yawson, and the Harbour City Mass Choir (HCMC) have taken this up to reach out to the world with the saving gospel of Christ.

    Prior to the concert, publicity for the programme was rife on TV and radio with the promise of an eventful night plus a free DVD/CD of HCMC’s maiden album. Coincidentally, the programme’s date clashed with many others in the gospel vein scheduled across the capital at notable venues. This notwithstanding, many trooped the National Theatre amidst great expectancy since word has gone round attesting to the ‘explosive nature’ of HCMC’s previous outdoor concert - the Celebration Launch of their maiden album, ‘Touching Our Youth’- a concert words beyond spectacular.

    The concert began on schedule and after the usual introduction and short worship moment led by Kwame Amihere, a co-founder of HCMC, comperes Kojo Oppong-Adjei and Karis Senanu all with Sunny FM affiliation set the ball rolling. Risen, a talented group specialised in using the music medium of reggae and afro-beat to relay touching and inspiring messages, took to the stage and ministered powerfully and set the tone for others to follow.

    Lining up the finest vocalists in the fraternity who had collaborated with it during the course of its 10 years of Contemporary Gospel advocacy, HCMC wanted to bring back nostalgic memories as all selected songs for the night were highlights of most of their concerts in the 10 years of musical evangelism. Therefore it was by no coincidence that every ministration brought in something spectacular.

    Among the first feature artistes to minister with the choir were the vocally-inclined Eyra Gadzekpo and Ike Nanor who brought their unique talents to bear leading Yolanda Adams’ ‘In the midst of it all’ and John P. Kee’s ‘Stand’ respectively. The whole auditorium was eclipsed in awe as the two displayed good vocal dynamics with passion. In between, Harbour City’s own David Osabutey and Ben Essel who sent patrons into dancing moods with the groovy ‘Yesu Sumo Mi’ and ‘Nyame W’ayemye’ from HCMC’s maiden album, ‘Touching Our Youth’. It was the re-arrangement of the popular choruses that caught the attention of music lovers.

    Then came the introduction of the highly gifted and anointed Pastor Helen Yawson (wife of Pastor Andy Yawson, KICC Ghana) to come lead the choir to minister the inspirational ‘(God of a) Second Chance’ a rendition by Prophetess Juanita Bynum, that drew loud applause. She gracefully mounted the beautifully decorated stage and true to expectations, the song was delivered in way that had many rising to feet appreciating the message - God indeed gives us the chance to begin afresh whenever we fall.

    Next were Irene Sowah and Patrick Masoperh who also caused the worshippers to reflect on God’s compassion and love. However, it was Cwasi Oteng’s ministration that caught many spellbound with the atmosphere it generated. The contemporary gospel new kid on the block ministered ‘Okurayen’ from his maiden album ‘Blessed Are They’ and immediately many began falling under the anointing. So charged was the atmosphere that when he called Ike Nanor to join him on stage, the euphoria that eclipsed the auditorium was just unbelievable.

    Nii Okai then took the house into a reflection time encouraging and admonishing patrons to live a life worthy of their calling and win more into the kingdom of God. An altar call was made for patrons to give their life to Jesus and others with problems such as addictions ministered to. Later Nii joined Graciella to beautifully minister ‘Boji Nyommo’ and led HCMC to sing Alvin Slaughter’s ‘He Will Deliver’ much to the admiration of patrons.

    The night could not have ended without the inclusion of praise leaders, Soul Winners, who brought the house down with their traditional kpanlogo and jama hits in ‘Heowe’ and ‘Aboloo’. Many who had pinned themselves into their seats rose up in ecstasy. With the ever popular ‘Igwe’ in the 16-track repertoire, many cared the least though the show ate late into the night.

    Speaking to Nii Okai after the programme, he said, “the concert has been great and beyond our expectations. We thank God for granting us the grace to meet our goals, HCMC is going to remain a choir serving Christ through the ministry of music and is ready to provide more impactful music ministrations of a higher standard. We are grateful to all who also turned up and have been supporting us since 1999.”

    Tema-based Harbour City Mass Choir has been one of the lead choirs today spear-heading the Contemporary Ghanaian Gospel crusade. Since its inception in 1999, the choir has organised many outreach concerts in Tema, Accra and some notable educational institutions in the country. Currently, the choir is on a ten-city tour across the southern half of the country.

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