Issue 51: Samba in Church

A few Sundays ago,  I took my junk samba kit into church.

I had planned to just set it up outside and have a bit of a bash before the service began, but the musicians inside heard the racket, sorry, intriguing sounds, and invited us all in to join in with a couple of the songs. The second, third, and last songs, to be exact.

The patio-planter surdo drums were extremely popular, and the acoustics in the building suited them well.  We had hidden the cake-tin tamborims away as we decided that they would be far too noisy, but reckoned the tin-camping-mug agogo bells, played with a short length of wooden doweling would be just about OK. With five minutes to go, I had a band of about twenty children, aged between 18 months and 12 years, all armed with various percussion implements and looking determined. Behind me, the congregation were looking amused or apprehensive.

I decided that the best way to use these last few minutes was in establishing a “stop” signal; I felt a little sorry for the people who had been trying to use these same minutes in private prayer or reflection, but I reckoned that they would be grateful later on.

The vicar started the service, and the band launched into the first song. Fully briefed, the samba band remained completely silent. That is, all except a few toddlers with rice-in-plastic-bottle ganzas, who were much too young to follow my signals. It quickly became clear that it was less disruptive to proceedings to let them shake away.

The second song started, and to the congregation’s amazement, the children quickly picked up the idea that they were to listen and play in time to the beat. They were able to follow my signals to play louder or softer, and stopped dead on cue. Without much persuasion, they were all quiet during the prayers, with barely a clank or a bong.

After the third song, the patio-bins were upended and all the paraphernalia packed away until the final song.

I take my hat off to these children’s school music teachers. None of the children go to the schools I teach in, so I had no idea of how responsive they would be, and whether or not they would be able to keep time or follow a conductor.  The upshot is that everyone had a good time. The adults enjoyed seeing the children having fun in church, and also appreciated that they were “not just bashing away” and also were able to stop and start in an orderly fashion.

I’m hoping to start a regular samba band at church in due course – Sunday’s experiment has shown that there is a lot of enthusiasm!

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