‘Music has the power to change the world, because it can change people.’ (Bono)
This is a such a powerful quote. However, as we complete our week here in Freetown/Waterloo, Sierra Leone, I would want to take it further. Because what happens when people have been changed by music? What does it cause them to do?
The answers to these questions are in the hearts and souls of the people I’ve been lucky enough to be with this week. I’m still taking it all in really – they have touched me so deeply. So a huge shout-out (or should that be ‘sing-out’) to:-
- Emily, who has been in full throttle mode all week, her energy and joy leading ‘In Harmony’ sessions, one of which at one stage included eighty-two children, a parachute, a drone, local traders and multiple school staff.
- Ali, who has nurtured our schools’ choir with subtlety and drive, leaving just about everyone in tears. Thanks to her leadership, this choir are already something very special. The Liverpool Philharmonic are lucky to have both Ali and Emily working for them.
- Alfred, a quiet and gentle teacher from FANO. Alfred has a genuine alto voice and came out of his shell this week. He lost his wife to the Ebola epidemic, and music is a way for him to find his voice again.
- Isatu, the second teacher from FANO in the choir, whose energy is not what it once was, but whose determination and emotion remains. She also made us some dreamy doughnuts.
- Eustace, a blind teacher from Milton Margai School for the Blind, whose confidence and humour shines through his singing and choir direction.
- Abu, the blind piano player, who has a quick wit and a remarkable ear. He learnt the songs from the UK in a split second.
- The staff at God’s Chance School. This is one of the most remarkable staff groups I have ever come across. They are less a school staff, more a band. Rarely have I heard singing with such power. A vision of ‘school as parish’ or conversely ‘parish as school’ is all here. Take note Diocesan and Archdiocesan leaders.
- Annie and Foday from the FANO part of the choir. Both emit sensitivity in their singing and allow their whole bodies to be transported by the music.
- ‘Senior’ and Aminata from the Milton Margai part of the choir. Senior, aka Mohammed, has been given his nickname because he is so clever. When singing, you really can’t take your eyes off him. Aminata sings a solo with such confidence, this from a child who was abandoned on the street as a baby and handed in to the blind school.
It is true that for me the music has been the golden thread of our week.
But others have been in the background working equally hard to develop partnership programmes – Dave running mobility lessons at the blind school, teachers from All Saints and the Beacon C of E in Liverpool guiding staff through phonics training and SDG2030 pupil voice initiatives. And Margie from the Anfield Children’s Centre, developing ‘baby massage’ programmes for local mothers, one of whom is going to run it each week in the local library.
And then Dom, from the business world of telecommunications, where Communications Plus O2 are providing much-needed support. His drone flights around the town will be talked about for years to come. Without the support of him and his company, we would be struggling to develop the scope of the programme. Dom returns to the UK with his drone intact but with a new name – Uncle Tom (the locals cannot get their head round the name Dom).
All of them have helped to allow the music to take centre-stage and inspire us all.
Thank you so much. It’s been a truly beautiful week, and whilst I know it’s a cliché, it does feel that we have, just in a little way maybe, changed the world.
Because music changes people.