Our final day here was another busy one as we prepared for the open rehearsal later in the day. The previous evening we had been asked by Reverend Josh if we could come along to a talent contest his church had organised to promote Brass for Africa
and to tell the audience what we were trying to achieve. We assumed this would be a low key event but there were a good 500 people in the church listening to the 5 contestants perform their 3 songs with a pane; of 3, including Rev Josh, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Randy Jackson.
The singers were of a very high quality and then Jim outlined what Brass for Africa were trying to achieve before the girls performed a tune, They all did very well and seemed to enjoy the buzz of performing to an audience.
The following day after a morning rehearsal myself and Jim, along with 4 of the girls went to Rev Josh's radio station to give an interview about Brass for Africa. The girls performed their tune again and spoke very confidently about how they have enjoyed learning a brass instrument and what they could gain out of this.
We had another rehearsal before our open rehearsal outside the orphanage and the children excelled themselves.
This has been a steep learning curve for the children and it has been difficult for them them to take in so much. This morning we didn't have all the children there, not because they were sleeping in or bunking off. Some were cooking for the orphanage, some cleaning, some collecting water. This life is so difficult for them and yet they take it with such good grace and humour.
Yet again my trip to Africa has been difficult, heartbreaking, but most of all inspiring.
Day 2 of our mini trip to Monrovia started with a run on the beach. Now, I like running but I forgot how tiring it is running on sand.
The view may well have been spectacular but I was concentrating on not stopping or sinking into the sand. I'm sure it'll be easier tomorrow...
We planned two brass sessions with the children today and this time we were on the steps of the new orphanage.
We started with our warm ups and played Frere Jaques in a round and it worked very well. The last 2 months when they have been getting used to the instruments they have had no music ( which thankfully turned up today) so It is taking a little time to read the notes but we did some rhythm exercises and that was very successful.
The second session we ran through the four pieces we will be playing in the concert tomorrow and they seem to be taking shape nicely.This is a lot for the children to take in and I have been impressed with their concentration as these are not the easiest conditions to play in.
Tonight myself and Jim have been invited to a talent contest, a sort of Liberia's got talent adjudicated by Reverend Josh, who also helps out at the orphanage. We will be taking a couple of the children along to play a little tune with us to show what Brass for Africa is trying to do.
And it's still not raining.....
We arrived safely early Thursday morning with the BA 767 being flown by Brass For Africa's very own Jim Trott!
It is rainy season in Liberia and the rain didn't disappoint as it hammered down for a couple of hours. The sun broke through late morning and Jm and myself went to see the old orphanage and the new orphanage just across from it.
The old orphanage was deemed unfit for habitation and when you see some of the shacks dotted around you understand how difficult it must have been for the children. The roof didn't keep much of the rain out and with the rainy season being for many months disease was a real possibility.
Brass for Africa has funded the rent for 2 years in the new orphanage and the improvement in their quality of life is massive. The home is clean and has solar lights, seperate dorms and each child has their own bed and mattress.
It doesn't sound like much but previously they were sharing 3 to a mattress. The home is clean and they have a cleaning rota that is strictly kept to. You can sense the children's pride in their new home.
An hour later we came back and took our first brass session. The children have had a couple of weeks tuition from some local military musicians and were keen to show myself and Jim 'Frere Jacques'. We the got them to play in a round which was very successful!
We had a good hour playing through new tunes, including 'When the Saints' which proved very popular.
I have written a 10 lesson plan especially for the coming months so that they can get used to having a structure when practising.
Like Kampala, their aural abilities are very good so it's a question of building on that and working on their notation reading.
Also like Kampala they are keen to learn new things and seemed to love being part of a band.
All in all a good first day, and the sun is still shining!
So our final day in Kampala arrived and I'm sure we all had mixed emotions. It has been an incredible experience here and a lot of hard work has been pt in by the Brass For Africa Team and of course the wonderful musicians we have been working with.
The day started a little later than planned, traffic problems I believe ( have I mentioned that before?) but we finally got through to the Mummy foundation as Lucy ( who helps run the foundation) and the girls wanted to see us and say goodbye. They sang us some songs and then Lucy presented us with some presents, all of which were beautiful and some of which were hand made.
Considering they have no money this was a touching gesture. It struck all of us that it seems the people with the least often give the most. I think Pamela (Jim's wife) lost a litre of fluid in crying, it was so touching.
We moved on to M-Lisada to say our goodbyes and also listen to the Jazz Band. We saw some of the dancers practise and Chris ( an American jazz musician who runs the jazz band) pointed out one of the dancers who used to be M-Lisada but is now one of the top dancers in Uganda. She works 6 days a week and earns about 15,000 shillings a month, that's about £4.25.
The jazz band came on and ran through 5 or 6 tunes, including Take the A Train. The Brass for Africa team were invited to ruin the band by joining in we did our best with a couple of standards, mercifully in user friendly keys!
We said our goodbyes 2 hours later than planned and headed back to the hotel to pack. Our journey to the AIrport in Entebbe involved another whopper of a traffic jam and Mark, our driver detoured through one of the slums to cut a few corners.
We eventually arrived 90 mins later and had the tension of seeing if Pamela, Angus, Gracie and Gaynor could get on the flight as it was over booked. Thankfully all made it, as the next flight was not until Sunday. Angus graciously said he would forsake school and stay, bless him.
And so adventure is over, It has been one of the most moving weeks of my life and I'm very privileged to have been asked to come along and help. Thanks to all the Brass for Africa Team,Gill Leather, Simon and Sue Hogg, Marc and Carol Edwards, Mark Brown, Pamela, Angus and Gracie Trott, Gaynor Popplestone.
A massive thanks to our leader, Jim Trott and Bosco Segawa and Godfrey Mboira.There are so many deserving causes around the world and you can't help everyone, but Bosco and Godfrey have made a massive difference to how music is perceived in Kampala.The standard of music and the enthusiasm of the musicians is testament to their inspirational leadership and teaching,
Jim has campaigned for 6 years to bring funds and instruments to help these causes and he can see the slow but definite progress that is happening out in Kampala.
There are wonderful things going on in the slums of Kampala and I'm very proud of being a very small part of it.
Today started in a worrying fashion as the heavens opened early in the morning. Once it starts raining here it doesn't tend to stop for a while. Thankfully it was only a few hours, the main problem being transport out of the slums is even more difficult as none of the roads are tarmac so it becomes a mud river. Thankfully Tender Talents Choir and the Mlisada bands arrived in time for the first concert at the Lion bar in the grounds of the Sheraton Hotel.
We had a good audience including the heads of the Army and Police Bands and the bands and choir did us proud once more.
The concert also included some of the choir giving us a wonderful African dance and also a breathtaking Gymnastics display.
At the end the Brass For Africa team were given hand carved gifts as a thank you, mine had a lion with the Brass for Africa logo on it. I assume they chose the lion as I have no mane of hair of my own...
It was a swift turn around to head off to the Tender Talents Magnet School on the outskirts of Kampala. The bands and choir received a well earned meal of beef, rice and potatoes, not a meal they have too often at all before giving us a repeat performance in the brand new theatre built for Tender Talents.
It is a magnificent Theatre with a big stage and seating for at least 350 and I hope they can utilise this wonderful facility and make music grow even more in the Kampala region.
We all have a day off tomorrow, although I suspect the Mlisada Band will not be taking any time off, before returning for our final visit on Tuesday.
Today was the last full day of rehearsals before three concerts this weekend. We are playing at the Good Shepherd Home tomorrow with 2 concerts on Sunday. The first is at the Sheraton, Kampala followed by a concert at a new theatre paid for by Francis and Phillip Atwood. Both were teachers in England before moving to Kampala a few years ago and they do fantastic work in helping and promoting the work at the Good Shepherd and Tender Talents Home. Tender Talents is a home run by Frank and Brenda Katoola and we are fortunate to be playing alongside Frank's Choir on Sunday
Another fantastic day of music making with the BrassforAfrica team. Jim Trott and Simon Hogg were based at the Bethlehem Orphanage in the morning taking a group of 30 brass players through their paces. The highlight was Simon performing on the hosepipe (rather than the trombone!) This went down very well with the children and he is unlikely to get this back!
Marc Edwards and myself spent the day at the mlisada home with two bands sight reading through many pieces and the results were very impressive. Among the tunes were, Circle of Life and Super Trouper, a bit of Slaidburn is on the menu tomorrow along with Jim's own Mlisada March.
We finished at 4 after nearly 6 hours of playing, and on our return Jim needed to talk to one of the directors, Bosco, about tomorrow's programme.
In the background he could hear the brass band playing! 6 hours obviously not enough....
First day with BrassforAfrica and it was a moving but uplifting day. First stop was the Good Shepherd home to see all the work that was going on to help hundreds of people, young and old.
The home was a bright and happy place to be for everyone.
Next we stopped at the Mummy Foundation which houses up to 90 young girls. BrassforAfrica has paid for a teacher to come from February to help these girls.
Finally we moved to the Mlisada project and saw the band, dancing, gymnastics displays in an exciting concert. It really is incredible to see what can be achieved.
Tomorrow we are starting our brass project in Mlisada and the Bethlehem orphanage, working with 3 bands towards some concerts later on in the week.