Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – A 19-member international ensemble of singers and instrumentalists has just been selected to lead the morning and evening worship each day at PA 2015, the Mennonite World Conference Assembly to be held in Harrisburg at the Farm Show complex July 21-26.
“During the next few weeks, we’ll be learning each other’s stories,” explained Marcy Hostetler, leader of the group. “It’s so important to love and respect the people you work with.”
The 11 vocalists and eight instrumentalists come from India, Congo, Ethiopia, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Indonesia, Colombia, and the U.S. Seven of the instrumentalists live in south-central Pennsylvania, the region where PA 2015 will be held. “We wanted the instrumental ensemble to be able to rehearse well before the rest of the group arrives so we have a strong foundation,” explains Hostetler.
“Musicians who were interested in being considered for the group sent us their resumés, musical sound clips or youtube links, plus references,” explains Hostetler about how members of the group were chosen.
“We had many talented applicants, but we looked at more than their musical ability. We wanted to represent all the continents. We wanted gender balance. International experience and diverse musical involvement were pluses, as well as the ability to play multiple instruments and sing.
“After we made the initial selection of the group, our second step was to ask the remaining applicants to respond to in-depth questions about faith and their understanding of Anabaptism and how it is lived.”
- Dodó Miranda grew up in Congo, a refugee from Angola. At age five, he begged to attend adult choir practice with his parents and officially joined the choir at age eight because of his dedication and aptitude. As an adult, he has participated in music festivals in South Africa, France, Norway, and the U.S. He is in high demand in Angola where he is featured regularly on national TV and radio as a Gospel musician.
- Nohemy Ruth García of Spain has a three-octave vocal range. She has sung for three years with the Philharmonic Choirs of the Sydney [Australia] Opera House. Also a songwriter, she was commissioned to write a song of peace to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the bombing in Madrid (which killed 191 and injured 1800). As part of the anniversary celebration, “Choirs from all over the country joined the project,” says García. “Thousands of people gathered in hundreds of cities that week, singing together ‘Despertar’ (‘Awakening’),” García’s original song.
- Clyde Ferguson, Jr., from North Carolina, builds diddly bows. His band, Pop Ferguson Blues, has been recognized by the AT&T African American National Heritage group and has been included in North Carolina classroom curricula because of its contribution to North Carolina history. Ferguson has taught for 26 years in North Carolina public schools, directing the schools’ bands for many of those years. A member of the Mennonite Brethren leadership board, he’s also developed a dropout prevention program called “Reach em to Teach em.”
- Marisol Arriaga Aranda of Mexico is a graduate of Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Mexico City. She has pastored two Mennonite churches, one with a large community center. Currently she sings soprano in Abba Padre Musical Integration and leads music in workshops offered by Women in Action for Peace in Mexico.
“We are bringing together music leaders and recognized performers,” says Hostetler. “First, we’ll have to learn to share ideas and cooperate together to create a wonderful sound, since many of us are used to being directors!”
Each day at PA 2015 will feature a different continent – including the music. Latin American music, with its particular rhythms and styles, will be highlighted on Tuesday, July 21; Asian music on Wednesday, July 22; African music on Thursday, July 23; European music on Friday, July 24; and North American music on Saturday, July 25.
“Don McNiven, coordinator of the group, and I are sending music clips to each ensemble member now so they can become familiar with some of the songs we’ll be singing from the platform. We’ll get together about four days ahead of the Conference to rehearse together, to become acquainted – and to become a group who can lead all who attend in wonderful worship,” explains Hostetler.
“The more prepared we are, the more open and flexible we can be. When we selected the musicians, we looked for those with multiple skills – who can both play and sing – and who respect and understand the value of true worship.
“Of course, we’ll be singing in a variety of languages, which requires special effort, too. One of the criteria for being in the group is being able to communicate in English. We need at least one common language!” says Hostetler.
“Remember – at PA 2015 we’re all going to be singing, with the Ensemble leading and supporting us!” comments Don McNiven. “Unified voices, lifted in multi-cultural worship in response to our Creator, Saviour, and Lord, will be just a taste of the worship we read about in Revelation.”
Article by Phyllis Pellman Good, writer and editor for Mennonite World Conference
Singers and Instrumentalists
Members of the Vocal Ensemble: Debora Agustinus (Indonesia), Marisol Aranda (Mexico), Nohemy Ruth García (Spain), Dawit Getachew (Ethiopia), Emily Grimes (U.S.), Nina Marie Horsch (Germany), Patience Lola (Congo), Dodó Miranda (Congo), Anugraha Mochary (India), Anna Showalter (U.S.), Mark Wenger (U.S.)
Members of the Instrumental Ensemble: Clyde Ferguson (U.S.), Christy Kauffman (U.S.), Ryan Kauffman (U.S.), Abby Madden (U.S.), Frances Miller (U.S.), Wilar Mora (Colombia), Jeff Raught (U.S.), Daryl Snider (U.S.)