Sunday, May 21, 2006
This morning I sang in front of more than 400 people, including the President of Burkina Faso and his entire family. It didn’t quite hit me until I got onto the stage in front of the microphone. All I can say is, if I would have known what was coming, I would have practiced much more.
It started out very innocuously. I have been singing with the choral group of the University of Ouagadougou. They sing for all the masses at the La Rotonde Church. It’s so interesting to hang around with the students. University of Nebraska, it’s not. The campus is large, but there is not a blade of grass and the buildings are huge cinderblock constructions with metal roofs. The noise when it rains is deafening! There are motor-scooters and bicycles everywhere, as are little metal Nescafé stands. Those who can afford it smoke and fiddle incessantly ,with their cell phones, but most of the students are not that wealthy. Anybody with any money sends their children elsewhere for university. It’s Senegal or Ghana for many of them and France or the United States for a very lucky few.
It’s great singing with the students and getting to know a different facet of Burkinabé society. I have to be careful not to overdo the Nescafé, though. The students stay up all night studying, while those days are long past for me.
Anyway, one of the tasks I’ve taken on with the chorale is “leading”some of the songs during the service. I don’t really enjoy doing it. I love to sing, but I get a bit nervous up in front beside the altar with a microphone in my hand. And my directing method leaves to be desired. I try to look like I know what I’m doing, but I am pretty sure I look like Henry the Octopus on the kids’ old Wiggles videos as I wave my feeble tentacle……umm, I mean hand. The thing is, nobody else really wants to do it either. So, Rozenn and I do most of it. We are both a lot older that the students and apparently less susceptible to humiliation.
As you may have gathered, there was a mass this morning. It was a special one- first communion for 18 children. I was looking forward to it, as it was students from the second catechism class that I ever taught. I tried to get there early, as I wanted a little rehearsal time with the chorale, but there were soldiers everywhere and they wouldn’t let anyone turn onto the street where the church is located. We ended up parking several blocks away and walking past the long line of machine-gun wielding soldiers. For the life of me, I could not figure out what kind of trouble the government was expecting from a bunch of people intent on going to church on Sunday morning.
La Rotonde is big, but not very luxurious. It holds 400 seats and has a high metal roof. (Very bad acoustics!). There are a few ceiling fans to take the edge off the heat, but the edge of it is only a small part of the problem.
It was packed. I could see that every seat was going to be filled. The rest of the chorale arrived and I ran up on stage to make a sound check on the mic. That was when President Compaoré and his retinue came down the center aisle and made there way to the front of the church. There were two large armchairs set up front and center and he and the First Lady settled in as their bodyguards dispersed. As I looked around, I recognized Blaise’s brother, his mother in law and other family members. It was then that I remembered that Imani was part of this communion group. I wrote about her family in one of my March entries. Once again, I forgot that her dad is the president of this country.
Soon enough, it was time to begin. I had to get back on the stage and start my solo. It was really only then that I realized that I was singing in front of over 400 people, including a head of state and his family. It didn’t make my voice crack, but I will admit to being a tad nervous.
In all, I had 5 songs to get through. After the first time, I found that I was much less nervous and managed pretty well.
The photographers and cameramen had to be seen to be believed, though. I think every family must have hired their own. And the Burkina National Television crew was there, as well. I figure that this will be on the evening news tonight. I really regret that I forgot my own camera. I really had wanted to get a picture to put on the blog here. I knew that it would be very crowded and the photographers would be jostling for position like sharks facing a limited amount of exceptionally tasty chum. I knew I could get a couple of fun shots of that. But in the rush of getting all five of us ready to go, I forgot my camera. Sorry. But I have added a picture of Blaise.
That’s it. No more time to blog. I have to get to yet another rehearsal tonight. The concert for the International Choral Group is on Wednesday at the US Ambassador’s house. I will TRY not to forget my camera then!