Originally intended to be the premier song in the Middle and Upper School Spring Concert, the Kenyan song Jambo
has been transformed into a virtual choral presentation the likes of which are so indicative of the times we are in.
Thirty-eight Upper School Music Performance students under the direction of choral teacher Matt Harrison created videos of themselves singing the piece – in Swahili! Mr. Harrison created sound tracks for each student to use during both the practice stage and in the final recorded performance.
"The professionalism and passion of this virtual choral presentation is literally breath-taking. Our Choral Program under the direction of Matt Harrison is on par with that of higher institutions of academia, the evidence of which is the continual record-breaking number of students being selected to perform in both Regional and All-State Honor Choirs," said Head of School Bob Izzo.
The results are also inspirational, given the uplifting tempo of the song and the overall energy of the video.
“To be able to send in videos while in quarantine, and to connect with students all over the world is so cool,” said Mr. Harrison. “The students really gravitated to this piece, and it helped them remember that it’s fun to make music together.”
The spirit contained in the song lyrics was the deciding factor on selection of this particular piece to be used in a virtual choral presentation, Mr. Harrison said. “Jambo” translates to: “Hello, Mister” and “how are you.” Also incorporated is the all-time favorite phrase: "Hakuna matata," which translates to "no worries!"
“It really provides a virtual sense of community, and it’s also a point of pride in our program that we are able to sing in so many different languages,” said Mr. Harrison.
Students had to learn Swahili within their virtual classrooms. As students worked out their respective parts in the piece, Mr. Harrison would provide critical feedback. He noted that in this case, the feedback was more about facial expressions and the overall aesthetic of the video. This is Mr. Harrison’s first virtual choir.
For the technical component, Mr. Harrison sought the help of his friend, Christian Amonson, a pioneer in the filming and recording of live music.
“As soon as Christian announced that he was helping to assemble virtual choirs, I was excited about the prospects of collaborating with him once again,” said Mr. Harrison.
Mr. Harrison also reached out to the song’s composer, Teddy Kalanda Harrison (no relation!), despite the considerable distance between the two Harrisons. Teddy Kalanda Harrison resides in Kenya in a village called Kaloleni (outside of Mombasa).
“Teddy has been amazingly accessible on social media and highly complimentary of the work that we're doing,” noted Mr. Harrison of the one-hour conversation the two shared. “We both agreed that music is a wonderful ambassador for our countries and a great portal to learning about each other through collaboration and mutual appreciation.”
Of the 38 students in the Upper School Music Performance class, 33 earned spots in the Southern Regional Honor Choir and 17 were selected to the Connecticut All State Honor Choir. Both of those impressive stats are school records.
Also impressive is that Mr. Harrison was recently asked to be the Collaborative Pianist for the National Association for Music Educators All Eastern Treble Choir (made up of students from 13 states). He is also the President Elect of the Connecticut American Choral Directors Association.Click here
to view the virtual choral presentation.Click here
to view WFSB's The Bright Spot
news coverage. Click here
to view Fox61's Send the Love Hamden Hall Sings Jambo