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(From left) Language barriers did not stop choir members, Esther and Rebekah from making Kim Thiessen and her daughter Meghan feel at home in Najile, Kenya.

(From left) Language barriers did not stop choir members, Esther and Rebekah from making Kim Thiessen and her daughter Meghan feel at home in Najile, Kenya.

Upcoming concerts to launch new MCC CD featuring Maasai choirs

Gladys Terichow
April 23, 2010

 

CALGARY, Alta—Take Your Place, a CD/DVD featuring Calgary vocalist Kim Thiessen, Winnipeg musician Darryl Neustaedter Barg and church choirs from Maasai communities in Kenya, will be launched at a series of CD release concerts in Manitoba and Alberta.
 
Manitoba concerts take place May 6 in Brandon, May 7 in Morden, May 8 in Winnipeg, and May 9 in Steinbach. Alberta concerts take place May 15 in Calgary and May 16 in Didsbury.
 
Six of the 18 songs on the CD were recorded in Najile, Kenya, a community in the Rift Valley about a three hour drive from Nairobi. The community is surrounded by small settlements of about 3,000 Maasai people spread out over hundreds of square miles.
 
Two songs were recorded at a musical celebration of 14 church choirs singing traditional Maasai songs in the Maa language and two songs are a musical collaboration between smaller choirs and Thiessen and Neustaedter Barg. Three songs are in traditional Maasai style in the Maa language and three songs are a musical collaboration between a community mass choir and Thiessen and Neustaedter Barg.

 
“Both musically and relationally, it was a wonderful experience,” said Thiessen. “I hope this is what people hear when they listen to the music.”
 
This is the fourth CD released by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Alberta in partnership with Foothills Mennonite Church to raise money for MCC’s Generationsprogram—a program that provides direct support to people living with HIV and addresses issues that perpetuate the spread of the virus.
 
The CDs have raised more than $650,000 since the first CD, To Such as These, was released in 2002.
Take Your Place goes beyond raising funds for MCC-supported HIV/AIDS projects—the CD/DVD connects listeners with Maasai communities benefitting from MCC-supported HIV/AIDS projects,” said Thiessen.  
 
The idea for this musical collaboration came about in 2009 through discussions with Joseph Kiranto, a community AIDS educator from Najile who spent a year in Calgary under MCC’s International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP).
 
Kiranto filled the positions of pastoral assistant at the Foothills Mennonite Church and staff assistant for MCC Alberta's Generations program—a program that Thiessen coordinates.
 
During his one-year placement he was the guest speaker at concerts featuring Thiessen and Neustaedter Barg and other events and shared with the audiences how blood tests, counselling and other projects supported by MCC is limiting the spread of HIV.
 
“He re-energized my commitment to supporting this small CD project that we started eight years ago and inspired us as a staff to stay committed to this project,” said Thiessen.
 
Last fall, shortly after Kiranto returned to Najile, Thiessen and Neustaedter Barg, MCC Alberta staff members Kari Enns and Anne Boehlig, family members and friends travelled to Najile to live and work with Maasai families. Some members of the group stayed three weeks, others stayed five weeks.
 
Thiessen and Neustaedter Barg rehearsed and recorded songs and their family members and friends were involved with peace clubs, schools and other projects.
 
The project expanded to include a DVD with three short videos. One video is about the Canadian group working on various projects, another video is about Kiranto providing HIV/AIDS education in Kenya and the third video is about MCC partner organizations working on food and water security projects in Najile and surrounding communities.
 
The CD’s title, Take Your Place, is an invitation for people “to sit at God’s table and enjoy fellowship with others” and a challenge for people “to take their place and use their gifts to meet the needs of others,” said Thiessen.
 
“It is my hope that people will be inspired by the work that is happening in Kenya and recognize that they are part of this story—that this work includes them—that they are an important part of this CD project that started eight years ago,” she said.
 
For more information about the concerts and the new CD:
* Call MCC in Canada at 1-888-622-6337. In the U.S. 1-888-563-4676.