SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2014.
‘And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.”’ Lk. 2v8, 13-14.
The birth of Christ heralded joy, peace, love and hope into the world. It is to be noted that the first Adam failed and brought a curse and hopelessness to humanity. But the second Adam by His coming gave a new lease of life for the new humanity. Interestingly at His birth, thousands of angelic hosts that gathered had their carol to usher in a new era and they sang joyfully: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests’.
This angelic carol set the tone for the Christian cantata that was to endure for all times in all Christian communities. Therefore, Cantata is a musical arrangement put out for retelling of Christmas story. It could as well be done during the Easter to highlight the passion of Christ. The great features of cantata include but are not limited to: choral, hymnal, vocalization, instrumentation, hand-bell, keyboards among others.
At the festival of cantata both traditional and contemporary selection of music features greatly and is usually accompanied by seven readings. These readings help to tell the story of the coming of Christ child in a gospel style or at Easter His passion. Most church congregations do not discriminate on those who read the seven lessons. Often, there may be an admixture of people selected from the church and some top ranking government officials. I am sure to a reasonable extent; this will add glamour to the whole exercise. For He who came primarily came to reconcile men back to God.
It is observed that most Christian worshipping communities use the occasion of cantata to relax; appreciate the boy king and His role in the salvivic history of mankind. I recall a prominent church father now late but the then Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Owerri, Rt Rev. Benjamin Chukwuemeka Nwakiti who made it a point of duty then to celebrate both Easter and Christmas cantata throughout his episcopacy. It was something else at that time many church denominations attended the inspiring cantata with their choirs held normally at the Cathedral of Transfiguration (CATOL), Owerri. In fact, we had a foretaste of the angelic voices. Interestingly, each year many looked forward to attending the inspiring and soul lifting cantata. What an era!
Unfortunately, the celebration of cantata particularly at Christmas over the years has nosedived partly because with the tension in the wider society many seem not to appreciate the importance of cantata. But I do know that music is the food of the soul as it refreshes and enlivens a worshipper in his relationship with his God. Yes, someone may also add due to the high unemployment and poverty rate in the society some people may not appreciate cantata as it is not a too money making exercise. I think where people are investing more now seem to be in things pertaining to politics. According to these categories of people, their motivation hinges on stomach infrastructure. Anything less than that therefore is balderdash and a waste of time.
But people of God, it should not be so. We are talking of musical arrangement put in place to give someone’s spiritual life impetus to appreciate the God man that gave us hope in a hopeless world. Therefore, His second coming should energise the believer that at last the Prince of Peace, King of kings, the man of love came to give us hope. Whatever it will cost us, it is not too much to sing of His praise. We sincerely commend all those church leaders and their congregations who found time at this period of Christmas to celebrate the cantata. Happy cantata and merry Xmas in advance!Ven. Ernest Onuoha Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.