What Being in a Choir Taught Me
A True Story
on Sep 12, 2021
When I was leaving Starehe Institute in April 2007 as a 19-year old, I was burning with ambition. I wanted to start a lucrative business, own a sleek car and become a millionaire in my twenties. More importantly, I wanted to fly to America and acquire a degree from an Ivy League university. I was that ambitious.
Around that time I was leaving Starehe, I wandered into All Saints' Cathedral church in Nairobi on one memorable Sunday morning. And wow! The warm reception I received in the cathedral quickly glued me to the church even though I didn't believe that much in the Bible. Actually, I didn't believe in the Bible at all; I perceived it as a fictitious book of the Jews.
But when I became attached to the cathedral's 9.30am English service choir, I gradually found myself giving up my heretic beliefs and embracing the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. The tuneful hymns I learnt in the choir, the choir fellowships I attended over the weekends and the lasting friendships I formed in the choir - all these played a part in converting me to the principles of the gospel.
And it was in the choir that I came to find out how timid I was back then. Imagine I was so timid that when I was about to enter into the cathedral for choir practice, my heart would start pounding in my chest like a tom-tom. I would fear how I was going to interact with my fellow urbane choristers, some of whom were my parents' age. What a timid young man I was!
I particularly remember one experience I had on a Thursday evening in 2008 during choir practice. That evening, I was feeling rather sick and frail; I kept sitting down as other choristers sang their hearts out. A fellow tenor singer named Mike Njeru noted my unusual behavior. And when I informed him I was feeling unwell, he offered me a lift in his car and drove me to the bus station where I boarded a matatu bound for my hometown of Kiserian.
As Mike drove me to the bus station, he questioned me about my past. And you know what? His questions made me fear that he might find out I had been brought up as a Catholic. Happily, he didn't get to know that on that Thursday evening (as if there was something sinful about being a Catholic). That I feared Mike might discover my Catholic roots clearly showed how timid I was.
A number of choristers noted my timidity and did their best to embolden me with confidence. Like the choir director, a tough-talking professor from the University of Nairobi, remarked during one choir meeting that he would his leadership position to encourage the timid. Well, he didn't mention my name but I could easily tell he was talking about me.
Then another chorister had me join an evangelism course that was taking place at the cathedral in 2008. I did enroll for the course and even though it wasn't rigorous, at least it made me study the Bible more earnestly. And the highlight of the course was the graduation day during which I was pictured with my Dad, with me wearing a graduation gown.
I left Starehe as an 'A' student, full of confidence in my ability to conquer the world and achieve my dreams. But the experiences I had in the All Saints' Cathedral choir humbled me; they taught me how timid I was. I was more of a hick from the village in a choir of urbane grown-ups. Little wonder that I was rejected by the four top American colleges I applied for admission in 2007.
As I look back on my life now, I have realized I didn't achieve the dreams I had as a starry-eyed 19-year old because I lacked the mettle to become a millionaire in my twenties and the brains to get into an Ivy League university in America. I was just way too timid to achieve those dreams.
The all-knowing God must have seen it fit for me to wander into All Saints' Cathedral church and join the cathedral's 9.30am English service choir since joining the choir turned out to be my road to Damascus. In all honesty, I can say being in the choir gave me an Ivy League-worth of education.
NEW! NEW! NEW! If you missed my social media update two days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new hymn which is available in the videos' section of this blog. Just click on the "videos" link on the menu at the top of this blog to listen to the hymn.
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How I Became My Own Man
A True Story
on Sep 7, 2021
As I have narrated before on this lovely blog of mine, my immediate elder brother Paddy is such a brilliant person. He was a top performer throughout his schooling life, right from kindergarten all the way to university where he graduated with three degrees in a span of six years. And in church, he picked up a musical talent that led him to compose tuneful songs for our church choir.
When I was growing up, I was sometimes compared with Paddy, both at home and at school. Some would comment on how I wasn't as brilliant as Paddy. I remember one time in 1998 after Paddy was transferred to a private primary school called Kunoni, a senior brother of mine asked my parents why I wasn't taken to Kunoni as well, and the answer he got was that it was because I wasn't as bright as Paddy.
Well, my parents did eventually transfer me to Kunoni in late 2000, about a year after Paddy had finished his primary school studies there. And when I was in Kunoni, I found myself being compared to Paddy by those who had known him. One evening, for instance, a classmate of mine named Calvin Morekwa remarked to me as we were leaving school that Paddy used to radiate some brilliance. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he thought I was no match for Paddy.
Despite those discouraging comparisons, I beat the odds and excelled in the national primary school exams known here in Kenya as KCPE. I scored in the exam marks good enough to be admitted at Starehe Boys' Centre, a prestigious institution in Nairobi where Paddy was a high school student.
At Starehe, I again became a victim of comparison between Paddy and I by some of the students who knew we were brothers. Like on one afternoon in 2003, just before we headed to the dining hall for lunch, a housemate of mine named Karanja pointed out to me that Paddy was a focussed genius while I was a confused genius. I didn't know what to make of that comment.
Then during a Music lesson we had one afternoon in 2004, a piano teacher named Levi Wataka gave us a talk in which he talked highly of Paddy. He told us of how Paddy's musical talent was opening doors for him. A classmate of mine called John must have been impressed by Levi's talk because he afterwards asked me, "Are you really [Paddy's] brother?" He asked me that question in a mocking manner that suggested he thought I wasn't as gifted as Paddy.
Even after I left Starehe, people still continued comparing me to Paddy. A couple of years ago, for instance, I shared on a Facebook group of Starehe old boys a post about how I thought it was unwise of me to go back to university. And wa! A number of old boys reacted negatively to the post, with some contrasting my academic achievements with those of Paddy. One old boy in particular, while comparing me to my brother, described Paddy as a level-headed person who had won a beautiful girlfriend.
Come to think of it, I may not have been as brilliant and outgoing as Paddy during our schooling years but I possessed some traits that made me different from Paddy. When we were in Starehe, for example, I loved giving speeches during evening assemblies, something Paddy never did. I also joined the Starehe Boys' volleyball team and learnt how to play volleyball, a skill that Paddy never acquired.
Later on after we left Starehe, I came to realize that Paddy and I are as different as day and night. Paddy once told me that he doesn't like reading quotes by prominent people while I am an avid collector of quotes. Paddy also once told me he has a phobia of big books while I love reading tomes, provided they are entertaining, enlightening or inspiring. And I have noted Paddy prefers leading a quiet, private life while I enjoy sharing my thoughts with the world through blogging.
Given those differences between Paddy and me, I wonder why people often compared me to Paddy as if I was a nobody. Maybe it's because Paddy was more of an early-bloomer while I am more of a late-bloomer. And there is nothing wrong with being a late-bloomer because to ever bloom at all is very lucky.
In recent years, I have capitalized on developing the traits and skills that make me different from Paddy. I have taken to reading, writing, exercising and composing songs like a duck to water. Pursuing those hobbies has not only given me a sense of achievement, it has also made me feel like I am my own man. And that, my dear reader, is the story of how I became my own man.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on how I became my own man, you might also enjoy another one I wrote about two years on "My Noru-Moru Days". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.