Sudanese Choir Sings at Local Church

St. John's Lutheran Church in downtown Erie boasts a musical repertoire much wider than the standard works of Bach, Handel, and Luther. At St. John's you can hear indigenous African Christian music, sung in Swahili and Arabic. Several Sudanese families have formed an intergenerational choir so they can continue to sing the Christian songs of their native land. The choir was the idea of Jackson Arop. "We like to sing with much joy," states Arop, "We want to show that we love God. Our music is very good for that." The choir is led by Arop's wife Marlin Paul and cousin Rose Ayo. The choir hopes to grow their repertoire so they can visit other churches. They also have plans to acquire a guitar, keyboard, and drums.

Africa is home to much new Christian music. Ancient tribal songs are given new words that reflect Biblical teachings, other songs are new compositions that draw from traditional African song and dance but are also influenced by standard European hymns, which were brought by missionaries. The result is African gospel music, almost exclusively passed on via the oral tradition. "The music is very lively and the rhythms are pure African," states Duane Kraus, the music director at St. John's.

St. John's chapter of Aid Association of Lutheran's, the denomination's community service organization, has been reaching out to refugees who are settling in Erie. There are over 300 Sudanese now living in Erie, all of them forced to leave their homes due to many years of civil war. The national language of the Sudan is Arabic, and St. John's also sponsors an Arabic Sunday School class run by and for the Sudanese families.

Contact Museum Folk Art Coordinator, Kelly Armor for more information.