Yes. That was the man. The one I can never forget as long as I live. Mr Makinde was my primary school headmaster, my first scoutmaster, my catechist, my physical fitness instructor, and my choirmaster. The man fitted all these roles as near perfect as possible. The pupils trusted him, our parents trusted him before we did. He taught us about hard work; and about trustworthiness.  More importantly, he taught us about faith, the Catholic Faith.

One morning, while I was in Primary Three, Mr Makinde walked into our class, excused the class teacher, and started to write on the chalkboard. In little time, he had covered the board with three Latin songs:  Kyrie, Pater Noster, and Agnus Dei.Two straight lines, drawn without the aid of a ruler separated the songs. The songs covered the entire board with no space left; it was as if he had measured the board. We sat in silence until the head teacher finished his task. Mr Makinde then taught us to sing all three songs in one session. By the time he left our classroom, we could all sing those songs, and they remained our singsongs for the rest of the school term. At the start of the next term, Mr Makinde took us through the same drill, this time teaching us the Gloria and Credo. We were very proud of ourselves; we no longer muttered unintelligently during Mass when it was time to sing those songs. Ability to sing the songs increased our interest in attending Mass. We joined the choir at the children’s Mass at St Gabriel’s. We prepared for First Holy Communion. We felt taller than our little sizes.  That was the power of catching them young through songs.

Since that time, I have seen a number of children choirs and fascinated by some. I have seen the very young choir at the Vatican. Attending Vespers and evening Mass at Westminster Cathedral in London, I was thrilled by the children’s choir there. Perhaps my favourite children’s choir is that of the Church of Our Lady of Fatima in Lisbon where the children are not only young, but are also few; just about eight of them singing like hundreds of angels.

In the 1990’s a bold effort was made to popularise children choir in the Church. At that time, Julius Oba of St Patrick’s Church, Orita Bashorun established a choir made up of very young children of the parish. The group named “Catch Them Young” was the rave of the time performing at Church events and even recorded a musical album which made it to the radio stations. They sang in Yoruba and in English. They recorded an album at the Fodacis Studio owned by Chief Ayegbemi. The album included the very popular tract “Ijo Katoliki.” Mrs Ladebo was untiring in her encouragement and support of the group. Successful as the group was, it was not sustained for long as a professional distribution network for their album was absent; the children also grew older, some moved with their parents away from the parish. Some went to school elsewhere. That effort was a big eye opener and a worthy example for others.

 The choir of St Brendan’s Kumapayi is impressive any day, but last Sunday was something else. The main choir gave way to the children choir who did not disappoint. The usual instrumental accompaniments were there, the congregation was into it as well. The children choir led the congregation in another spectacular choral performance that only Kumapayi could put up. It was impressive just watching the young conductor of the choir, Blessing Ayoola.

The practice of introducing new members of the congregation towards the end of Mass has gained popular acceptance with the faithful. Last Sunday, Tony Bright and Michael Israel were the two newcomers. Tony arrived at St Brendan’s at 7am not sure when Mass would start. On getting there, he found out that Mass was not until 9am. He stayed anyway, and admitted he was happy he did. Leaving Kumapayi, I encountered two young men on their way to the Cathedral at Oke Padi, Lawrence Adedeji and Eniola Esan were going to represent Kumapayi at a meeting of St Vincent de Paul. On the first World Day of the Poor, our youths were not left out.

May the faith of our young ones wax ever stronger!


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