Joy - ABC Televison Easter Special
CLEVELAND- If your exposure to drumming is limited to the Energizer bunny in the TV ad, you haven't heard a bjembe or a dundun or a shekere. These are African drums that will be featured on ABC's Easter special from Pilgrim
In the hands of skilled percussionists, they can tell as emotional a story as any hymn or organ solo, explains Yvetta Eley, president of the KenYetta Dance Theater, a group based at Pilgrim Church that produces plays, music and dance with an African accent. For the Easter service, KenYetta's Iya Iiu, or "Mothers of the Drum," an ensemble of seven female percussionistswill perform
Drums, Eley points out, represent much more than just a beat. "They can sing," she says. Higher pitched female and lower pitched male drums provide a dynamic range which can be intensified by quickening the tempo and making sound louder or softer.
The deepest and biggest drum, the bjembe, is like a kettle drum in a symphony orchestra and can be tuned to several pitches. The dundun, on the other hand, is much lighter and is used more for accompaniment. The shekere is made from a gourd and beaded on the outside. When hit with the palm of the hand, it rattles. These instruments originated in West Africa. More familiar to Americans are conga drums. Adding an extra layer of sound is the balofon, a percussion instrument consisting of a series of gourds and wooden slats that is played like the xylophone.
Viewers will first hear drumming and chanting in Yoruba, a dialect from Nigeria, at the beginning of the service, with the musicians in traditional West African dress. They will again appear in a procession of children and parents and provide background for the reading of a psalm, and at the postlude, or end of the service.
Group leader Eley has trained at the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; Southeast Academy of Theater and Music in Atlanta; and Case Western Reserve University and Karamu Theater, both in Cleveland. She is also an African Griot, a master storyteller
Those who want to be part of "Joy! An Easter Celebration at Pilgrim Congregational Church" should check their local TV listings for time and channel. This televised service is produced by the Office of Communication for the National Council of Churches.
By William C. Winslow, April 2000
What kind of Easter service is this? The answer is, it isn't, at least not for the members of Pilgrim Congregational UCC in Cleveland. It's a television production. The service must be recorded a week in advance because Pilgrim is ABC-TV's Easter offering.
Pilgrim follows a long line of UCC congregations that have participated in an Easter or Christmas network broadcast over the years. Others include First Church of Christ UCC, Glaston-bury, Conn.; Plymouth Congregational UCC, Miami; Old South Church UCC in Boston; Central Union UCC and Kawaiaha'o UCC, Honolulu; First Plymouth Congregational UCC, Lincoln, Neb.; and First Church of Christ UCC, Wethersfield, CT.
Members of Pilgrim are learning what it means to be on TV. Red and white colors don't reproduce well on the tube, and small patterns shimmer. A good breakfast will help to endure three hours of sitting still.
Since the church learned last November it had been tapped to represent mainline Protestantismthe service will be available in 90 percent of American homesit has organized itself to a degree worthy of a presidential campaign. Consider the committees: tickets, hospitality, aesthetics, grooming/ushering, flowers, publicity, liaison to the TV crew, music, worship, cleanup, the physical plant, security and greeters. A parish nurse will stand by during the taping.
The aesthetics crew will make sure the sanctuary looks good for TVin the business, it's called "dressing the set." A large blank wall will be brought to life with a specially commissioned tapestry and 135 pots of flowers will fill in dead space and conceal electrical cables and outlets. The grooming committee will be concerned with the coiffures and makeup of those taking leadership roles in the service.
Altogether, the committees will bring together some 200 members, who will contribute hundreds of hours of work, says coordinator Florence Coppola. "We've had a lot of fun," she says. "We've brought together new members who haven't yet met some of the old timers."
On Easter Sunday, millions of television viewers will share in a moving religious experience as if they are part of the congregation at Pilgrim. What they won't know is how much effort it will have taken the congregation to establish that mood during videotaping.
So why go through the hassle? "This is evangelism," says the Rev. Laurinda Hafner, senior pastor. "If we can touch a few hearts that are empty or lost or alienated, then perhaps some lives will be enriched or renewed by the good news of our Christian faith. "