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In spite of adversities, MUSON is testament of ‘Resilience’ in 40 years of engaging Nigeria’s arts, culture

anote
  • October 13, 2023
  • 6 min read
In spite of adversities, MUSON is testament of ‘Resilience’ in 40 years of engaging Nigeria’s arts, culture

* Stage play Efunsetan Iyalode of Ibadan opens festival October 20

By Anote Ajeluorou

IN the words of the Chairman of Mr. Louis Mbanefo, Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) Centre has “shown remarkable resilience to be able to withstand all the annoying socio-economic vagaries, turbulence and doubts. We have persevered in the face of challenges and have remained strong.” Indeed, that has been the story of resilience of the culture centre that also teaches classical music to young enthusiasts, as it looks to stage its yearly MUSON Festival 2023, the 27th edition, starting from October 20, 2023 when Chevron-sponsored Festival Drama, Efunsetan Iyalode of Ibadan, written by Akinwunmi Sesan, will be staged in three shows, till October 29, 2023 when TotalEnergies-sponsored Gala Concert, Messiah by G. F. Handel will be performed by the MUSON Choir and Orchestra, conducted by Emeka Nwokedi.

According to Mbanefo, “The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Resilience’. On MUSON Day event on October 25, we shall be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of MUSON by our founding fathers and mothers. We have amply demonstrated the spirit of resilience, for despite all the vicissitudes of life in Nigeria, MUSON continues to thrive and to progress from strength to strength – a shining example of what can be achieved by Nigerians.”

The line up of MUSON Festival programming is an impressive array of engaging activities that will get culture lovers occupied for the week-long festival. A new introduction to the MUSON Festival bouquet is the Brunch/Art Exhibition anchored by the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation and Folio Development Ltd. The brunch is catered by Oleander on October 22. The art exhibition runs throughout the festival. MUSON Festival Opera, sponsored by T. Y. Danjuma Foundation, titled Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo will be staged on October 22 as well.

A new feature is a panel discussion titled Music Meets Technology, which has as theme ‘Collabo’. This session will feature experts in technology and music who will discuss the meeting points between music and technology and how technology enhances music. It will be held on October 23. MUSON Day Concert is slated for October 25 and celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the culture centre. MUSON’s artistes will be on hand to entertain the audience.

MUSON Board member, Mrs. Awuneba Ajumogobia (left); Chairman, Festival Planning Committee, Arch Kitoyi-Ibare Akinsan; Chairman, MUSON Board of Trustees, Mr. Louis Mbanefo (SAN); Vice Chairman, MUSON Board of Trustee, Chief Olufemi Adeniyi-Williams; member, Engr Olanrewaju Phillips and CEO, Mrs. Joyce Ayoola Jafojo

Also on October 25, 2023, MUSONC Festival’s regular and popular programme ‘My Kind of Music’ will be held. This year the four distinguished guests – Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Sir Kayode Adeluola, Dupe (Ige) Kachi and Sola (Shullzz) Mogaji – will be on stage to tell the audience their favourite music and why; they will also dance to their selection for the enjoyment of the guests. There will also be a gala recital and gala concert on October 28 and 29 and sponsored by TotalEnergies. The gala recital will feature Walter-Michael Vollhardt on the cello, Mr. Mbanefo on the piano with a complement of supporting MUSON artistes. The gala concert will feature MUSON Choir and Orchestra performing The Messiah by Handel and conducted by Nwokedi, with soloist Francesca Chiejina (soprano) lending an international helping hand.

Mbanefo took time to mourn the loss of two founding members of MUSON, also tracing its founding history, and the impact the centre has made in Nigeria’s cultural space in its 40 years of existence. He expressed confidence that the centre would continue to discharge its duty to the country through its promotion of Nigeria’s arts and culture.

“As we prepare for the festival, we are mourning the loss of two Centenarians, without whom there would not have been a Musical Society of Nigeria,” Mbanefo said. “Both men passed away during September 2023. Mr. Akintola Williams (doyen of accountancy), who celebrated his 104th birthday on August 9, 2023 passed away on September 11, 2023 whilst Sir. Mervyn Brown who celebrated his 100th birthday on September 24, 2023 passed away two days later. We pray that the souls of the two Titans rest in perfect peace!

“Let me say a few words about the origins of MUSON. It was formed by a group of friends, including Mr. Akintola Williams, Chief Ayo Rosiji, Mrs. Francesca Emanuel and Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi (all deceased) and my humble self in 1983 with the main objective of promoting the performance, understanding and enjoyment of serious music.

“We tackled our objectives in two ways. First, we held concerts with regularity from 1984, with performances of the highest quality by Nigerian and expatriate performers. And second, we have developed two Schools of Music – the Basic School which provides musical education in the theory of performance of musical instruments for Nigerians of all ages, and the Diploma School. The latter runs a two-year course in theory and instrumental performance and has an annual intake of 30 advanced students who are all granted scholarships by the MTN Foundation. From humble beginnings, the school has now become a Diploma Awarding Institution which is accredited not only by the Ministry of Education, but also the Music Examination Board in England. The School has produced over 400 Diploma graduates, many of whom have continued their musical education in Europe, South Africa and America and attained international recognition. Most of our alumni have made and are making very impressive contributions to the musical life in Nigeria and indeed, the world. They have raised considerably the standard of singing and musical performance in churches, in schools and at social events. Indeed, many churches and musical societies throughout Nigeria are borrowing from the templates established by MUSON. There can be no doubt that training in classical music is an important discipline for our youth and a source of spiritual fulfillment, not to mention employment, throughout their lives.

“The MUSON Choir, which has won gold medals at international competitions, travelled to Greece last year and performed to a distinguished audience. And we have a Symphony Orchestra which is conducted in regular concerts by our visiting German maestro Walter-Michael Vollhardt. We also have an opera department which has programmed highly acclaimed performances of many well-known international operas.

“The main innovation in the festival will be “Collabo – Music Meets Technology.” In MUSON we are alive to the juxtaposition of classical music and contemporary music. The old and new genres are pitched together in concerts, the digital space and the internet, resulting in a fusion we have termed “Collabo”. At the end of the event, we hope to have created the requisite awareness of hidden gems in the confluence of music and technology. It promises to be an exciting festival.”

Mbanefo urged all lovers of culture to make MUSON Festival their destination for the enjoyment of wholesome performances, adding that ticket prices have remained the same and not responded to the harsh economic situation in the country.

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