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Coronavirus gloom gives birth to Samoa Cyber choir

The challenges posed by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has led to the formation of the Samoa Cyber choir.

The group includes 75 singers of Samoan descent living in 14 different nations across the globe, says Choir Director and Producer, Reverend Letupu Fa'auuga Matautia of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.).

"I have been admiring for some time the initiative of Mr. Eric Whitacre, who put together the first ever online choir in the world in 2009," Rev. Matautua told the Samoa Observer.

"Since then, a few more online groups have popped up everywhere in the world. The idea of a Samoan online choir popped up when lockdown became the norm across the world. Health systems were pushed to their limits, economies challenged, and even our social norms became subject to government directives.

"And with Samoans scattered all throughout the world, I felt the need to reach out and provide some sort of platform for our own people to unite in worship as a form of spiritual empowerment. There is comfort and strength in unity, especially when we unite for God’s glory."

The Samoa Cyber Aufaipese does not have an established form of selection process, and there’s no requirement for audition, the Reverend explained.

Rev. Matautia is also the Instrumentalist, Sound Engineer and Video Editor. The video for the first hymn was done by Tupea Mata’u, of Vanu Studios. The first song was released 30 March and the second was released Tuesday night, 12 May. 

"But, I’ve had to do this video presentation myself since Tupea has been very busy with work," Rev. Matautia explained.

"I send out the invitation via a Facebook post, and everyone is welcome to join. The invitation, includes the lyrics of the hymn, the notes and the backing track. Whoever is interested can download, practice and record their own video clip when they’re ready. That’s about it. After the invitation post, I start receiving video submissions, which are then used to compile the music [and] finally the video presentation."

So far, the virtual choir has recorded two hymns. 

There were 36 singers on the first hymn, Lo'u Nu'u E, a composition by the late Maiava Pene Solomona. The lyrics were written by the late Siuila Pouesi. 

"That hymn is part of the hymn book of the Congregational Church of Jesus in Samoa, the CCJS or Ekalesia Faapotopotoga a Iesu i Samoa. I selected this hymn based on its popularity among our people. It makes anyone feel proud of their identity as a Samoan (lotonuu)," said Rev. Matautia.

"It was the beginning of lockdown crisis, and I felt we needed to motivate our people to unite in prayers for our beloved nation and the world...we had 36 in the first hymn...and now we have 75."

The second hymn, "O Oe o Lo'u Malamalama" is a traditional Methodist Samoa hymn. 

"I could not find the composer for this tune, but the arrangement that Samoa Cyber Aufaipese performed is my arrangement. The lyrics were written by the late Rev Henry Taliai of the Methodist mission," said Rev. Matautia.

"I selected this hymn because of its deep theological meaning. Jesus is referred to as my light (verse 1), my fortress (verse 2), my beloved (verse 3). We must keep the faith burning, and trust that in Jesus, we find peace."

Members of the cyber choir are located all over the world.

"For the first hymn, we had only six countries represented: USA, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji and China. Right now we have members from 14 countries: Sweden, Spain, USA, Oman, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Japan, American Samoa, Samoa and Hawai'i," Rev. Matautia said.

"For now, we will keep working on hymns from time to time, hoping to bring comfort to our people around the world during this health crisis, and to keep our people connected through worship as a form of spiritual empowerment."

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