As part of the Zambia - Bath and Wells link, a pupil from Wells Cathedral School has had the opportunity to sing with the choir at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka. Mila Tsoneva, who is a specialist vocal scholar at the Cathedral School, recently won the Wellensian Horizon Award and has been using it to travel to Zambia to further her knowledge of African choral traditions.
Mila was in Zambia for three weeks. During that time, she met and worked with local musicians. Reaching out to the Cathedral choir through the Zambia - Bath and Wells link, Mila was able to meet Father Charley Thomas, Dean of the Cathedral, and was soon singing alongside regular Lusaka choristers at their weekly choir practice. The experience allowed her to get a better understanding of the choir’s repertoire and style of singing.
Bath and Wells’ companion link with Zambia began in 1978. During the more than 40 years it has been established, there have been many opportunities for mutual support and learning. Mila’s experience with the Cathedral choir in Lusaka is another wonderful example of the two countries coming together in friendship, learning and understanding.
Alongside her engagement at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Mila also performed with Chrispen Lindunda (a Zambian tenor) and The Great Israel Choir from Bauleni – one of the most deprived neighbourhoods of Lusaka – to raise money for a Zambian conservation charity. In the spirit of genuine exchange, the programme included songs in English and in Bemba (one of the main Zambian languages), with a fascinating fusion of African and European choral styles.
For Mila, singing in Bemba in front of a Zambian audience was one of the highlights of the whole trip, “I can’t get the words out of my head – it was difficult, but fun!” said Mila, before she started singing the opening line of Psalm 23, “Lesa e kachema wandi, Nshaka kabile pe”.
Mila’s trip has been a unique opportunity to share musical experiences and create a very personal cultural exchange between young musicians who otherwise would probably never have had the chance to work together.