Choir Day helps to uplift music group

The St Stephen's Cathedral choir has become a household name

In Summary

• Prof Senoga-Zake started the church’s choir in 1956, and it has since called the shots in Kenyan gospel music

• The St Stephen's Cathedral choir is home to some of the best gospel artistes in Kenya, with some members of the Kayamba Africa group starting their careers at the church 


Present-day St Stephen's Cathedral Jogoo Road
Present-day St Stephen's Cathedral Jogoo Road

When the Rt Rev Peter Njoka was elected the first Bishop of Nairobi diocese in September 2002, he soon found himself in the middle of church faithful eager to spread the gospel through music.  

Bishop emeritus Njoka became instrumental in launching the “Choir Day”.  

According to Choir Master Daniel Madalanga and Alice Obuya, a member of the Kiswahili Service church choir, the “Choir Day” is meant to fundraise and support choir activities in the diocese.

The cathedral, being a seat of the Bishop, and with an established and renowned choir, inspired Njoka to start a “Choir Day " to be observed in the diocese. 

The cathedral is home to some of the best gospel artistes in Kenya, including members of the Kayamba Africa Group who started their careers at the church. 

“Choir Day started in 2008, when a serious diocesan music festival debuted in Nairobi,” Obuya said.

“This was started because members of the choir used to complain about lack of funds to run their activities.”

Obuya, who was a member of the choir from 1975 to 1989 and later rejoined the choir in 2002, says Bishop Njoka directed all the Parishes to have a day set aside for the choirs to raise their own funds and pay their diocesan quota allocation on their own.

The ACK St Stephen’s Cathedral has three different choirs that perform during the 7am Kiswahili service, 9am English service and 11am Kiswahili service, every Sunday.

Each choir has organised separate days for fundraising, where they invite chief guests who are supported by the congregants. 

“The congregation loves the choir as it is always there every Sunday. Singing takes the lion’s share of the church service,” Madalanga said.

“The congregation loves to support us and loves to give. They usually prepare well for that day.”

The fundraising activities through Choir Day ensure vibrancy and survival of the cathedral’s choirs. 

They have also enabled the choir to participate in religious music festivals at both national and regional levels.

“The choir has acquired a lot of equipment, uniforms and a music library,” Madalanga said.

“It has also participated in local and regional events and other festivals. The funds have come in handy to  support welfare issues affecting members.”

The Choir Day of 2019 was the cathedral’s most successful and memorable.  The fundraiser was held on the same day for all choirs at the cathedral.

“We had enough time to prepare the congregation,” Madalanga said.

"We also had enough guests invited for the fundraiser, from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, the Permanent Presidential Music Commission and several dignitaries. We also sold compact discs and videos. These allowed us to generate good money."

St Stephen’s Cathedral Church choir has for decades become a household name. 

It has called the shots in the gospel music since 1956, when the late Prof George Senoga-Zake was recruited from the nearby St Paul’s Primary School in Mbotela estate, and encouraged by the late music maestro, Graham Hyslop.

Members of the choir are worshippers and are not on salary.

“It is voluntary. It is driven by passion,” Madalanga said.

A section, the altar, inside St Stephen's Cathedral Jogoo Road church
A section, the altar, inside St Stephen's Cathedral Jogoo Road church
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