The Calabash Choir of Saint Paul Presbyterian Church in Houston was founded in 1997 by the African members and friends of our church who were looking for ways to use the rich African culture and heritage in the service and worship of the Lord. Members of the group originated from Cameroon, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda and the United States, although we sing in several other languages from Africa and beyond.
The group is named after the calabash, which is a dry gourd made from the shell of a fruit from a tropical plant. It is sometimes used as a utensil, but often as musical instrument when covered with a mesh of beads. Just like the beads held around the calabash, this group knows that by getting together, they can make a distinctive “joyful noise” unto the Lord regardless of singing talents. Membership is open. There are no auditions, and essentially none of us can read music. We learn by listening and repeating, and we harmonize mostly by instinct. Sometimes people wonder about our unique presentations:
—We clap our hands because it is a way to express our joy to God. Psalm 47:1 says, “Clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”
—We lift up our hands because it indicates a surrendering of ourselves to God. Psalm 63:4 says, “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”
—We dance because it is another form of praising God. Psalm 150:4 says “Praise Him with the tambourine and with dance…”
We minister mostly through singing at offertory time during worship services, and on special occasions both within and away from Saint Paul. Our group is noted particularly for the annual African Thanksgiving Celebration Service, usually held on the Sunday before Thanksgiving each year. This period coincides with “Harvest Thanksgiving” activities in many of our original home country churches, so the service is done in a traditional African thanksgiving style, with African praise and worship songs. On this day the congregation and guests are encouraged to make special Thanksgiving donations and bring non-perishable food to donate to the hungry.
Beginning in 2014 we also started “Shout to the Lord!,” an annual cross-cultural concert and fundraiser at Saint Paul on the day before Palm Sunday. Tickets are available early February for a $10 donation, and we ask all members/friends to help with advance distribution. Donated tickets are also available for those who cannot afford the ticket so all are welcome.
More of our songs have now been recorded on our new, second CD, which is available for a small donation at the church office and at any of our events. Special offerings from the Thanksgiving Service and the annual concert go to the general fund of Saint Paul, which in turn supports several outreach ministries. To learn more, contact Paddy Ndole at firstname.lastname@example.org or 832-884-2444.