DIOKO VOICES, DIOBRASS, DIORYDYM
Dr Freddy Lawson – Director of Music
I have been a member of the SLGSOBAUK for 25 years and interestingly, after checking the box where I keep all thanksgiving service books, it then occurred to me that I have attended every service since joining. At first I would assist the organist informally, some years later I was appointed assistant organist, that position was renamed to assistant Director of Music and years after that was appointed Director of Music.
At that time, only the choir which recently became Dioko Voices was in existence. It was basically a make shift choir open to old boys turning up on the day of the thanks giving service to sing. This pattern was interspersed with some years where we would have some rehearsals before the service. By and large, it has always been the desire by members to form a choir which can be effective and in which they can show commitment. However, that situation went on until three years when Dioko Voices was formed with a different structure. Some guidelines were drawn up requiring intending members had to send an advance request to join the choir. After being accepted, they have to sign up to accepting rules which were simple in order to show commitment. Our first out door engagement was at the Bishop Johnson Memorial School ex pupils association’s inaugural thanksgiving service in 2017. We had had a few other engagements over the years but always giving our best at our thanksgiving service. These included assistance to our sister school AWOGAUK, and by extension YWCA Old Girls association just for mention. We still encounter some difficulties in terms of members availability for rehearsals. This has limited our scope as to the range and type performance we can deliver. There have been occasions when Dioko Voices has performed jointly with Diobrass, the brass band. It is expected that the group will continue to grow in stature and achievement. This group is open to all Regentonians with interest and passion for singing. The group is also available for hire on non-commercial basis.
It has always been my intention to form an orchestra comprising mainly of Regentonians. I was influenced by other West African countries like Ghana and Nigeria leading in the formation of youth orchestras. Though they are not as large as the Royal Philharmonic orchestra London, yet they have a fair representation of instruments, violin, viola and cello to name a few. Unfortunately, Sierra Leoneans have a preference for wind instruments as against string instruments, the organ and keyboard. This makes it impossible to put together an orchestra. Attempts have been made over the years by various members, some of whom are past members of the school’s band in Freetown, to form a brass band in the UK without success. A year and a half ago I took it as a challenge to have a go at it and form one for our 2018 thanksgiving service. I learnt a lot from the mishaps of previous attempts and decided to set it up. It was done at short notice with the association’s executive giving great support in providing funds for the purchasing of key instruments to start with. I can’t mention this without acknowledging the personal intervention of the chairman of the association Mr Jessie Richards ably supported by the treasurer Mr Paul Parker. They rallied round at short notice to ensure that they key instruments were ordered and delivered.
At the time of it’s formation, AWOGA’s thanksgiving service was a few weeks ahead and the band was invited to take part at the service. We accepted the invitation and the band performed successfully at the service, thanks to the dedication, devotion and desire to succeed by the members of the band. All of them had been band members during their school days in Freetown and were able to use their invaluable experience here. After that performance the band was able perform again successfully at the SLGSOBAUK thanksgiving service which followed immediately afterwards. The group has been the talk of town and has had a few engagements under it’s belt with a few for 2020. As mentioned earlier, there has been a few occasions where DIOBRASS and DIOKO VOICES have jointly performed. The band has great potential to grow and hopefully we can recruit some Regentonians who play string instruments to join and my dream of forming an orchestra would have been realised. I do play the violin in many functions as and when invited in the UK as well as in Freetown where also there is lack players for string instruments. I do that mainly to encourage young Sierra Leoneans to be attracted to playing the violin. As at recently, there are two very young kids who have taken up that challenge and are doing very well.
Our association is appreciative of these achievements and give support when they can.
I must mention Mr Gustave Davies who was so impressed by the performance of the band at out last thanks giving service that he gave a cash donation which enabled us to purchase and additional wind instruments and other accessories.
Interestingly, DIORYDYM was formed before DIOBRASS reason being it took some time to properly set up DIORYDYM in terms of getting all the complementary parts together. At the time of it’s formation I was convinced that there were enough Regentonians in the UK to form a dance band. My objective then was to set our association at a pitch where no other association has been. It became clear to me that if I can get enough guitarists then other members can be sorted out quickly. One person that came to mind was the Legendary Ayo Roy-Macauley of Sabannoh Jazz band in Freetown and with international fame. He being the lead guitarist it was easy to compliment him with other band members. Another legend is the Israel Parper of Quinesters fame and other bands in Freetown. They are Regentonians with tremendous experience that they brought into the band. I hope other bandsmen will forgive me if I have not mentioned their names, but I know they will agree with me about their stature in the musical field is recognised. Unlike the other groups DIORYDYM, has evolved differently, mainly because it requires extraordinary experience in blending various sections of the band, be it instrumentalists, vocalists and percussionists. The sound engineer’s role is also vital in bringing all these sections together. The challenges are huge and demanding and with passion, effort, devotion and self will, we all have all helped in putting the band together. However, with total collaboration, the band was able to perform at our All Regentonian Evening (ARE) in October 2018. That was a testing ground and we were able to put an equally successful show at this years ARE. We then set our eyes outside our comfort zone and into the Sierra Leone community. The band was invited to play for a community group celebration (KDU) extravaganza. We took up the challenge and that was delivered successfully. Our next project is the Regentonians end-of-year show at the OASIS in Barking on December 28. Like the other groups, Regentonians who are interested in discovering their latent skills and talents are free to join.
DIORYDYM is available for hire.
It is not self-praise for our association, but it is without any doubt that the achievements of the DIOKO VOICES, DIORYDYM, DIOBRASS phenomenon taken together and or individually is unrivalled. Such achievements are a clear manifestation of that distinct flavour of “ALL REGENTONIAN” self sufficiency.
It has been very challenging for me to manage all three groups. There are no other groups in the community to draw parallels as this has been a pioneering adventure and impossible to compare notes. As we are in uncharted territory, I am still trying to configure the best way to do it.
Overnight, the position of Director of Music has gained tremendous recognition all due to the formation of these three groups. Plans are ahead to take all three groups to the next level as we prepare for the 175th anniversary.