Local Church raises funds for Tanzania

By Zachary Brictson

DeKALB | Baroque-era music filled the sanctuary of the First Congregational United Church of Christ on Sunday as part of an effort to raise money for schools in Tanzania.

The fundraiser was part of Tanzania Development Support’s mission to construct a girls’ dormitory in one of the poorest districts of the country, said Kurt Thurmaier, the organization’s president.

“Our mission is to raise funds to help a secondary school achieve its strategic goals,” Thurmaier said.

Thurmaier, who is also the director for NIU’s Division of Public Administration, said the situation in Tanzania is “pretty bleak,” and the people living there are amongst the poorest in the world, earning less than $1 a day.

To make matters worse, there are only 12 secondary schools in the country, leaving many kids without an education, Thurmaier said.

The construction of the dorm would allow room for 160 more girls to attend the school, Thurmaier said.

The fundraiser’s music was performed by the Antiqua Baroque Consort, a group of musicians who perform Baroque-era music at local schools and churches in the Chicago area.

Emily Morlan, the ensemble’s harpsichordist and pianist, said the goal of the group was to provide some education to the general public regarding Baroque-era music.

In between playing each piece, the group explained the history behind the music and the era’s instruments.

Morlan said the group is much more informal and casual in this way when compared to other groups.

Zenia Lee, the ensemble’s soprano, said although she is new to the group, she has greatly enjoyed performing with them.

“They are very talented and very good people,” Lee said.

Baroque-era music is defined by its dramatic nature, abrupt changes in character, ornamentation and improvisation, the group said.

Mark Ponzo, the ensemble’s trumpeter and professor of trumpet at NIU, said the group’s performances are all voluntary.

“We all enjoy this music, and it gives us a chance to play together,” Ponzo said.

The ending of the performance was met with applause from an audience of over 30 people, with Thurmaier thanking the church for hosting the event and the Consort for facilitating the effort with their performance.

“It was brilliant,” said Lolly Voss, of DeKalb, who attended the fundraiser.

Voss said it was great to have such early era music brought back to the present and found the group’s educational approach to be very interesting.

Tom Harris, of Kingston, who is also a member of the church, said the consort did a “beautiful job.”

“All three [performers] had wonderful talent,” Harris said.

Harris said he was especially impressed by Lee’s performance.

“She is so small in stature but her voice is beautiful,” he said.

This summer, Thurmaier said he will be taking NIU students as part of a study abroad trip, as well as other volunteers to Tanzania to help with construction of the dormitory and take part in other activities.