Newlove Kojo Annan Explains: I Craved For Death More Than Anything Else On My Sick Bed Leading To Your Grace And Mercy Composition

He is known as the ‘Maestro’ of choral compositions. His name, ‘Newlove’, identifies him as a distinct character when it comes to choral composition. Remembered for his much sold piece, ‘They that Wait upon the Lord’, Reverend Newlove Kojo Annan is a master in choral composition.

With over a thousand compositions to his credit and still counting, the maestro of choral compositions is much revered for his outstanding compositions, re-arrangement, and playing of the organ.

One of his pieces, dubbed ‘Your Grace and Mercy’, and performed by both singing groups and Church Choirs all over Ghana, underscores the importance of the piece in question.

No wonder the piece was hurriedly sung and recorded by Ghana’s reigning singing group, ‘The Harmonious Chorale’, and posted on their site. But what could be the reason, rationale, or motivation behind the piece, which continues to sell akin to wild fire.

The writer of this page, Alfred Adams, which comes out this and every Friday with the objective to promote choral music, compositions and composers, had an in-depth interview with Newlove Annan, and in it he explains what pushed him to compose this piece.

AA: First of all: When did you compose the piece, “Adom ne Ahumobro” (Your Grace and Mercy)?

NKA: The piece, “Adom ne Ahumobro” (Your Grace and Mercy), was conceived in May 2010, but written later in that year; and all this happened after I had returned from Ghana to the United States, after my first visit to Ghana in six years, as a resident in the United States.

AA: How did the idea for this composition come to you?

NKA: As every choral composition makes use of two basic elements, Words and Music, I got the ideas for both elements almost instantly. The text came to mind first. It was inspired by a silent meditation and prayer that I was saying in my own mind, after having gone through a terrible experience, which included a motor accident (in Ghana – March, 2010), job loss (after returning from Ghana for the first time in six and a half years of sojourn to the USA – March, 2010); persecution of all kinds (March, 2010), losing a vocation that I had spent my entire time in the US training for (August 2003-April 2010); having been seriously ill (a disease that had my feet and palm strangely sore, and my waist in excruciating pain) and admitted at two different hospitals – Montefiori Hospital and Berth Israel Hospital – all in New York (May, 2010). All these happened within a three-month period.

While recovering at the hospital, the only facts that helped me in “meaning making” was that every good thing that I had enjoyed in the past was just by the Grace of God, and not that I deserved any of it!

The tune, on the other hand, wasn’t as important to me as was the text of the music at the time. I was in pain of the mind, body and spirit. The prayer was so important to me, because I was so broken, saddened, beaten spiritually, and for the first time, craved death more than anything else in life.

I was, therefore, concerned with the text that came to me as prayer, and intentionally didn’t want the music to be so attractive that it took the attention away from my prayer. “It’d just be a very simple tune and almost a sub-functional element supporting the text,” I reasoned.

So I basically used the chord progression of an earlier simple song I had composed in 1998, called “Susu ho hwe” (tr. Count Your Blessings). Both “Susu ho hwe” and “Adom ne Ahumobro” use a common opening entry of a chord (or bass) progression that descends from the tonic (or a home key).

The descending progression almost hit the bare bottom of the scale (considering the scale of the home key – which denotes a fall from “Grace” to “Death”).

Then, suddenly and miraculously, there is a “saving hand or mastermind” that makes provision for the “sinking and dizzy soul” from hitting the bottom, brings him/her to life; so I adhered almost subconsciously to this principle of music construction for this prayer! It is wonderful, isn’t it?

Let’s consider the progression in musico-graphic terms so that we can gain a visual insight into the opening of the earlier song, “Susu ho hwe”, which progression I borrowed, and the present song, “Adom ne Ahumobro” (Your Grace and Mercy).

If you look at the graphic representation of the bottom notes of each example (I mean the notes with the down stems), you’d find a pattern of falling notes, denoting how our lives would be without God’s intervention.

So, the theme of “Falling Versus Salvation” becomes very central to the overall aesthetic of the piece, “Adom ne Ahomobro” (Your Grace and Mercy): both textually and musically.

Someone may ask: “How does a person allow him or herself to make mistakes, knowing full well that they will suffer the consequences?” While I do not want to get too much into what pastors are to explain, I would say that certain things are bound to happen to aid our spiritual growth. The most important thing, however, is never to leave the presence of God, even when he seems to be the punisher!

AA:     Every composer has a reason for a particular composition. In your case, what’s the rationale, reason, or motivation behind the piece? Were you going through troubles, problems or challenges before composing the piece?

NKA: Yes! As I said earlier, I was going through a very deep crisis in life. I had left my family back home in Ghana to study abroad for three and half years, leading to the dual degree of Master of Divinity (M.Div) and Master of Arts in Christian Worship, Church Music and Liturgics (MA) at the Gammon Theological Seminary (GTS) of the Interdenominational Theological Center (The ITC) in Atlanta Georgia, USA. Here, I must thank Rev. Dr. Walter H. McKelvey (Dean of Gammon – the United Methodist Seminary), the Cascade United Methodist Church (Atlanta), and the United Methodist Publishing House for taking care of the finances of my entire education, accommodation and personal allowance, which was to the tune of over $200,000.

I am also thankful to Rev. Dr. Albert Oswald Quainoo of the then Ghana Community Church, for providing me with other assistance. However, I lost my way due to 1, my own unpreparedness with the call of God; and 2, lack of adequate ministerial mentorship, as I enjoyed being around places that had little to offer my growth.

In so doing, many of the people in the field of ministry that I met were more interested in the benefit they’d receive from my gifts and graces to build their own ministries, than to help me become independent.

Sad to say, I lost my way due to numerous impediments, which eventually led to decisions that I believe hurt the giver of my gifts and graces, God.

However, the Lord was not ready to let me go, as he took his side of the covenant between myself and him very seriously – the result of which effort to do things my own way left me heavily bruised and morally injured beyond measure.

So, again, I had to turn back to God with my hands on my chest, and looking into the skies with teary eyes and aching heart for help.

The result was the song, “Adom ne Ahumobro” (Your Grace and Mercy). The story of my call to ministry began as a series of dreams in the year 2000, while a student at the University of Ghana, Legon.

In the dreams, I was being chased by a multitude of ghostly beings who sought my complete death because of something special that I had in hand. Today, I have come to understand this “something special” to be a special anointing from the Lord and for which I am eternally thankful.

In the dream, I would often encounter an old lady who’d promise a safe haven in order to help me escape from these ghostly beings that were out to kill or destroy me. Disturbingly in the dream, and to my amazement, it so happens that this same old lady who “hides” me away from these ghostly beings eventually becomes the same person who betrays my whereabouts to these arch enemies.

I had this particular dream three times. In the last episode of the dream, the same pattern repeated itself but this time I tried as much as possible not to buy in to the old lady’s deception.

I tried to keep running for my life from the ghostly beings that were chanting war songs and seeking my death! The old lady also kept following me and making her case that she was different from the previous old ladies whom I had met in my previous dreams and that she had a “better record” with life’s experience and also that she was better in terms of integrity.

Eventually, I decided to try my luck with this supposedly “different old lady”, because I was humanly tired and in my human mind, thought it was worth the risk this last time. So I gave in to her plea and followed her to her so-called “prepared hide-out for me.”

She initially proved to be a hospitable person; but eventually, and to what became the most shocking point in my entire life, she also betrayed me and as a result the ghostly beings came to get me. They tied my feet and hands to a truck as I lay on the floor.

Their plan was to drive the truck to which I was tied in order to drag me on the floor till I was totally destroyed to the point where I could not be brought back to life again. Then the miraculous happened! As soon as they cranked the truck engine, ready to drag me, a handsome man dressed in “all-white” apparel emerged from the bush and unbeknownst to the ghostly beings, untied my hands and feet.

He held my hands gently and moved me away from the road as the ghostly beings chant their victory songs. They seemed very sure and happy to have gotten me. It seemed a very profitable venture to them.

What they were to use me for, I don’t know. But they were very happy and prideful too. So back to this man that emerged from the bush to save me: He then brought me to a cool river bank and charged me with the following words: “I am now sending you to do my work. Do not listen to anyone but me; and do not settle from where people put you but what I think of you is what matters here”.

He continued, “with this kind of state, there is no way you’d live a normal life again, but you will do better and effective things in my name and for me”. This particular night, I woke up from the dream deeply soaked in sweat, but kept this story to myself. By this time, I had already started work with the Methodist Evangel Choir.

Further confirmation of my call to ministry at this time was my admission to an American Seminary on Scholarship (as I mentioned earlier);and my involvement with the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee – the latter with which came the blessing of becoming one of the few Black Africans with compositions in Americans Hymnals. (See “Zion Still Sings” 2007).

So, with all these past experiences, and lying on the Hospital bed in New York, during my crisis, I had this strange feeling that I should reflect on everything that had happen in my life up to then.

When I did, I wondered why the Lord had done all that he had done in my life! During this hour, the dream I had had earlier in Ghana kept coming to me and as I reflected on how dangerous and wicked the persecutors in my past dream looked, I came out with the text: “You never gave the promise that the journey would be easy”! I believe that we all have similar experiences in one way or the other; and I am thankful that through this piece, God has spoken to many in a similar state of experience in life.

AA:   Why three dialects in the piece? Is this the first time you have use three or two dialects to compose a piece

NKA:   Kwesi, the hymnist said “O for a thousand tongues to sing”; and at that time, I understood what he meant by that. Apart from reading languages that I have studied for academic work, there are only three (3) languages that I speak fluently: English, Akan and GA.

My wish though is to speak Ewe; and I know I will one day, with the help of my Ewe friends. In fact, I wish I could incorporate all languages in the song! Perhaps, if I had taken my time with this particular composition as I do other extensive works, I would have incorporated more languages than is the case now.

However, it was an instant inspiration and wanting to write it out as a form of therapy and also so that I didn’t forget what I was being inspired to do, I did with what I had readily available: Akan, GA and English. Prior to this, I had tried the incorporation of Ghanaian words into English songs, such as: “Praise the Almighty God” – Osee Yee Praise Him, Hallelujah, etc. So I guess I was confident in doing that.

AA:   Do you have any bible verse(s) in mind that inspired this song or serve as a parallel or suggested biblical reading for the piece, “Adom ne Ahumobro” (Your Grace and Mercy)?

NKA: This is a very important question, Kwesi. The part in the Holy writ that comes to mind or serve as parallel to this song is Luke 22:31-32:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”…

A cross reference to this passage is Job 1:6

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.”

I think there is a spiritual battle over the very lives of those who are in Christ – especially those with special assignments. Because we do not see these battles with our naked eyes, we take things for granted all the time. But thanks be to God who give us victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:57)

AA: How do you feel as a composer when your piece is a hit performed by various singing groups including church choirs?

NKA:   I have been doing this for aver 30 years now, because I started composing at the age of about 12; so it is not so surprising to me when songs are sung by choirs etc; because there are quite a few out there and I believe they have become standard repertoires in Ghana and elsewhere. I rather praise God that he’d use me to glorify himself. Finally, I rejoice to see choir directors and singers take up the “relay baton” passed on by composers to get music flowing to God’s children. May Jesus Christ be Praised!

AA:     Is your piece a hit in Ghana?
NKA:   Is it? I don’t know about that. However, I will believe that because Harmonious Choral (Ghana), Lapaz Community Choir (Accra) and Sons and Daughters (North America) – both great groups have recorded the piece so I guess many people have heard it.

AA:   How will you rate your piece
NKA: It’s a song of prayer, praise, assurance and worship!

AA: Any advice for upcoming composers?
NKA: They should see their calling as from God for the edification of others. They cannot give what they don’t have to others. We must care for our spiritual, physical and social lives in order to be healthy vessels of, and for God. They must also sharpen their crafts well so that they can produce good and quality music, for the Lord deserves the best!

Alfred Adams, Takoradi,

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