France Letshabo Ramontsho Rankgomo ÔÇô an Arts teacher at Gaborone Senior Secondary School and Choir Conductor at St Mary Church (Kumakwane) – tells us of the fruits of founding and conducting a youthful Church choir…
Smiles..! They seem to be this ‘Gabanean’ man’s trademark. I do not how you will oppose the observation that these smiles immensely contributed to this man’s impressive musical career profile.
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He started singing for miscellaneous choir; ‘Blow Choir’ as early as Standard Three in 1981. He joined the Chiro Choir where he won trophies through the years. Then he joined St Peter’s Church choir-Gabane in 1993, got elevated to the technical team in 1994 and eventually took over as the Conductor. From 1996 to 98, he was Choir Master for Mosetlha Junior Secondary School in Bobonong, and formed part of the technical Team for Bobonong Crime Prevention Choir. From 1998 to 2012, he was Main Conductor of St Peter’s Church choir. Within which period he was grooming a team of young conductors. Within that period also, Rankgomo won the ‘best conductor’ award for Catholic Church choirs. On February 5, 2012, he became the conductor of a newly launched St Mary’s choir and immediately formed a technical team for the church.
Outside of the stage, the man has featured in adjudications.
“I pride myself with numerous achievements; among them diligence in adjudicating for in Chiro Youth Groups competitions and often in Botswana Teachers Union competitions, particularly at regional level. I am a self-motivated, self-taught music person but influenced greatly by music personalities such as the late Mr Molefe Molefe, Mr Gomolemo Motswaledi, Mr Daniel Mogami, Mr Puso Phetwe, Mr Luka Disho and Mr Ernest Seleke, among others.
Nevertheless, our current focus on the man is on his conductorship, nurturing of young talent, with particular focal point on the newly borne St Mary’s choir-Kumakwane. This choir displayed skill, determination, zeal; and, above all, confidence during last year’s festival. Rankgomo reveals between smiles, in this interview that the youngest of his choristers is around eight or nine years old. Adolescents dominate the choir.
“I am one person who likes development. I started grouping young people for conductorship through formation of technical team. Our Parish Priest, Father Kgaudi, encouraged the younger persons at our Parish-St Peter’s to team up and recruit their age mates into the choir and also encouraged the congregation to do so. Meanwhile, I was assigned to recruit both the young and the old to form another choir at our out station- Kumakwane,” he smiled.
Therefore, Mr Rankgomo went and smiled to the congregation there, humbly instilling spirit of ownership of the choir on each member. This helped him very much in his task of going around homes of the younger members who wanted to join the choir asking for parents’ permission. The parents and guardians of the children obliged easily. They expressed gratitude over his endeavours. By going to Church and practising saved them time they could otherwise have used in destructive activities. It uplifted their moral.
“Initially we just intended having a choir that would sing during Mass. Some youth had apparently left the Church and gone to different parishes and even Churches saying old people were singing old hymns that were boring. When we started the Church choir practices, we started universal music.
Instruments were brought in. Soon everybody enjoyed the Church and those that had left re-joined,” said Rankgomo…yes between smiles.
“The future is bright for that choir because three quarters of the choristers are Primary school going children. Parents keep telling me that my coming there was a blessing to them. To this I say, glory be to God. I want God’s presence felt amongst the congregation every time we celebrate mass. By the way, one thing is that God is my source of inspiration.”
He says soon after the formation, ambition drove them to attempt participating in this year’s festival.
Their appearance showed the substance within the group. Out of the seven choirs that participated, most of which were experienced, the new kid on the block got position three in the hymn and the western pieces of that section C category.
Their conductor has a secret weapon. SMILE.