A new composition from a 19th-century hymn

Anyone brought up in Lesotho who attends the LEC (Lesotho Evangelical Church) will know the hymnal, Lifela tsa Zione, Songs of Zion. It is one of the oldest hymnbooks in southern Africa, first published in Morija in 1844 with words mainly by Swiss-French missionaries and tunes by early 19th century European composers. Lesotho’s indigenous composers contributed new hymns as this hymnal was revised over the years, and occasionally they just adapted a hymn to make a new composition. An example of this is Moerane’s Ea Hlolang, The Triumphant One, which he turned into an anthem, although it still exists as a hymn. We don’t know when exactly he made this new composition from the hymn, no. 122 in the hymnbook, but we do know that the original words were by Louis Duvoisin (1835-1891) to music originally composed by Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831), famous in his day not only as a composer but also as a piano maker. Moerane ‘s new composition, also called Ea Hlolang, keeps the four verses by Duvoisin, one of the second generation of missionaries who left French-speaking Switzerland to settle in the mission station at Morija, but uses completely new music, in which a Tenor soloist alternates phrases with the whole SATB choir. In effect, Moerane reimagines the old hymn as a lovely new anthem for choir. The photos taken by Christine Lucia in 2006 show the old printing press in Morija (Maeder House) where the first Lifela tsa Zione was printed and the LEC Church in Morija, while the page of the hymnal shows part of the original hymn with Duvoisin’s words and Pleyel’s music.