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Billema Kwillia

KWILLIA, Billema. b. ca. 1925. Kwillia is a literacy teacher and evangelist from Liberia in West Africa. He is best known for the hymn ‘Come, Let Us Eat’ (‘A va de laa mioo’), which has been included in several hymnals and ecumenical collections. Kwillia composed the hymn in the 1960s and it employs a characteristic call-response pattern. Margaret D. Miller (b. 1927) transcribed the hymn from a recording in a church service in 1969.

This hymn, in the original Loma language and in Miller’s versification, appeared first in Laudamus, a hymnal for the international gathering of the Lutheran World Federation in Evian, France in 1970. The original versification in English retained the 3/8 meter of the Loma version; this was so awkward that it was virtually impossible to sing. By the next edition of Laudamus for the Budapest Assembly in 1984, the original 3/8 meter remained for the Loma, but an English versification was placed in 2/4—a solution that suited English-speaking singers, but modified the original completely. It is in this form that the hymn appears in many hymnals. Not until 2004 did S T Kimbrough Jr.* provide a singable English versification of the Loma, ‘Come, one and all, to the table’, in the original meter. Efforts to add a keyboard accompaniment diminish the directness of the melody.

Translation © 2004 by S T Kimbrough, Jr. Used by Permission General Board of Global Ministries, GBGMusik, New York, NY.

C. Michael Hawn

Further Reading

  1. Emily Brink and Bert Polman, eds., Psalter Hymnal Handbook (Grand Rapids, Michigan: CRC Publications, 1998).
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