Arts and Entertainment

African Children’s Choir resonates hope, raises awareness

The African Children’s Choir will perform Nov. 7 in Bremerton. - Courtesy photo
The African Children’s Choir will perform Nov. 7 in Bremerton.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Out of all the darkness, hunger and strife that has seemingly enveloped the rural nations of Africa in the past 25 years, the voices of the continent’s children have shone like a ray of light to the world. They embody the power of music and the strength of hope.

The African Children’s Choir, an ever-evolving group established in the early 1980s by human rights activist Ray Barnett, has since been touring the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and beyond annually singing, stealing hearts, eliciting hope and enacting change.

After having hit the mainstream in America, with recent appearances on American Idol, Ellen Degeneres, Jay Leno among others, in addition to singing for causes such as the inaugural OneXOne Sept. 11 remembrance in 2005 and the ONE vote ‘08 event this year,the African Children’s Choir is coming back to sing for Kitsap.

The Fourth Street Bremerton Calvary Chapel will be hosting a free concert for the awe-inspiring group at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Roxy building, 270 4th St. downtown.

The gravity of the deplorable conditions which many in Africa struggle with daily is realized at one of the Choir’s concerts when noting that each of the 26 seven-to-10-year-old kids on stage has lost one or both of their parents to poverty or disease. But you wouldn’t know it by their songs of hope.

Astonishingly, yet once again gravely illustrative, a new choir of full or partially orphaned kids is selected every year. Each new group takes its songs on the road under the impetus of “Helping Africa’s most vulnerable children today, so they can help Africa tomorrow.”

The previous year’s choir members return home to go to school Ñ an education completely funded by the Choir which in many cases would be otherwise impossible.

“It’s the children who will become the leaders of tomorrow and can make the difference,” said Barnett, the Choir’s Canada-based founder and president. “By helping one child at a time, we can move mountains.”

Judging by the progress listed in its online timeline and the smile-filled photos of its past tours, it looks like that vision has materialized year after year.

Just one year after the first African Children’s Choir completed its first tour in 1984, the first children’s home was purchased by proceeds from the inaugural excursion. Then in 1986, the first of six more was established, each housing successive choirs as they return from tour to study.

According to its Web site, the Choir currently provides support for more than 6,700 kids in seven different African countries.

And in addition to funding those ongoing education efforts in places like Uganda and Rwanda, continuous support from Friends of the Choir donors has also helped aid in other relief and development projects throughout Africa.

Throughout its near-30-year existence, the Choir has worked to bridge gaps and spread hope while shining a light on the plight of the continent’s most desperate children.

On the sonic side of things, the Choir has released four full-length CDs and one feature DVD called “Teach Me To Dance.” All of which are available along with photos, lyrics and more information on how you can help at their Web site, www.africanchildrenschoir.com.

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