African Children’s Choir concert
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 4
Where: Redwine United Methodist Church, 3285 Poplar Springs Road, Gainesville
How much: Free, free-will love offering accepted
More info: africanchildrenschoir.com
Some people catch themselves humming one tune or another throughout the day, whether it’s happy or sad.
Ray Barnett was impressed to know the same holds true for children living in poverty. He made this discovery during a mission trip in Uganda decades ago.
The man took that knowledge and founded the African Children’s Choir in 1984. He started the choir for African children to allow them to travel to other countries and grow as knowledgeable and well-rounded individuals.
The Gainesville community can see the organization’s results when the children’s choir performs at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Redwine United Methodist Church, 3285 Poplar Springs Road, in Gainesville.
All performances are free, but the choir will take up a free-will offering.
Funded by sponsors, the choir is a nonprofit humanitarian aid and relief organization. The offering is used to help to finance relief and education programs provided by Music For Life, the parent organization of the African Children’s Choir.
“The donations at the performance keep the tour running and the programs in Africa running,” said Heidi Moen, tour chaperone for the 44th group of children who have traveled to America to perform in churches and other venues this year.
Through their efforts, more than 52,000 children have received an education, Moen said.
More than 1,000 children have come through the choir program, which performs a mixture of traditional African songs and dance. They range from Ugandan songs as well as the South African National Anthem, Moen said. The kids also learn perform English songs taught to them.
“The children are taught basic English at the beginning of their training, and they are taught the songs for about seven to eight months,” Moen said. “They are immersed in the culture of America and whatever other countries they travel to.”
To enter the program, African churches and schools recommend certain children. Then extensive interviews are conducted with the parent, who gives the foundation a glimpse of the nominated child’s life and struggles.
Next, the children audition for a panel of judges, who considers the applicant based on the family’s needs and child’s willingness to travel and perform.
“The choir is all about helping the families in these countries,” Moen said, pointing to the Music For Life centers in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. “They reach out and offer relief work and help these children and their families.”
Nine-year-old Elizabeth enjoys being part of the 44th choir.
“I like to sing songs to praise God,” she said. “I like traveling. We have been to houses, bridges, Kentucky, Georgia and the Zoo Atlanta.”
The choir also has had the opportunity to perform for the Queen of England at her diamond Jubilee, according to the website (africanchildrenschoir.com). It also collaborated with artists such as Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey and Michael W. Smith on several different occasions. On the “Love is a Journey” album, all songs were recorded with Sarah Hickman.
Experiencing life outside of their homes gives girls and boys like Elizabeth the chance to see the world and overcome their circumstances.
For more information on the African Children’s Choir, visit africanchildrenschoir.com.