African Children’s Choir Performs at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Idaho Falls
IDAHO FALLS — Exhilarating, awesome and inspiring were just a few of the words used after the African Children’s Choir performed Sunday morning at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Idaho Falls.
The choir is on a tour across America to raise money for children in Africa to get an education. It was started in 1984 by Ray Barnett who toured with a boy that sang for the entire ride.
What is the Choir?
The African Children’s Choir is an international organization providing care and education for thousands of vulnerable children across Africa. The program gives children the quality education and leadership training they need to break the cycle of poverty, enabling them to bring positive change to their families, communities and countries.
Selection into the Choir means a long-term commitment and investment as children are supported throughout their secondary and post-secondary education through scholarships, school visits, camps and counseling. Several of the African chaperones traveling with the Choir are themselves graduates of the program.
During their Minnesota concerts, the children wowed audiences with a mix of songs from different cultures and styles. Their clear voices and proto-hip hop dancing brought smiles to more faces than Santa, Rudolph or Frosty. But a deeper meaning emerged, too. Classically trained N’Kenge, one of the “Three Mo’ Divas” who has sung Mozart at New York City Opera and will appear in Broadway’s “Sondheim on Sondheim,” displayed as many vocal styles as gowns.
What is the Choir’s Music?
The Choir is a group of singers who sing musical pieces, usually as part of an ensemble or concert. It is important to distinguish between a choir and a chorus; while the two words share some similarities, they are not interchangeable. A choir is typically associated with a religious organization and performs in churches or other venues. A chorus may be secular and performs in theatres or concert halls.
In many cases a choir is composed of only one individual, which serves as the musical director (responsible for selecting the repertoire and engaging soloists and accompanists), chorus master or mistress (or repetiteur)(responsible for training and rehearsing the singers), and conductor (responsible for directing the performance). Occasionally, multiple individuals serve in these roles in massed choirs.
Some choirs have names that convey their ethos or culture, such as The Sixteen (named for the number of members), Les Arts Florissants (French for The Flowers of the Arts), and Cambiata choirs for adolescent boys. Choosing a name for your choir is an important step in creating your identity as a group.
What is the Choir’s Purpose?
When children are selected to join the Choir, their families know that they will be given the chance to escape poverty and hopelessness. They will be provided with food, shelter and education – all of which are essential for these young people to become successful adults.
The parent organization, Music for Life, goes into communities across Africa and works with local social workers to find children living in extreme poverty. They must pass interviews and auditions but singing skills are low on the list of requirements compared to adaptability and desire to learn.
Before the Choir heads on tour, which lasts up to nine months, they receive training and begin their education journey. This programming continues during their time on tour and is integrated back into their education plans upon returning home.
Catherine, who toured with Choirs ten and eleven, says that her experience in the Choir was the most important thing she did in her life. She now lives in Eldoret and works as a nurse at a government hospital.
What is the Choir’s Mission?
The children who tour with the African Children’s Choir come from some of the most impoverished areas in their countries. Many of them have lost one or both parents to war, disease and famine. The program promotes the dignity of these children, enables them to realize their potential and empowers them to become leaders for tomorrow’s Africa.
Before the children audition for the Choir, they attend Music for Life camps where they participate in a variety of activities such as games, arts and crafts and devotions. Those selected are given the opportunity to tour the world for a year, thereby providing them with opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
The Choir’s tours are made possible by a wide range of individual and corporate supporters. These individuals and companies help provide for the children’s basic needs, as well as funding for their education. The program is overseen by a leadership team of international professionals.