ST. GEORGE – As people entered the auditorium at Calvary Chapel St. George on Wednesday, they couldn’t help but feel excitement and anticipation. While waiting for the performance to start the sound of distant drums could be heard and at about 7 p.m. the rear doors of the auditorium opened and in ran the African Children’s Choir, yelling and dancing. It was nonstop energy as the enthusiasm of the children increased with every song.
Young children in the audience sat up front on the floor, bringing two cultures together as the African children sang and danced.
Soon their audience was clapping and swaying to the music as they sang “Amazing Grace,” “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “This Little Light of Mine, “ and many songs in their native tongue.
The auditorium was filled to capacity at 500 seats, with an additional 100 seats available where people could watch the performance through audio and video feed.
This year’s choir was made up of 18 children, ages 9-11, from Uganda. Many of them were orphans. Through their participation in the choir the children have the opportunity to attend school and have a career.
The African Children’s Choir is celebrating 30 years, and this was a return visit to Calvary Chapel St. George.
“This is the choir’s third visit since we met and built a relationship with them,” Calvary Chapel Pastor Rick Nerud said. “They really enjoy coming back to a place where they feel so welcomed, and we enjoy having them.”
Since its inception in 1984, 52,000 children have benefited from the choir and its sister organization, Music for Life. Besides Uganda, choirs have been formed in Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria. Wednesday night’s group was the 41st choir to be formed.
Many of the choir’s past children are now doctors, lawyers, and social workers due to the help and education they received as beneficiaries of the African Children’s Choir. One of the premises of the choir is that this group of children represents Africa’s future, as they receive the same assistance and educational opportunities as their predecessors.
Each child introduced himself or herself and told the audience what they hope to be when they grow up. Teachers, dentists, lawyers, engineers, politicians, doctors, nurses, were among their goals, and the list went on. They have high aspirations, not unlike the children sitting in front of them as they performed.
This particular choir has been in the United States since mid-January, and has toured all over California and Arizona. From St. George they are headed to Salt Lake City, Montana, Idaho and up into Canada and Alaska.
Participating in the African Children’s Choir is a one-time opportunity for each child.
“There are so many children who can benefit from the program, that each child has only one chance to travel with the choir,” tour director Nate Longstaff said.
As soon as they get back to Africa, they continue their education. Many former choir members have become choir leaders and travel with the choirs.
After the performance, audience members were given the opportunity to make a donation to the African Children’s Choir at the church, or could request information on how to make ongoing donations, or even sponsor a child.
The children’s group also performed for the Veterans at the Ivins Veterans’ Home and will be performing at the Southern Utah University Hunter Conference Center, 351 West University Blvd., in Cedar City at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
For more information on The African Children’s Choir visit their website.
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