Of its many performances and honours, this choir of children comprising ages 7 to 12, was recently at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Her Majesty The Queen of England, Elizabeth II.
Describing itself as that Choir that “melts the hearts of audiences with their charming smiles, beautiful voices and lively African songs and dances,” these children from multiple cultures in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana have found a respite in music.
And this Sunday, they will once again be on stage, performing as part of their “Just As I Am” tour in the USA, in their typical sing and dance fashion.
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Their story of being mostly children who are victims of extreme poverty and have lost one or both parents to AIDS and other poverty-related diseases makes the group’s uniqueness an even enthralling one.
In 1984, Ray Barnett, a man traveling in war-torn Uganda under the reign of Idi Amin, gave a small boy a ride from his destroyed home to a much safer village. On the journey, this child stole the heart of this traveler with something he only knew how to do best – sing.
Touched by his solo performance, Barnett decided to birth an African Children’s Choir, a Christian organization with one of its principles being “instilling Christian principles through teaching and leading by example.”
With a larger goal of helping Africa’s most vulnerable children today so they can help Africa tomorrow, this group, whose parent organization is Music For Life Institute, has not stopped growing since Ray Barnett rallied support from the West in 1984 to conduct its first tour.
The African Children’s Choir serves as the main fund-raising branch for its parent organization, with proceeds from the choir’s work used to fund Christian education and relief efforts for African children affected by poverty and disease.
But as the organization grew, so did the needs of the children. The choir then began selecting Kenyan children in 1990 and by 2002, the first South African choir toured North America. Music for Life has now facilitated over forty tours through the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
So far, MFL has educated more than 52,000 children and impacted the lives of more than 100,000 people through its relief and development programs throughout its history.
They normally sing well-loved children’s songs, traditional spirituals and gospel favorites and their concerts are free and open to all. Free-will offerings are taken at their performances to support African Children’s Choir programs, such as education, care and relief, and some developmental programs.
The African Children’s Choir has performed before presidents, heads of state and most recently the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, for her diamond jubilee. The choir also has had the honor of singing alongside artists such as Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox, Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Michael W. Smith.