From Carnegie Hall to Columbus, African Children’s Choir spreads a joyful noise

February 14, 2010 12:42:00 AM

Jan Swoope - jswoope@cdispatch.com

 

They may be small in stature, but their combined voices and joyful spirit soar. The internationally acclaimed African Children''s Choir brings a "Journey of Hope" to the Golden Triangle Saturday, March 6. 

 

This major performance presented by the Columbus Arts Council begins at 7 p.m. at Rent Auditorium on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. 

 

"''Journey of Hope'' is more than a concert; it''s also a theatrical production, with puppetry and costume changes," said Donna Hodgins, for the African Children''s Choir. The group''s performances blend song, unique dance and incorporate multiple languages. 

 

"This event isn''t only about entertainment, but also about educating our community to the plight of this country and its people," said Rachel Smith Hurt, executive director of the arts council. 

 

 

 

One voice  

 

Following the brutal regime of Idi Amin in Uganda, during which thousands of children were orphaned and left starving, the African Children''s Choir was born. It was, in fact, the singing of one small child that inspired founder and minister Ray Barnett and his team of volunteers to recruit the first choir from among these desperate children in 1984. The mission was, and still is, to show the world the most needy children have beauty, dignity and unlimited ability. 

 

With a focus on education, the choir has been working with the most vulnerable young people of Africa for more than 25 years. "The organization cares for several thousand underprivileged children -- children who could have lost hope, but have overcome their circumstances and now make a positive impact on society," reads the African Children''s Choir Web site. 

 

The choir has performed in London''s Royal Albert Hall, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and with Mariah Carey and Paul McCartney at Live 8 in London, as well as at Nelson Mandela''s AIDS awareness concert in South Africa. 

 

Each year, a new choir is selected, and the children from the previous year return to their homelands to attend school. Their education is completely funded by the African Children''s Choir. Some grow up to attend universities, where they train to become doctors, engineers or other professional leaders in Africa. Others receive vocational and technical training. Many of the children, now young adults from previous choirs, are working with the African Children''s Choir and other relief organizations throughout their country. 

 

Tickets to the performance are $20 for adults and $10 for seniors and children. Purchase them at the Rosenzweig Arts Center, 501 Main St., in downtown Columbus, or order by phone by calling 662-328-2787 Tuesday through Saturday. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.