The African Children’s Choir will be lighting up Lacombe and Clive on their tour through Central Alberta this month.
The Choir will perform at the Clive Baptist Church on June 16th and at the Church of the Nazarene in Lacombe on June 22nd. Performances for both are 7 p.m.
The African Children’s Choir is a part of Music for Life. A free-will offering is taken at the performance to support African Children’s Choir programs, such as education, care and relief and development programs.
The children come from families in Uganda, Kenya and a few other regions of Africa.
“I love seeing the host families and people react during the performance. It’s encouraging. It is powerful to see people moved to tears with the joy, smiles and politeness of the children,” said Tour Leader Nate Longstaff.
Longstaff chaperones the choir as the children tour around the world performing their songs and dances. He has a background working with music and youth groups, and has been with the organization for six months.
This year’s tour will include stops in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Alaska and Washington.
“I often ask them if they’re nervous. I describe the symptoms and they always say ‘no’. They love performing and get excited to perform,” he said. “There is too much stimulation and excitement to allow room for homesickness.”
Karlene Crawford, who has worked with the choir for many years said that, “People are not prepared for how excellent this choir is.
“I think that a lot of what we hear about Africa is so negative. The concerts kind of shed a different light and the kids show hope. It really shows a different side of things,” she added.
In the past, Crawford was a representative volunteer for the African Children’s Choir and for their parent organization, Music for Life. She also worked in Uganda as a principal at the music academy, where many of the children attend school after their tour.
Crawford and Longstaff both agreed that the best part of working with the choir is being humbled by the beauty of the children’s interactions and of course the immense talent shown by the children.
Longstaff described his experiences touring with the kids as, “An immense growing-up experience.
“It is such a joy and such a blessing seeing the kids’ characters and personalities. Seeing them grow in size and character is amazing,” he said.
He continues, saying that he finds the children hilarious and loves their great attitudes. He adds that the choir “Is like a big family.”
Music for Life has helped over 60,000 African children through donations, awareness and education and housing facilities built through the collection of funds from the tour.
The children are accepted into the choir after being chosen by a scout based on greatest need and a hunger for bettering themselves. They audition, and are chosen based on musical ability and skill.
After the tour, the kids head back to Africa and most attend a music academy. The academy offers full or half board for students, depending on their home situation and needs.
“The choir works on so many levels. The kids get confidence and really get a voice. They start to understand what they contribute, and bring those feelings back home,” said Crawford. “The kids also really develop when they’re on tour. I’ve seen these children grow and graduate and give back to their communities.
“I think it’d be great for people to know that the choir only represents the work and hope that comes from Music for Life. The sponsorships and other programs that happen in Africa are what they aren’t seeing. Hundreds of kids are in the choirs, but thousands have been helped in Africa through proceeds, awareness and concert fees and donations.”
The performances are emotional and intense.
“These kids come from such humble beginnings and backgrounds. You come away with such a feeling of hope – renewed hope,” said Longstaff.
He says that the performances are, “Ultimately a demonstration in hope and love, which is something lacking in western culture.”