The group performs gospel, contemporary Christian and native African music. Tina Sipp, chaperone for the African Children’s Choir, said the children put on an entertaining performance that audience members should enjoy.
“The audience is going to enjoy the bright colors of the children’s costumes,” Sipp said. “The children have a lot of energy and joy. (The audience) will get a taste of another culture.”
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The choir usually presents four concerts a week, two on Sunday, one on Wednesday and one on Friday. Choir 42 will be performing throughout the Midwest and South until next April before embarking on an Australian tour. The choir is made up of children between the ages of 7 and 10 from seven African countries: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Free-will offerings collected from concert attendees are used for educational programs and relief and development programs in the children’s home countries. Carrie Lyman, chaperone, said being involved with the program gives the children an opportunity to make a difference in their communities.
“The program is education based,” Lyman said. “We want to provide education to as many children as possible. We want to make sure the children’s needs are met and they can go back and contribute to their community in a positive way.”
The children are recommended for the program by their school administrators. They are then sent to a camp where they audition. Most of the children who are involved with the program have lost a parent or come from poor families.
“(The children) don’t know they are auditioning. They attend the camp for a week and then they go home,” Lyman said. “The staff then identifies which children would be a good fit for the program. Then we talk to the children’s guardians about receiving additional training. The children will receive an education that they may never have received, and it helps them break out of poverty.”
Being involved with the choir helps the children prepare for further education and future careers, Sipp said.
“The children are creative, bright and talented. It’s fun to watch them develop. They come to the West and learn. They see what they can do with their lives,” Sipp said. “It’s a fun process to see. They go back home to live their dreams. They go on to secondary education and they excel because they’ve already learned English. They usually go on to a vocational school or a trades school.”
Now in its 30th year, the African Children’s Choir has helped more than 52,000 children.
Sipp said she enjoys being involved with the program and helping to make a difference in the children’s lives.
“I’ve been with the organization for over 10 years. For us, it’s a joy to know that ... children have been helped through the program,” Sipp said. “They’ve received an education. They’ve learned to become self-sufficient.
“It’s good to know that we’ve made a difference in their lives. It’s a privilege to work with them and to know that we’re helping them improve their lives for the better.”
The choir has recorded several CDs, which can be purchased online at AfricanChildrensChoir.com.
The children also have performed for world leaders, been featured on TV and even performed with musicians such as Paul McCartney, Keith Urban, Michael W. Smith and Annie Lennox.
“The children have performed throughout the world. They have performed for the queen of England. ... They have performed for President George Bush. They’ve recorded music with Bono ... “ Sipp said. “They’ve been on the Ellen DeGeneres show. They’ve been on Jay Leno. There’s been a tremendous amount of opportunities for them.”
On the days the children aren’t performing, they have the opportunity to do some sight-seeing.
“We let the kids see as much of the United States as we can,” Lyman said.
Sipp said being involved with the choir has been a learning experience for her, as well.
“They remind us that our lives are good. They bring things to us that our culture doesn’t stress,” Sipp said. “They help bring out the joy during the day.”