Lift every voice and sing


African children’s choir aims to educate, entertain as part of an upcoming show at Charlotte’s McGlohon Theatre

By Jonathan E. Coleman
[email protected]
A travelling choir aimed at both entertaining and educating is making its way to Charlotte, bringing with it a message of hope for the future.

The African Children’s Choir, which has performed on American Idol, Good Morning America and the Ellen DeGeneres Show, will take the stage for a performance at Charlotte’s McGlohon Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 6.

Founded by Raymond Barnett, the African Children’s Choir consists of a rotating group of children ages seven to 11 who have lost one or both parents to poverty or disease. After a year of touring with the choir, children return to their home countries and recieve an education at institutes established through proceeds from children’s choir events.

Education, Barnett said, is a key component to ensuring a better future of African children.

“We recognized early on that education is the key to long-term change and advancement in Africa,” he said. “It’s the children who will become the leaders of tomorrow and can make the difference. By helping one child at a time, we can move mountains.”

And it was with that idea in mind that the group adopted its mission: “Help Africa’s most vulnerable children today, so they can help Africa tomorrow.”

Since 1984, groups have been travelling to western countries to bring attention to their story, but also in an effort to shine light on the potential that exists within the children that bring their stories to life through song and dance.

Currently, there are three tours travelling in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The American tour, called “Journey of Hope” launched in October of last year and runs through April. The McGlohon Theatre concert is the only performance the tour has scheduled in North Carolina.

“I’m sure what’s propelling them is their appearances on shows like Ellen, and certainly they’ve got a great story, but at the end of the day, I think it’s the talent that makes the show so successful,” said Douglas Young, the director of theatrical programming at the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. 

Th show’s songs include traditional pieces sung during times of celebration, others that tell stories or hunting or fishing expeditions and the Nkosi Sikele, the South African national anthem.

“The music they include, some of it is more traditional, some of it is very comtemporary and has been adapted,” Young said. “It’s a mix of new and old, but it does a great job of show their home, which they love despite the circumstances.”

Ticket prices range from $29 to $34, with proceeds from the event helping the choir reach a goal of raising $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2008.

That total will be put towards the creation of the African Children’s Choir Academy, a facility of classrooms, dorm rooms, musical training facilities and accompanying infrastructure to provide nearly 400 children the tools needed to get a quality education.

The Academy is another step in the evolving outreach project that the African Children’s Choir has become.

“It was supposed to last six months,” Barnett said. “I was used to finishing one project and then going on to the next. But this project never ended. The more we did, the more we saw that needed to be done.”

• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at [email protected] or 704-789-9105.

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