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African Children's Choir shares music, inspiration

Aug. 03, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- "Joyful singing" was the inspiration behind the African Children's Choir's founding 29 years ago, and that joyful singing is how the choir spreads its message of hope throughout the world.

Friday night, that message came to Huntington during a performance from the choir at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church.

The performance marked the choir's third visit to the church, where Rev. Allen Reasons said the 16-member choir of 7- to 10-year-old performers provides a wonderful, uplifting worship experience with each show.

"We get to experience the music and spirit of people from another corner of the globe," said Reasons. "We get to experience a mutual understanding of God's love, and we can feel the same hope, in a sense, through this worship with people from a part of the world that we may have only seen in pictures or on television."

The choir consists of children who have lost one or both of their parents through war, famine and disease, and their performances serve as a way to raise awareness and funding to support their own educations as well as the educations of their peers in Africa through the Music for Life organization.

Music for Life works in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, and more than 50,000 children have been educated through those programs since the choir was founded in 1984, when human rights activist and choir founder Ray Barnett was inspired by a child singing during a trip to the continent, said Catherine Wake, a tour leader with the choir.

"That child had lost both of his parents, and he didn't know where his next meal was coming from, but he still was singing joyfully," said Wake. "The idea that, even though this child was in this place where he faced all of this suffering, he still was singing, is the message we hope the choir brings to performances. That even in the worst circumstances, you can find that light. You can find that hope."

The choir will spend the weekend performing in West Virginia with a show at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, at Andrew United Methodist Church in St. Albans, and a second show at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at River Cities Community Church, located at 4385 U.S. 60 in Huntington.

Admission to each show is free, and there will be freewill offerings during each performance where guests can donate to the choir and Music for Life.

Each donation, no matter how small, makes a big difference, said Wake.

"It really is changing lives," said Wake. "There is a portion of the show where they talk about what they want to be when they grow up, and they'll say things like doctors, lawyers and nurses. The thing is, before they are in the choir, those things are only just dreams, but because of the opportunity with the choir, those dreams, with some hard work, can become realities now."

For more information about the African Children's Choir, visit www.africanchildrenschoir.com.

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