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- Our Town
A song for Africa in Cranbrook
At the end of June, the African Children's Choir will be playing two shows in Cranbrook.
The choir has been on tour for five months, starting in San Francisco and working its way up the Midwest. It has been doing concerts six nights a week and stay at host families along the way.
On Sunday, June 29, the choir will perform at the First Baptist Church at 10:30 a.m., and then again later at the Cranbrook Alliance Church at 6 p.m. The concerts are by donation.
Nate Longstaff, the tour leader and a chaperone, spoke to the Townsman from Clive, Alberta.
"We perform mainly at churches and community centres and things like that," Longstaff said. "And in schools. We do a lot of work in schools."
The choir arrived in Canada about a month and a half ago, through Saskatchewan.
"We've been moving west and north and going towards Alaska," he said. "Eventually, seven months from now, we will be moving down the west coast of the United States and Canada and eventually going to Europe as well."
The African Children's Choir is a non-profit humanitarian relief organization dedicated to helping Africa's most vulnerable children. Its parent company, Music for Life, works in seven countries in Africa to help the aspiring individuals that will be the future of those countries.
"They select children mainly from Uganda, Kenya and South Africa, but this particular choir is just from Uganda," he said.
The organization uses scouts to select children with the greatest need. Usually the children are orphans and disadvantaged. The children are interviewed and auditioned to see if they have a genuine hunger and desire to learn and better themselves, as well as musical talent, he said.
"Ultimately, these children will perform to show the hope and potential of their brothers and sisters back home," he said. "The organization, in the 30 years that it's been running, has sent 41 different choirs out to the West and has helped almost 150,000 people back in Africa. They're raising money and sponsorship while they are out in the West and will provide the means to carry on the incredible programs that are happening back in Africa."
The funds that the choir raises by donation go back into the program.
Longstaff said the concert includes a variety of performances, such as regional dances from Uganda, traditional African songs, drum pieces, pop songs, traditional gospel and even songs that have been written specifically for the choir by some prestigious artists.
He said audiences seem to embrace the performances and a lot of time don't go home the same.
"There is something about the performance that changes your perspective on life," he said. "To see children with such massive hope."
He said the children aspire to be doctors, lawyers and politicians when they are older.
"People are moved to tears by the beauty of the culture, by the beauty of the children, by the sounds they make," Longstaff said. "And people won't go home the same."