“It gives you a different perspective on life, and fills you up with joy as well, seeing the children dance their little hearts out. It’s a very exciting show, it’s just a fun time.”
This is what Choir 44 tour director for the African Children’s Choir, Heidi Mullen, has to say when asked why people should come see the choir perform. On all accounts, she was correct.
The choir, which has performed for numerous celebrities and dignitaries in the United States and UK, came to Grace United Methodist Church in Charleston on Friday to raise a joyful noise.
The event started after a brief introduction from the choir director. As the show began, an excited hush fell over the room. Suddenly, the doors to the sanctuary burst open and in ran the singers of Choir 44, raising shouts and cheers all the way down the aisle. Dressed in vibrant, traditional African garb, the children sang songs many could identify in their native tongue, such as “Yes, Jesus Loves Me.” In addition to singing traditionally Christian songs, the singers also shared songs native to their culture, ranging from subjects such as fishing to dancing to native pride.
After the first few songs, the children took a break from singing to share with the audience their dreams. Each child of Choir 44 stepped to the front and told the audience their name and their dream. Their dreams were diverse; some hoped to be doctors or lawyers, while others expressed their wishes to be social workers or accountants. Each new choir member stole the audiences’ heart a little more with every new hope. After introducing themselves, the children ran out of the sanctuary to prepare for the rest of the show.
At that time, the choir director stepped out to share with the audience the success stories of past choir members. A video was played for the audience showing multiple clips of the previous singers sharing their current occupation and explaining how the African Children’s Choir changed their lives. After the video, the director explained how The African Children’s Choir takes children out of horrid conditions in Africa and gives them a life they never could have had previously, usually because either one or both of their parents are deceased.
The choir then rushed in in jubilation to commence the second part of the show; they came in donned in brilliant colors, having changed costumes for their second set. For this portion of the show, the children performed traditional drum songs and dances, fascinating the audience with the beauty of their cultural traditions. Several young children in the audience danced with the choir members, inspired by their joyful manner. Once sufficiently tired, the children rushed out again to prepare for the final leg of the show.
The director came to the stage a second time to share another video, which showed the audience how a social worker in Uganda changed a girl’s life by bringing her to the choir. The social worker explained that in Uganda, as in many African countries, the cost of education is much too high to afford, so many children have no future, thus contributing to the growing poverty issue throughout the continent. However, programs like The African Children’s Choir give opportunities that change the lives of girls and boys like Peace from Uganda, by educating them for free in a safe environment. After the video, donations were taken from the audience, which go directly back into the program to help children to have a future.
“The fact that they are children that have been chosen that come from some difficult circumstances where they don’t have parents anymore and they join this group,” said church member Christina Nelson, “and they are able to become educated and they are loved and taken care of is very important.”
Finally, the children rushed out a third time, dressed in another different costume done in red, white, yellow and black. The choir performed one final number, an anthem of pride and hope for Africa. The room was silent as they sang with beautiful harmonies and pictures of the African savannah displayed on the screens behind them. To conclude, the children thanked the audience in three dialects of African languages and ran down the aisle.
When asked why Choir 44 is so special, tour director Mullen said: “The joy that they express and the hope that they have, coming from so little, that’s what makes them so unique.”