African Children’s Choir brings joy, music to congregations in Sandy, Murray
Mar 22, 2019 10:02AM
● By Heather Lawrence
The African Children’s Choir gave spirited performances at Sandy and Murray churches on March 10. (Heather Lawrence/City Journals)
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
On Sunday, March 10, the congregations of Mountain View Christian Assembly (MVCA) in Sandy and Cottonwood Presbyterian Church in Murray each hosted a performance of the African Children’s Choir. Since 1984, the choir has performed internationally and raised funds to support education in Africa.
MVCA has a long-running relationship with the choir and hosts them every three or four years. “It's been our honor to have the choir here over the past 20 years. We've always been impressed with the spirit and mission behind what they do. There’s lots of shouts and clapping when we announce they are returning!” said Pastor Ken Krueger of MVCA.
The choir is made up of about 15 boys and girls ages 7–10. The performance included spirited choreography and multiple costume changes.
The children were led and accompanied by two former members who tour with them and are referred to as “Auntie” and “Uncle.” Uncle Ronnie sang and played drums with the choir while Auntie Debbie directed them. Both Ronnie and Debbie sang as children with Choir 21 in 2001.
Ronnie described his time with the choir as “his life’s greatest miracle,” because it gave him the opportunity to get a college education.
Standard Christian hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art” got spirited updates. New songs created for the choir went along with the theme, “Just as I am.”
Pastor Jenna Berthoud, office administrator for MVCA, made the connection between this year’s choir and past choirs. “They’ve been coming since at least 2001 when Uncle Ronnie, who is now a choir leader, was a child and member of the choir,” said Berthoud.
At the evening concert at Cottonwood Presbyterian Church in Murray, the hall was packed and extra chairs were set up to accommodate the guests for the free event.
MerriLee Zaba works with the Discipleship Ministry for Cottonwood Presbyterian. “We heard about the choir originally through our pastor Tom Abbott and his wife. We hosted a concert here a couple years ago, and now they reach out to us when they’re coming through,” Zaba said.
“The kids are just beautiful! They’re talented, they’re full of energy and full of grace and beauty,” said Zaba, who was at the church with her husband and children for the performance.
While the children are touring, they have the chance to stay with host families. “We host them in our homes. That’s fun too, because we get to know them and connect with them,” Zaba said.
Berthoud’s family were also hosts. “We have four kids of our own and we hosted two of the kids, Emmanuel and Joshy, in our home. They came with their chaperone Riley, and were the epitome of respect and good manners,” Berthoud said.
The kids soaked up fun elements of American culture. “We played Uno Attack where the cards shoot out. They loved it! And Emmanuel loved pushing the button that made our garage door go up and down. They are super sweet kids with adorable little accents and great laughs,” said Berthoud.
A big element of the concert was fundraising for their group Music for Life. The choir members change out each tour, and alumni refer to themselves by which choir they were in (this was Choir 49). When the children finish touring, they go back home and have their schooling paid for. There is a strong Christian element to their education.
The website, africanchildrenschoir.com, says, “Music for Life provides thousands of impoverished children throughout Africa with the education, discipleship and leadership skills needed to rise above their conditions so they can bring positive, lasting change to their families, communities, and countries.”
Zaba said she appreciated the opportunity her church had to bring the choir to the Murray area. “We really love the opportunity to serve our community. We love the mission (of the choir), which is raising money for education for children in Africa. Even children who aren’t a part of the choir go through education programs that are funded by the choir.”
When kids went backstage for a costume change, short videos with voiceovers were shown. Many videos told stories of what funds could do for the children.
A highlight of the show was the introductions. Each child had the chance to tell the audience his or her name, age and what he or she wanted to be as a grown-up. The answers varied from doctor and lawyer to musician and pastor.
Krueger of MVCA appreciates the work that’s done once the kids get home to Africa. “From what I understand of their time with the choir, it doesn't end with the tour. Rather, their lives are changed and they are propelled into lives and jobs that serve the betterment of society and them as individuals,” he said.
Tour leader Auntie Janelle said, “Despite their challenging circumstances, these kids have refused to lose hope. They represent the tremendous potential that is found in Africa. They have traveled halfway across the world to share their faith, their hope and their joy with you.”