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Musical ambassadors perform in Pa.

April 08, 1999

African Children's ChoirBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Some members of the African Children's Choir, which performed in Waynesboro Wednesday night, were only 5 years old when the choir began its U.S. tour two years ago.

The choir is made up of 21 youngsters from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Southern Sudan. The tour took them to 38 states, untold numbers of one-night stands in churches and overnight stays in strange but welcoming homes of strangers.

Last night the choir performed at the Fairview Avenue Brethren in Christ Church.

This marks the 15th year for the choir, which had its beginnings in Idi Amin's war-torn Uganda in 1984. Ray Barnett, a missionary, wondered how to help thousands of children orphaned by the war, said Richard Nicholas, tour leader for the choir.

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Nicholas, 24, of the United Kingdom, is one of eight volunteers traveling with the choir as chaperones. He said the children are selected for the choir according to need. The mission, Ministry of Friends in the West, has established seven schools in East Africa from money earned by the choir tours.

Another choir from the mission is on a simultaneous tour of the U.S. and was performing in Danville, Va., Wednesday, Nicholas said.

Both choirs will head for England in May for a two-month tour before returning to Africa in July where the children will continue their educations in the ministry's boarding schools. Two new choirs will be recruited to replace them.

The children bounced onto the stage, took their places and launched into their first song, a Christian traditional piece called "Lord, I Left Your Name on High."

They kept time with choreography, swaying side to side, feet never still and arms often held high in praise.

They wore kitigenis - African garb of blue dresses for the girls and red suits for the boys.

Few of the children are likely to return to the U.S. - to live, anyway. Only two members from earlier choirs have ended up here, said 20-year-old Taemar Kirkham, of 100 Mile House, British Columbia. Kirkham said the goal is to produce leaders for Africa.

She joined the mission as a volunteer chaperone when the choir came to her hometown.

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