African Children's Choir performs at Raleigh's St. Timothy's School

Choir of 16 Ugandan children launches yearlong tour

hpaytes@newsobserver.comJanuary 19, 2013 

— Most Wake County schoolchildren searched the skies for snow Thursday night, but those at St. Timothy’s School had a special reason for hoping that the streets stayed dry.

They had a concert by the African Children’s Choir to attend on Friday, and they didn’t want to miss it.

“I didn’t care if it was only for 20 minutes,” said Libby Horton, 9, a fourth-grader at St. Timothy’s. “I only wanted to see them.”

The choir is composed of 16 children from Uganda, ages 7 through 9, and the Friday concert was their first in a yearlong tour. Money raised from the tour will go toward promoting literacy and building orphanages in Africa. This is the 40th edition of the choir, which was founded more than 25 years ago.

St. Timothy’s decided to invite the African Children’s Choir to perform after a parent mentioned the group was launching a nationwide tour, said Karen Campbell, the school’s development assistant.

The choir performed two concerts for the school on Friday, featuring inspirational songs from both Uganda and America. Each concert lasted about 45 minutes. The children were accompanied by recorded music, and some also played drums.

Beyond raising money, African Children’s Choir enables its singers to broaden their horizons and take the lessons they learn back to Africa, said Christine Cropper, African Children’s Choir administrator.

“It is about making them passionate about making their home better,” Cropper said.

By using music as a medium, Cropper said, the children can connect with their audience regardless of the language of their lyrics.

“The thing that I love about music is that it is multilingual,” she said. “They might not speak the same language, but the connection can be shared through music nonetheless.”

The school’s student council paid the $2,500 suggested donation through fundraising.

“They were all over it,” Campbell said. “They didn’t hesitate. … As an opportunity for students to learn about people who are less fortunate, it’s phenomenal.”

The choir arrived in the United States on Tuesday night, and its conductor, Dorothy Nabwami, said the children were nervous and excited to perform. As a former choir member herself, Nabwami said she could understand the children’s feelings.

“These children, it’s their first time they have been to America,” she said.

Gerald Tukundane, 9, said he particularly looked forward to performing the “village song” and playing the drums.

“I feel good,” he said, while talking with the other children and eating pizza for the first time.

The group spent five months rehearsing before the tour began, but Cropper said the children were still surprised by the differences between Uganda and America.

“‘Where’s the sun?’ they asked on the first day,” she said. “In Uganda, there is always sun. I had to tell them the sun shines on America, too.”

Campbell said she hoped her students learned from the concert, too.

“I hope they walk away saying, ‘Wow, it’s a big world out there, and we are just a blip on the radar,’” Campbell said.

Emory Pegram, 10, a fourth-grader, said she was most impressed by the children’s singing.

“It’s amazing that little children could have such huge, strong voices,” she said.

The choir’s North American tour begins Wednesday in Huntersville.

Paytes: 919-836-4918

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