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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
5:34 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

African choir brings its special blend to Yavapai College

PRESCOTT - The African Children's Choir emerged from the blood and death of Uganda's 1984 civil war, and Friday night the children sing in Prescott at Yavapai College Performance Hall.

"Inspired by the singing of one small boy, we formed the first African Children's Choir to show the world that Africa's most vulnerable children have beauty, dignity and unlimited ability," wrote Ray Barnett, a human rights activist who started the children's choir in 1984.

In most countries, being poor, needy or orphaned would be a disadvantage, but those are pre-requisites for African children who want to join the choir. Children 7 to 11 years old can apply to join the choir; to participate, they must attend and graduate from the Music for Life camp.

After a child is accepted in the choir, choir teams visit the child's home to see if the child would be suited for traveling. The children's choir travels to other countries and continents, and most of the choir members have never been outside their own village, or flown on an airplane or driven in an automobile.

Once a child is accepted to the choir, he or she spends about five months at the Choir Training Academy in Kampala, Uganda. Children learn songs, dances, attend church and school (some for the first time in their lives) and learn about other cultures and customs.

After touring, the choir returns to Uganda and enrolls each child in the Music for Life Primary School. For many of the choir children, Music for Life school is their one and only chance for primary education and the ability to continue their education.

This is the choir's second visit to Prescott. They previously performed at First Baptist Church, said Brad DeVries, Yavapai College marketing specialist.

"A lot of their bookings are at churches and spiritual retreats," he said. "We thought the choir was a good fit with our vision of trying to bring diversity and world music to Prescott. We want to expand the audience's horizons."

Nearly 40 children perform a mixture of traditional African songs and dances and put an African spin on some contemporary songs.

"They sing and dance the traditional-type music, but they are not limited to African-only music," said DeVries, who helped arrange lodging for the choir.

The choir performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, in the Yavapai College Performance Hall, 1100 E. Sheldon St., in Prescott. Tickets cost $30 and $33 and are available online at www.yc.edu, at the performance hall box office, or by calling 928-776-2000.

"The African Children's Choir is the ambassador for Africa's neediest, most vulnerable children, funding education and emergency assistance in the choir members' home countries," reads the choir's website at africanchildrenschoir.com.