Choir offers joy, hope

Expect to be moved to tears by the Music for Life African Children’s Choir, who will perform May 11 in Minot, said their tour leader Nate Longstaff.

The 18 children, between the ages of 9 and 11, from Uganda will sing at 10:30 a.m. in West Minot Church of God, 1105-16th St. NW, and 7 p.m. at Faith United Methodist Church, 5900 U.S. 83 North. Both performances are free and open to the public.

Longstaff said the children’s choir was started in 1984 by Ray Barnett, who was doing relief work in the African country, when he came across a boy who needed a ride. The boy sang during the entire journey even though he had lost his parents. Longstaff said that Barnett decided “this was the hope the western world needed to hear” so he decided to put a choir together. Children in the choirs are from the neediest areas of Uganda. Kids are interviewed and sing and dance during an audition to earn their place on the tour.

“The children with the greatest desire and hunger to better themselves are chosen for the next team,” said Longstaff.

The kids, who have to be between the ages of 7 and 11 to go on tour, are on tour for about a year.

The group that will perform in Minot are touring North America. They are taught while on the road and also have a break every three months.

The children will perform songs, dances and drum solos that are a mixture of traditional gospel, pop songs written for the organization by prestigious artists, and traditional African songs and anthems.

“Some of these kids are orphans,” said Longstaff. “They come from horrendous backgrounds but they have tremendous hope and tremendous joy.”

Two chaperones on the tour are former choir members who, as adults, earned college degrees. They will share testimony about their experiences.

Audiences come away changed by the experience, said Longstaff.

“It will be such a moving experience,” said Longstaff. “People are moved to tears at every performance.”