Matthews – Mint Hill Weekly
MINT HILL – The African Children’s Choir will take the stage for several free performances at Mint Hill churches later this month.
The choir, known as ACC, is a program within humanitarian relief nonprofit Music for Life, created more than 30 years ago to bring global awareness to the needs of orphaned and destitute children living in Africa.
Music for Life has raised more than $1 million to build primary schools, literacy schools and children’s homes. The charity also has used the funds to pay for the secondary and higher-level education for children in seven African countries: Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.
More than 1,000 children have traveled with ACC since its inception, and Music for Life has supported 100,000 children through various relief efforts and educational projects.
The African Children’s Choir selects youth ambassadors – children 7 to 10 years old, from primary and literacy schools – to perform with the choir for one year. The children continue receiving an education while traveling the world, performing with the choral group.
Choir 43 – the 43rd choir group in its history – consists of 18 children from Kampala, Uganda, who will tour North America, spending their first month performing at churches in North Carolina.
Emily Gronow, from Wales, will travel with Choir 43 as its tour leader, working as a liaison with the media and managing the children and staff members. She said the children are excited to be in the U.S.
“The children are full of energy and life,” Gronow said. “They are experiencing a lot of firsts – discovering snow, learning how a vacuum works and tasting different foods.
“Yesterday, I took them to each pick out and buy their own pair of shoes. They were so proud … You take the little things for granted, and to be able to come down to that level was really a profound moment for me.”
Tina Sipp, event coordinator for ACC, said approximately 75 percent of Music for Life’s funding comes from ACC’s church performances.
“We do special events for galas in New York City and Texas, and we’ve worked a lot with Bono (of U2) and ONE.org, but most of our performances and funds come from the collective support received from churches all over the world,” she said.
While the events are free, attendees are encouraged to donate. The concerts also feature a production table with CDs and African jewelry for sale, with proceeds benefitting Music for Life’s education programs.
“The education we provide for them means a way out of poverty,” Sipp said. “… Every dollar translates into radical change – being able to provide for their basic needs, food, a safe place to live and to have a dream. We follow them through adulthood and continue to pay for their education. It’s life-changing.”
Special Nabisubi is a 24-year-old Ugandan who toured the U.K. with ACC when she was 9 years old. Nabisubi now travels with Choir 43 as a staff member and mentor.
This is Nabisubi’s first time traveling with the tour, but she previously spent several years working at ACC’s Music for Life training center in Kampala, Uganda. She said it’s a blessing to give back to children who are walking the same path she did.
“It’s a privilege to see how they grow, from knowing nothing. It blesses my heart that I am contributing something,” Nabisubi said.
Nabisubi said receiving support from Music for Life and ACC changed her life.
“(Because of ACC and Music for Life) I’ve been able to get an education, even receiving an accounting degree from university,” she said. “(ACC and Music for Life) are my family, and they’ve built my spirit and encouraged me in every way.”
Performing in Mint Hill
ACC’s Choir 43 will sing and dance in three 80-minute performances at two Mint Hill churches.
The choir will perform twice – at 8:45 a.m. and again at 11:10 a.m. – at Blair Road United Methodist, located at 9135 Blair Road.
That evening, the choir will host a 7 p.m. performance at Arlington Baptist Church, located at 9801 Arlington Church Road.
ACC’s music mixes African rhythms with soulful hymns. The choir will perform a capella ethnic worship music, along with African drums. The group also will sing classic gospel songs, such as “Oh Happy Day” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” with instrumental accompaniment tracks.
Performers change costumes three times, wearing traditional Ugandan garb, and perform traditional dances from the Mwaga and Magunjju tribes.
ACC has received worldwide recognition performing throughout the U.K. and U.S. The group performed on the season six finale of “American Idol,” received a Grammy nomination and has performed for Queen Elizabeth II.
“The programs have great costumes and music, but the most captivating part comes from the spirit the children exude on stage … authentic joy,” Sipp said. “They have a powerful voice.”
Call Blair Road UMC at 704-545-6785 or Arlington Baptist at 704-545-4589 for more information on the upcoming performances.