The choir is brought to Reno by Artown, the non-profit organization that hosts a month-long festival, celebrating local and global arts performances in July. The choir sings traditional African folk music as well as gospel songs and contemporary tunes.
“This is a unique opportunity to introduce Sparks and Reno to the choir and to world music,” said Beth Macmillan, executive director of Artown. “They are an incredible group, all with amazing stories. It’s a different kind of performance and I think everyone would find something enjoyable.”
The choir was formed by Ray Barnett in 1984, after he was visiting Uganda on a humanitarian aide trip. He offered a local boy a ride home and along the way, the child began to sing.
“When I went back to Canada and people were not very interested in Uganda, I remembered this small boy,” said Barnett. “I knew that if only a group of these beautiful children could go to the west, people would be deeply moved and would certainly want to help.”
Children are handpicked from villages in central and western Africa, from countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria.
“One of our biggest goals is to help children with the greatest need,” said Sarah Lidstone, northern American choir operations manager. “We go into the community and seek out children whose basic needs aren’t being met. These kids are orphans, or homeless. They lost family members to AIDS and war. They are not able to go to school and want an education. We bring these kids into our program, educate them at our boarding school, make sure that they have three meals a day.”
The money earned on the tour goes to the children’s education through the Music for Life program, the parent organization for the Children’s Choir. Music for Life has educated more than 52,000 kids from all over Africa. After the students finish and leave the boarding school, they are given assistance to attend a university.
“Being in the choir does wonders for these kids,” said Lidstone. “They learn self-worth and gain self-esteem. They become change makers in their communities. We have seen kids grow up to be doctors and nurses and architects in their towns.”
This is the 41st incarnation of the tour. Each tour brings new children, with this tour featuring kids ages seven to 11. While on tour, the children receive tutoring and are able to meet celebrities, politicians and fans. The children are often impressed with the little things most Americans take for granted.
“The kids are always delighted to meet new people and see different venues,” said Lidstone. “They are impressed with simple things like how all the roads here in the states are smooth with no potholes. They just take everything in.”
Tickets for the performance are $30 per adult and $20 per child younger than 12.
“It’s so important to support the arts in the Truckee Meadows,” said Macmillan. “The arts help spread diversity and bring fun and insight to the community. With the Children’s Choir, we want to showcase the world and invite our little corner to experience it.”
For more information about the African Children’s Choir and Artown, visit www.africanchildrenschoir.com/www.renoisartown.com.