African Children’s Choir to stop in east Idaho during West Coast tour

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IDAHO FALLS — A little boy who lost his parents during a 1984 civil war in Uganda inspired one man to start a choir now recognized all over the world.

Ray Barnett, the founder of the African Children’s Choir, was doing relief work in Uganda when he met a young orphan.

“He had happened to give a ride to a little boy who had just lost his parents,” tour leader Janelle Hoekstra says. “The entire journey in the car, he just sang with just so pure joy and such dignity.

Hoekstra says Barnett was desperate to show this side of Africa to the world — the Africa that held music, joy and hope — which led him to start the nonprofit group. Now 34 years later, the choir continues strong and will be touring the western United States and Canada. Idaho Falls and Pocatello will be a part of that tour.

The concert is a mix of traditional hymns with an African spin as well as songs in their local language. The children incorporate drumming and dancing into their performances.

“It’s an amazing evening,” Hoekstra said. “These children just have an innate ability to spread happiness and joy and to put a smile on people’s faces.

Hoekstra said the children are amazing.

“I love getting to just see them spread their joy and their excitement all around,” she continued.

The concert is free to the public, but donations are encouraged. All proceeds from donations go to relief programs organized through the choir, and toward the children’s education.

“They’re all from backgrounds where (education) wasn’t a consistent possibility until they were in the choir,” Hoekstra said.

Once joining the choir, they are able to start school and a learning program as they get ready to visit the States.

Hoekstra said the choir is made up of 17 children between the ages of 8 and 10 years old.

“They’re the ambassadors for more children back at home that never get a chance to tour, but (are) supported in their education by the work of the choir,” Hoekstra said. “It’s really cool to be able to see that their situations are changing by being in this choir.”

To know more about the choir, visit its website.

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