Watoto Children’s Choir brings joy to St. Albert

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The internationally renowned Watoto Children’s Choir that so enamoured its audience in its previous visit returns to St. Albert this coming Tuesday for a concert at Cornerstone Pentecostal Fellowship.

In past performances, audiences were smitten by the African choir’s effervescence and smiling faces.

“You have to come to the concert to see the joy in the children’s faces,” says team leader Sam Kimera. “You can’t tie it down to music and dancing. They’re very good, of course, but it’s really the joy of the children’s faces that you will remember.”

Once again the chorus of orphaned children will present a costumed evening of flashy drumming, upbeat singing, energetic dance and life-transforming stories.

The 22-singer choir is a one-of-a-kind blend of African rhythms, contemporary gospel and ethnic dance. They have released several albums including Cast Your Burdens, Jesus You Alone and Mambo Sawa (Life is Good).

Starting in January 2012, the choir of seven- to 13-year-olds embarked on a six-month cross-country tour from Vancouver to Ontario, slated to perform nearly 200 shows.

A gruelling tour can zap a performer’s energy. Instead of tiring, Kimera says the extensive tour is a personal odyssey that invigorates each child.

“You’d be amazed. It’s such a wonderful experience for the children. Coming to Canada is a whole learning experience. They have grown in confidence and in their skills. They meet so many people that give them the love that they have not had before. It gives them self-esteem and builds their social skills,” Kimera said.

Located in the sub-Saharan nation of Uganda, Watoto Child Ministries was first established in 1992 near Kampala with six orphaned children – youngsters who lost their parents through HIV/AIDS, poverty, war and abduction. Today Watoto (which means ‘Children’ in Swahili) cares for more than 2,400 children.

Actively searching for orphaned children, the ministry places them in its villages where they are housed in a new family unit with a mother figure and eight children. They receive food, shelter, clothing, clean water, medical attention and an education from kindergarten to high school.

Since 1994, the Watoto Children’s Choir has toured internationally as fundraising ambassadors that bring awareness for millions of African children trapped in the cycle of homelessness.

“Our concert is called Beautiful Africa: A New Generation. We believe that although the past is difficult, life is beautiful and worth celebrating.”

To prepare for a concert, Watoto’s entertainers first audition and then train for five months in every discipline. Their joy is visible in fervent songs such as Not Alone, a worship song reminding people that in their darkest hour God and Jesus is there. And Down in Africa, a song of celebration sung in Luo, a Nilo-Saharan language, brings a true piece of the Dark Continent to Canada.

As well as the Canadian tour, there are three additional ones delivering their positive message in the United States, United Kingdom and Asia. A fifth tour is slated to launch in Australia within a few days.

“When everyone chips in, even a little bit goes a long way.”

The St. Albert concert also features fair trade goods for purchase made by women in the Living Hope Program. The women are HIV positive single women, abduction returnees and teenage mothers.

“We provide a home, anti-viral care and a means to make money for them and their children. It helps restore their dignity.”

The women are trained to fashion crafts that meet a certain commercial standard. At the concert the crafter’s scarves, fabric purses, dolls, leather goods and jewelry will be on sale.

Preview

Beautiful Africa: A New Generation
Watoto Children’s Choir
Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m.
Cornerstone Pentecostal Fellowship
Grandin Park Plaza
Sir Winston Churchill Rd.
Free will offering

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.