I had the great privilege to travel to Boston on 7 Feb 2014 to attend some special events where choir 40 will be performing with children from local schools. The Boston Globe picked up the story and published the stunning photo below along with the accompanying article:
African Children’s Choir to share the stage with local kids
By Robert Knox | GLOBE CORRESPONDENT FEBRUARY 06, 2014
The African Children’s Choir, a troupe of young singers from Uganda, will break new ground when it appears with singers from the Plymouth elementary schools and the South Shore Conservatory in the next week. Continue reading →
The first Choir was formed in 1984, selected from orphaned and vulnerable children in the Kampala and Luwero areas of Uganda. After the Choir was trained to perform and readied for living in new and different cultures, the children travelled from Uganda to tour amongst the North American Church communities. Continue reading →
Over the next few days I’m sure we will find ourselves wishing our friends, colleagues, etc., a “Happy New Year”. And we know that many people will be setting New Year resolutions and ‘goals’ and generally looking forward to another year with an optimistic outlook. But for some, is a painful side to Christmas and the New Year. This is usually a time for reflection, for looking to the past as well as to the future. Whether it’s a relationship break up, bereavement, loss of a job, etc., the truth is, many people will be focusing on the pain of the past to the extent that they’re unable to envision a positive future.
Our ‘pain’ can prompt us to take action, and that can be positive action or negative action. Pain has played a part in the life and work of Ray Barnett. His desire to help orphans was partly motivated by the pain of rejection by his biological mother. Ray had been raised by very caring and kind foster parents and had been led to believe that his mother had been killed in the London Blitz during the war. In his teens he managed to track down an uncle who eventually admitted the truth that his mother was still alive but living in London. Although only fourteen, Ray travelled there from his home in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, and arranged to meet her. In the video below, he reveals the outcome of that devastating encounter…
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Identifying others who are worse off than ourselves and finding a way to help them, is one way to at least shift the main focus from our own pain. It should never be a substitute or escape from a natural grieving process in the case of a bereavement, etc., but sometimes our pain can ‘take on purpose’ as was the case with Ray. When he learned of the plight of the orphans in Africa in the aftermath of the Idi Amin regime and the ensuing civil war in Uganda, he had a burning desire to help. In all probability, his own experience and pain gave him an empathy with the plight of the children who had lost their parents. Ray didn’t just sympathize with their condition; he took massive action, which ultimately led to the formation of a travelling choir made up of orphans, which in turn became The African Children’s Choir – about to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary in 2014.
Ray’s personal story has a happy ending. Through an amazing series of events, he discovered a sister he didn’t know existed. She and her family became a huge asset to Ray’s charitable work with her daughter Sally helping out while still at College and then joining full time after graduating. Sally has worked as part of the African Children’s Choir family since its very beginning and today she is the Africa Operations Director, based in Uganda. Although it was many years before he saw his mother again after that initial encounter when he was fourteen, they eventually became reconciled and he had the pleasure of bringing her to meet his own extended family before she passed away.
Wishing all friends and supporters of Music For Life and the African Children’s Choir a very happy Christmas and New Year.
Please enjoy the above medley of Christmas Carols performed by The African Children’s Choir cut to archive footage shot by volunteers in Uganda and Sudan. Also includes shots of choir 39’s recent end of tour party in Northern Ireland.
Portstewart, 12 November 2013, and The African Children’s Choir make their departure from Northern Ireland after completing their UK tour. Daddy Ray was there to say goodbye to choir 39 as they set off by coach to make the ferry crossing from Larne to Scotland, and then a long drive through England to London where they boarded a flight back to Uganda.