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Choir to bring the sounds of Africa to Elmira

The Watoto Children’s Choir will be performing music from their new album “We Will Go” in a free concert in Elmira on Jan. 23. [Submitted]

Updated Jan 21, 2020: Due to unforeseen circumstances the Watoto Children’s Choir travel has been delayed, so sadly we will have to cancel our upcoming concerts on  January 17th & 22nd in Guelph and on January 23rd in Elmira. The Watoto kids, aunties and uncles are so sorry they’re going to miss seeing you and send you all their love. Please check out watoto.com to see the choir’s updated tour schedule. Again, our sincere apologies.

An Elmira church will play host to a lively performance by an internationally-acclaimed children’s choir from Uganda, Africa.

The Watoto Children’s Choir brings its high-energy presentation to Gale Presbyterian Church next week, a show that features music, dance, and personal stories of children who have been helped by Watoto Ministries.

The choir has travelled across the world annually since 1994, having performed for royalty and world leaders at Buckingham Palace in the past, all for a good cause. The effort to increase awareness about the millions of African children orphaned by AIDS, poverty, and war. Watoto Ministries is focused on solving these community problems.

“It’s very inspirational,” said Gale’s Rev. Scott Sinclair. “We’re dealing with children who have seen a lot of horrors … who have been ripped from their parents, and from where they grew up in their homelands … and yet, to see them with the joy, with the fun, with the exuberance that they put into their music.

“It gives you a great sense of hope, that there are some bad things in the world, but there are some good things, too. The Watoto organization has been able to provide hope for these people.”

Part of the performance is raising awareness for the work that the Christian-based organization does: it has set up three Watoto villages that house widows and orphaned children, often society’s most vulnerable, where they are supported to build their lives.

The model involves physical care, medical intervention, education, employment training, and counselling with a strong family unit at its centre. As well as raising awareness, the choir serves as leadership training for the children, who learn responsibility while experiencing different cultures.

There are about 12 children in this particular choir group (Canada – Burlington) coming to Elmira, accompanied by some 10 adults who help to mentor and chaperone them. Local church members have volunteered their homes to billet the visiting choir and its associated members.

“I’ve really been happy with the way that the Elmira community has come together to provide everything for them … such as meals, and places to stay,” said Sinclair. “Churches have stepped up and been able to accommodate them.”

As of today (Thursday), the group is reaching the end of their preparation week before they take off for their performances in Ontario. The Watoto Children’s Choir will perform in Guelph, Kitchener, Brantford, Hamilton and Ingersoll before the Elmira stop on the tour.

Sinclair noted that the choir reached out to Gale Presbyterian to ask if they could perform in the local church. The pit stop was finalized in early December, and despite the relatively short notice, things have been flowing smoothly so far. Sinclair described their music style as fun and toe-tapping.

“Their music is very lively, very energetic,” noted Sinclair. “They’ve got a lot of online presence – YouTube videos, things like that. You really see a lot of energy and enthusiasm in their music.”

The choir will perform music from their new album “We Will Go,” in the free concert taking place on January 23 starting at 6:30 p.m.

“They will take up a love offering to support their work. All the money that’s raised goes to the Watoto organization,” said Sinclair. “It’s a free concert, but they will be passing around a plate to ask for some support.”

For more information, click here to visit The Watoto website.

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