Singing songs for literacy

By Darrell Todd Maurina

Clovis will soon play host for the second straight year to the African Children’s Choir, a group of 26 children from various African countries and eight adult hosts who travel the United States and support a ministry that educates African orphans.
This year’s presentation will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16 at the Faith Christian Family Church in Clovis, with a thousand-seat auditorium that is five times larger than last year’s venue at Kingswood United Methodist Church.
Moving the event to a bigger church doesn’t bother the Kingswood pastor, Rev. Brad Reeves.
“This year, because the ministerial alliance is reinvigorated, frankly I’m praying for a packed house,” Reeves said. “These kids are high enough quality that they deserve that attendance.”
Rev. Lance Clemmons, chairman of the Clovis Christian Ministerial Alliance, said his First Presbyterian Church was one of the sponsors of the African Children’s Choir last year and was pleased to host the choir again this year.
“Folks who hosted the children in their homes were blessed and the kids were very cordial, polite, well-mannered, very intelligent and full of energy, just the type of kids you’d hope your own kids would turn into,” Clemmons said. “What they basically do is secure a church that is willing to sponsor the children and have a flat fee that covers the cost of putting the concert on in each place, and have a love offering to support the orphanages for the children who are still back in Africa.”
Clemmons said the majority of the songs sung by the choir are Christian and use the English language, but they songs don’t use western tunes or lyrics. Instead, the children sing melodies from Africa that aren’t familiar to most Christians in North America.
“It is a form of music that is not something we hear every day in Eastern New Mexico. It is a wonderful form of music from a very old tradition done in incredible harmonies with incredible rhythms,” Clemmons said. “If anyone has any appreciation for music, they would love the African Children’s Choir.”
Reeves, who is handling the financial aspects of the choir’s Clovis stop, said the base cost to host the choir in Clovis is $500, which has already been contributed by a number of Clovis churches.
“We are also responsible for some overnight lodging for some of the adults, not all of them, and we need to get money for advertising and food because we’ve got to feed them while they’re here,” Reeves said. “The goal from the Ministerial Alliance was $1,000, but obviously if we have it we can spend more than that. We are asking any church in town that wants to participate to contribute $100 each.”
According to the Web site for the African Children’s Choir, the children come from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana. Many are orphans or come from very poor backgrounds, and since many African countries require parents to pay to send their children to school, often children do not learn to read and write. For 20 years, money raised by the choir has helped to provide the funds necessary to pay these fees.
The choir is currently on a 40-church tour of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, and will also hold concerts in some other nearby communities including Lubbock, Midland, Hobbs, and Roswell.