African Children's Choir lights up Odell Williamson stage Friday night

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The youngest ambassadors of peace and joy, the African Children’s Choir (ACC), performs at 7 p.m. Friday, June 4, in Odell Williamson Auditorium.

These are children from the poorest countries of the world, whose voices have been heard by world leaders and top performers in the entertainment world and, for the past 25 years, have raised millions of dollars to educate and rebuild countries devastated by famine, war and AIDS.

Former choir member Tilas Kyende is an official chaperone on the choir’s 35th tour.

As a young person in 1995, Kyende saw opportunity for himself, his family and his village and was selected to join the African Children’s Choir.

When auditions took place, “I tried out,” said Kyende, who joined the choir at age 9, speaking in a recent telephone interview during a tour stop in Charleston, S.C.

After touring and performing with the choir until his 12th birthday, Kyende returned home to Africa to continue his education, graduating college in Nairobi.

After finishing college, Kyende returned to the choir as an older chaperone and to “give back to the organization,” he said.

Kyende has been able to travel the world, raising awareness and funds to educate thousands of other children born into unimaginable circumstances.

Today, with the support of Music for Life, sponsors of the African Children’s Choir, Kyende has a degree in business management and works to build infrastructure of African nations.

He also assists children in the choir, currently numbering 23 in the one touring the East Coast. Another choir tours the West Coast.

“I tell them about life, what life is about,” he said. “About [making] good choices, and even though life is tough, you can still make it.”

Kyende is only one of hundreds of “graduates” of the ACC. And the current group of children (ages 7-11) is coming to perform, educate and inspire folks locally.

Their repertoire consists of African songs, he said, with children playing drums.

“It’s very unique,” Kyende said. “We have fast songs and slow songs. There’s a mixture of everything.”

Most of all, “the kids have beautiful smiles,” he said. “They enjoy themselves” and spread the message they are happy and have hope.

The performance is being made possible through local concert organizer/promoter Cape Fear Concerts in collaboration with Brunswick Community College, the Brunswick Arts Council, New Beginnings Community Church and Pleasant View Baptist Church.

South Brunswick High School students will also be providing a welcoming for the choir when they arrive, through African drumming.

Tickets for Friday’s show have all been distributed but auditorium director Mike Sapp says available seats will open up for non-ticket-holders before the show.

Those with tickets must be seated 15 minutes prior to concert time.