By Ronald W. Weathersby
As part of a six month U.S. tour, the Watoto Children’s Choir traveling from Uganda will perform in Madison and Joelton. The choir which is comprised of 22 children ages 7 – 13 will perform Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30 pm at the Cornerstone Church and three performances Sunday, March 24 at the First Baptist Church of Joelton at 9:30 am, 11:30 am and 6:30 pm.
Watoto means ‘the children’ in Swahili.
The choir has traveled internationally since 1994, serving as ambassador for the multitudes of children in Uganda who have been orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS, war and poverty. Since its inception, 58 choirs have traveled globally, providing the children with a bigger worldview, an unusual opportunity they would otherwise never get. The choirs have been to Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany, France and the U.S, among others. Their audiences have included royalty, presidents, ministers, and the ordinary person, capturing many hearts wherever they go.
The choir will perform contemporary gospel songs fused with African rhythms according to Brian Katongole who is directing the ensemble.
“Our members have all lost both their parents and will also share their individual stories with the audience,” Katongole said in a telephone interview while on tour. “Our purpose is to raise awareness of the plight of the African child and let people know there are people doing something about it and to seek partners around the world.”
There are currently six separate choirs made up of the orphans who all live in Uganda at one of two Watoto Villages in the capital city of Kampala and the city of Gulu. The facilities house over 2,700 children who have lost both parents. Other choirs are currently or scheduled to tour Australia, Canada, England and Europe.
“Through the choir’s concerts, we share a message of transformation by telling the story of Africa’s rescued orphans and women. We hope to reach out to audiences with the message of Christ’s healing power,” Gary Skinner Watoto Founder says on the organization’s website.
Skinner and his wife Marilyn moved to moved to Zambia as missionaries in 1979 and four years later the Canadians moved their family to Kampala to establish an English-speaking church in the city. Watoto Church is a community church which touched both the city and the nation with the love of Jesus. Over 17,000 people attend one of the 20 weekend services at the 8 district celebration points across the city.
Aside from serving the orphans Watoto also has developed programs to assist vulnerable women in Africa who are stricken with HIV/AIDS. It is positioned to rescue an individual, raise each one as a leader in their chosen sphere of life so that they in turn will rebuild their nations.
Katongole has been working with the choir for five months as it prepared for its U.S. tour which will take the group to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The concert tours ends in June.
To preview a performance of the choir visit: www.watoto.com/the-choir.