Uganda to Coleraine: choir’s local connection

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Coleraine College will host the special concert on Monday, December 14.

Choirs from Killowen Primary School, St John’s Primary School and Coleraine College will join the children of choir 43 on stage for what promises to be a magical evening.

The African Children’s Choir was the brain child of proud Coleraine man Ray Barnett, who now lives in Canada.

Ray brought the first ever choir to Northern Ireland back in 1985.

Twenty years ago children from St John’s and Killowen Primary Schools performed with the African children at a concert in Coleraine Leisure Centre.

This concert was one of the very first cross community projects that both primary schools took part in.

Next month’s concert will celebrate Ray’s involvement in the charity, and highlight how the choir project has changed lives in Africa.

Ray, who is now 79 is a former pupil of Killowen Primary School and Coleraine Boys’ Secondary School.

He is hoping to accompany the choir on the trip to Coleraine, a trip that is sure to bring back many happy memories for Ray.

Balnamore woman Denise Rosborough, who runs the Barazina choirs locally, is coordinating the choir’s visit to Northern Ireland.

Denise visited Uganda last year and saw first hand how the money raised through the choirs benefits the children and their communities.

During their stay, the African children will perform in 17 concerts across the Province before returning to Uganda.

Speaking to the Times this week, Denise explained how the charity was set up, and the significance of the Coleraine concert.

“When Ray Barnett first went to Africa in 1977, he saw poverty, starvation, injustice, disease, and violence.

“He wanted to do something to help these children that live in severe poverty and have no education.

“Ray was inspired by the singing of one small boy, so he set up the first ever choir in 1984.

“Children were selected from the Kampala and Luwero areas of Uganda and since then new choirs have been set up every ten months.

“To date over a thousand vulnerable children have been helped through the programme,” explained Denise.

“These children have had a really bad start in life, many of them are orphans, they have no money for education, so the choir gives them a great opportunity. There are so many success stories, told Denise.

“The children involved are educated right up to university level, and even when they are too old for the programme they carry on the work in the slums, taking workshops to children who are unable to afford to attend school.”

Speaking about the Coleraine concert, Denise said: “The Coleraine concert will be very special.

“The two primary schools involved were part of the very first concert in Coleraine. I know that all three schools are very excited about being involved.

“Our local choirs will sing nine songs with the African children. I can tell you that there will be a lot of energy on stage, “ told Denise, who has been choreographing the concert. “It will be truly magical,” she said.

CASTLEROCK:

The choir will also be performing at Christ Church in Castlerock on Sunday, December 13

Tickets for the Coleraine concert, which will start at 7.15, are on sale from any of the participating schools priced at £8 for adults/£5 for children.