Something new is coming to McAlester — a full-scale concert by the African Children’s Choir.

The concert is set for for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, at the McAlester First United Methodist Church at 1501 South Thirteenth St., south of Mike Deak Field.

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to host the African Children’s Choir here in McAlester,” said the Rev. Dr. Matt Judkins, senior pastor at First United.

“When I first heard they were looking for a place to perform in Southeastern Oklahoma, I jumped at the chance to host them at our church. I know the Wednesday performance will be a true joy for our community experience, and we welcome anyone from the community to attend.”

The African Children’s Choir’s parent organization is Music for Life, which is based in British Columbia and primarily works in the African nations of Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda. Music for Life calls The African Children’s Choir “a nonprofit humanitarian and relief organization dedicated to helping Africa’s most vulnerable children today so they can help Africa tomorrow.”

Choir Manager Tina Sipps said no admission is required to attend the McAlester concert.

“We take a love offering,” she said.

The choir traditionally consists of approximately 18 children, ranging in age from 7 to 10.

During their performance, choir members wear traditional African dress. Songs in their repertoire range from contemporary Christian music songs to old-time gospel, Sipps said. Some songs are sang a cappella and others with backing tracks.

“It’s very colorful and beautiful,” Sipps said of the performance, which also includes drumming on African instruments and dancing. “The staging is gorgeous,” she said.

The bar is set set for high for them,” Sipps said of the performers. “It’s amazing what they can do.”

She said many audience members have been touched by performances of The African Children’s Choir.

“It’s more than a concert — it’s a connection,” Sipps said. “It’s hard not to receive from these little messengers, the truth of life. It’s hard to leave without a new energy in your soul.”

Participating in the choir offers the children a unique opportunity, according to Sipps.

“Once they participate, we pay for their education all the way through university,” Sipps said. The idea is that that once they are university graduates, they will be able to make more of a contribution to their native country.

“We are hoping they give back,” Sipps said. “We’re investing in the longterm for the future of Africa.”

The program makes it possible for children to attend a university in their own nation.

“We keep them in the country where they are from,” Sipps said.

She said there have been no issues with parents of the children.

“They are giving their children an opportunity they cannot give them,” Sipps said. Once a tour ends, the children return home, she said.

Music for Life states that during its history, the organization has educated more than 52,000 children and impacted the lives of more than 100,000 individuals through its its relief and development programs. Through the years, members of The African Children’s Choir have performed before heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth II of England during her Diamond Jubilee.

Choir members have also sang alongside artists such as Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Keith Urban. Annie Lennox and the contemporary Christian music artist Michael W. Smith.

At one point during a performance, audience members are given an opportunity to help support the program, if they wish, organizers said.

For now, the First United Methodist Church is gearing up for the event.

“We’re really looking forward to having them here,” Judkins said.

Music for Life is hoping the event is well-attended.

“We hope everyone comes out and supports this choir,” said Sipps . “Make a difference in one person’s life. This is an opportunity to do something profound.”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com

Contact James Beaty by email at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

James Beaty is senior editor at the McAlester News-Capital