Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Choir concert made special connection

My husband Josh and I recently attended the first show at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center for which we needed a diaper bag and a booster seat.

We chose the African Children's Choir performance as our 14-month-old daughter Mihret's debut in a concert hall audience. We couldn't have made a better choice.

Josh and I, who sang together in our college's touring choir, value music and its presence in our home. We want to expose Mihret, who hums along with the hymns at church and dances even during diaper changes, to music from around the world.

The songs that moved us Thursday — from Uganda, Rwanda, the Congo, South Africa, Nigeria — aren't likely songs our Ethiopian-American daughter would have heard before. But they came from her native continent, and as such are especially precious.

Music is a part of daily life for Mihret's birth family, whose members sing their own traditional songs in Ethiopia as they work in fields of enset, a banana-like plant.

During one musical number, the African Children's Choir singers, with their clear, jubilant voices and beautiful, beaming smiles, pantomimed the activity of a village at harvest time. As the children danced and sang in celebration, tears sprang to my eyes as I thought of our family's link to a place that always seems at once so near and so very far away.

To end the show, the choir performed "Nkosi Sikele." More than South Africa's national anthem, the words also are a prayer asking God to bless the entire continent.

On stage, the flags of Africa's nations unfurled to create a multi-colored and colorful backdrop behind the choir — including the flag of our daughter's native country.

As other African-American community members stood to honor the anthem, we stood, too, holding Mihret.

Kara Patterson: Post-Crescent staff writer

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