An African Christmas at the Waterfront Hall

Having sung with Gary Barlow and for the Queen, the world famous African Children's Choir prepare to perform in Belfast

They’ve performed for Nelson Mandela, the Queen and world presidents around the globe, and even appeared on American Idol. Now, the African Children’s Choir is heading to Belfast’s Waterfront Hall for a very special Christmas concert.

An African Christmas with Friends takes place on December 11 and promises to be an event infused with charismatic singing and oodles of energy. It will also officially launch the African Children’s Choir festive album, Emmanuel, and songs from this will be performed on the night.

Denise Rosborough, from Coleraine – who works with the choir three days a week, as well as managing her own Barazina youth choirs – says that the event is an exciting collaboration between a tried and tested group and a whole range of Northern Irish school children who simply love to sing.

'We have 11 schools and the Barazina choirs taking part, as well as Jordanstown’s School for the Deaf,' Rosborough says. 'All the schools, which include primary, post-primary, grammar and secondary schools, have learnt the songs from the new album.'

With Emmanuel produced in Coleraine by Tre Sheppard and Ian Hannah, there is a surprisingly strong North Coast connection to this feted outfit, who famously appeared on Gary Barlow's charitable single, 'Sing' along with the Military Wives, in 2012. Indeed, African Children’s Choir CEO, Ray Barnett, also hails from Coleraine, although he now lives in White Rock, British Columbia.

Made up of African children aged between seven and 10 years old, the African Children’s Choir invests in young singers by raising funds for their future. Representing African children as a whole, the choir also seeks to raise awareness of those children who are destitute and living in poverty.

The money raised from their concert tours subsequently goes towards the African Children’s Choir educational programme, which gives them the tools to create a positive future for themselves and their families.

'I was out in Uganda in June seeing where they get taught and what homes they come from,' adds Rosborough. 'In September I also went to South Africa to get a choir ready for this album. These tours raise money for the kids’ primary schools, then they choose what secondary schools they want to go to. It gives them an awareness about the world. I’m excited about the benefits for our kids too, in seeing all this.'

Renowned for their energetic and enthusiastic performances, the African Children’s Choir – who also sang with Gary Barlow at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 – inspired Rosborough in creating her own choirs here in Northern Ireland.

'I’ve always wanted to have a choir of children who are happy,' Rosborough reveals. 'It pains me to see children on stage who aren’t happy to be there. I’ve always loved the African Children’s Choir. I love the children’s enthusiasm and their excellence.'

Passionate about music, singing and drama, Rosborough splits her week between working with the African Children’s Choir and with Barazina – her own choir collective. Having launched in 2009 as a music tutoring business, Rosborough subsequently created the cross-community Barazina Youth Choirs in 2011 for seven to 14 year-olds.

This was promptly followed by the Barazina Mini Choir for four to seven year-olds in 2013, with Singzina, a choir for 14-18 year-olds, launched in November this year. Barazina, which means ‘creative abundance’ in Hebrew, is all about bringing children together who want to sing, encouraging them in their creative talents.

Backed by Venture Causeway, an investment initiative from the Causeway Enterprise Agency in 2013, Barazina was able to produce their debut album, We Can Change Our World, earlier this year. While all this was going on, however, Rosborough was recommended by a friend to the African Children’s Choir founder, Ray Barnett, and so began her involvement with the famous choir.

'It was a dream come true, getting the chance to sing with the African Children’s Choir, and for my choirs to sing with them and encourage others to sing with them in big venues,' Rosborough recalls. Their first big venue show in Northern Ireland was at the Millennium Forum in Derry~Londonderry in April 2014, when the African Children’s Choir joined Barazina for two special concerts.

'They performed at the Millennium Forum in April to launch the album,' says Rosborough. 'Then the African Children’s Choir wanted to do bigger events, so we did two shows at the Forum and, based on the success of that, we wanted to go to a bigger venue – to the Waterfront!'

An African Christmas takes place at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast on December 11.