This is long overdue….

I went to Nashville in February for an African Children’s Choir fundraiser at the historic Ryman auditorium. This was my 3rd trip to the Ryman, and as a country music fan, I respect this auditorium, commonly known as the church of country music. I love the history, the sound, the moments that happen on the stage and the meaning to so many who have had the chance to play The Ryman.

As I stood in the wings during sound check listening to these beautiful voices fill the empty auditorium, The Ryman has never sounded better. There was a long list of accomplished artists playing the event, but Choir 44 stole the show starting with sound check.

Equipping education runs deep in my heart and the mission behind African Children’s Choir is all about education. These beautiful faces tour around the world for a year then return home to attend school and are guaranteed support through post secondary education because of their membership in the Choir. Ultimately ACC is equipping a generation to change Uganda. The political unrest, the poverty, the fear, giving opportunity one voice at a time. I met Choir 42 a couple of years ago, and they stole my heart from first hug and Choir 44 did just the same. Their infectious smiles are a delight to every person they encounter.

My dear friend who invited me happened to be celebrating her birthday the next day and she received the sweetest gift, Happy Birthday sung by the Choir in their language and ours complete with clapping and dancing and of course a round of squeals and hugs to wrap the perfect gift up with a bow.

The table is one of my favorite places to gather and we sat down to dinner as one giant family; artists, tv personalities, friends, chaperones and choir members. Picking up a knife to help cut up chicken, talking about who was oldest and youngest, sharing large servings of dessert and giggles too many to count was just like one of my favorite dinners with my nieces and nephew especially since the children called me Auntie.

A final sound check with “Uncle Bentley” singing Riser was certainly a moment of church. Only a handful of people in the Ryman, and thinking of those precious children, they are Risers. I happened to catch them right in the midst of the lyric “I will pray till Jesus rolls away the stone“. A part of the ACC mission statement is to “instill Christian principles through teaching and leading by example” and while those children are learning they are also teaching to a watching world who has the ability to help change their world.

I’ve met Dierks a couple of times, but something about this night was different. His wife and children were along for the event and the influence of ACC to his life and his investment to them was so apparent in his interactions with the children and in his performance.

While the stage had amazing performances all evening long, the wings had the sweetest behind the curtain moments of stories, laughs, dancing which again stole the show and celebrated good times. Artists were just Auntie and Uncle to the children and as parents themselves, you can see an instant bond with the children, a sheer delight to both the artists and the children.

Choir 44 performing on the Ryman stage, showcasing traditional African spirituals and instrumentation and familiar contemporary tunes. Meet some of the Choir {click here}and hear what they want to be when they grow up.

As we watched the second act, the children sat on the wings with us; alongside both friends and artists. Anyone with long hair was fair game for braiding, a universal bond of girls and it was as if there wasn’t even a show going on to them, but a familiar activity and new friends to laugh and play.

Nashville came out in the cold and rain to a near sellout of The Ryman. Seeing the auditorium fill from just hours before empty, some I would imagine coming for the famed artists and celebrities were instantly connected and influenced from the first note sang by The Choir.

The end of the show brought hugs and celebrations and an encore of Celebrate {watch here} sung a cappella and to a silenced crowd craving just one more moment of songs. Music; a binding force for young and old across the world together in the church of country music. 
Connie Britton, a long time ACC supporter, was such a gracious event hostess and beautifully sang live with Charles Esten a song from their hit series, Nashville. So many other cast members gave of their voices for the night; Hayden Panettiere, Sam Palladio, Jonathan Jackson, Clare Bowen (and fiance Brandon Young), Aubrey Peeples, Chris Carmack, Chaley Rose, and Will Chase. In addition to Dierks Bentley, Ingrid Michaelson and Big Kenny performed. See everyone here: This Little Light Of Mine.

So thankful for my dear friend who introduced me to the Choir; she loves these children as her own, has had them in her home for slumber parties and school, traveled to their homes and schools, and gives selflessly to the choir.  #NashvilleforAfrica, a night I won’t soon forget and children forever etched in my heart and all of those who shared in church that night at the Ryman.

Music for life. 
Find out more about the African Children’s Choir {click here}and learn how ACC is helping Helping Africa’s most vulnerable children today, so they can help Africa tomorrow!
Celebrate Good Times, 
Auntie Angie 

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