Make a Joyful Noise!
The voices of the Della Lamb Children's Choir delighted United Methodist Women members with their colorful national dress and powerful songs of hope and praise in the Experience Hall at Assembly 2010 in St. Louis, Mo.
Some 30 children, all dressed in national costumes representing 17 countries, sang uplifting praise songs along with creative movements. The children's families come from countries including Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Vietnam, Mexico, China, Iraqi and Iran.
The children, ages 7-12, are all students at the Della Lamb Elementary Charter School in Kansas City, Mo. More than 95 percent of its students receive free and reduced lunches and more than 70 percent participate in the English-as-a-Second-Language program.
The school, which was the first charter school to open in Missouri, is part of United Methodist Women-supported Della Lamb Community Services. Della Lamb works with more than 2,000 low-income families in Kansas City.
The choir moved a receptive audience of United Methodist Women members to enthusiastically clap and sway to the music with the choir.
Lyle E. DeHues, the choir director, said the children who make up the choir are from several faiths, including Christian, Buddist, Muslim and African traditional religions.
"Although we sing about God, we try to sing songs for everyone," Mr. DeHues said. "The children like the songs that are upbeat and lively."
The children's choir is an extracurricular activity for the students. Every Tuesday after school, the choir practices for 45 minutes, and then school buses take the children home. To perfect the songs, students are given song lyrics and a CD of the music to learn the various parts and practice on their own at home.
"The children really have to be self-starters, but they all love to be part of the choir," Mr. DeHues said. He added that children must maintain good grades and are expected to exhibit good behavior in order to stay in the choir.
In preparation for United Methodist Women's Assembly, Thursday evening and Saturday morning rehearsals were added, complete with healthy meals for choir members. Additionally, the school hired dance teachers to help out with dance choreography and create costumes.
"Instead of just using the same music performance pieces that they have used before and are so comfortable with Mr. DeHues wanted the children to learn new material supportive of the United Methodist Women Assembly experience," said Judy McGonigle Akers, executive vice president of Della Lamb Community Services.
Lannhi Tran, 11, said she loves being in the choir because she has an opportunity to travel and sing praise songs. "You get to share the Word with the whole world," said Lannhi, whose parents are from Vietnam.
Participating in the choir lifts the spirits of 10-year-old choir member Brenda Esquivel. "If you're feeling bad, you sing songs and get happy," said Brenda, who is of Mexican descent.
Coral Sode, a member of United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Mo., said her unit supports Della Lamb choir. "I feel music is so much a part of our lives and we're able to learn about other cultures through it."
*Shanta Bryant Gyan is a freelance writer and communications specialist in New York City. She is a frequent contributor to Response magazine, the official magazine of United Methodist Women.