By Penny Johnson, GGF Contributing Editor

As part of The Glenn Gould Foundation’s Celebration of Music Week held in Toronto during October 26-29, 2009, a one-day symposium called The Promise of Music was held at The Royal Conservatory of Music.  An international audience of over four hundred delegates listened to an inspired keynote address from Glenn Gould Prize Laureate, Dr. José Antonio Abreu.  The ambitious four-day series of events surrounding the Celebration of Music Week – which included the Canadian debut of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, one of the top-ranked orchestras of the world whose members are all under the age of twenty-five – represented not only a celebration of the achievements of Dr. Abreu – founder of the Venezuelan musical miracle known around the world as El Sistema – but also an occasion to underscore the vital importance of music and arts education as agents of human development.

Presented in collaboration with The SOCAN Foundation and The Royal Conservatory of Music, The Promise of Music featured such distinguished guests as Murray McLauchlan, Linda Ronstadt, Dr. Daniel Levitin and RCM President, Dr. Peter Simon.  The morning mainstage presentation was held in the beautiful new Koerner Hall, and also featured the Toronto debut performance of The Mully Children’s Family Choir, a twenty-member ensemble consisting of young people from The Mully Children’s Family, an organization established in 1989 by Dr. Charles and Esther Mully.  The Mully Children’s Family rescues Kenyan street children facing abandonment, abuse, addictions and HIV/AIDS, providing them with food, shelter, clothing and education, as well as a sense of family and hope. 

Abandoned by his parents at the tender age of six, Dr. Mully was left to beg in the streets. 

After working his way up from being a servant to a wealthy family, and later on, to becoming supervisor and assistant manager in the agricultural sector, Mully saved enough money to buy his first car, which he quickly turned into his first business, a taxi service.  Soon the business became a million dollar enterprise, including real estate and petroleum distribution. 

The turning point for Mully however, came in 1986 when, while in Nairobi on a business trip, a group of street children stole his Mercedes.  With compassion in his heart for the children facing the same challenges he once did, Mully knew that from that moment on, he would devote his life and all of his entrepreneurial know-how, to saving Kenyan youth.  By 1989, Mully – who has since received numerous honours and distinctions, including Presidential Commendations from His Excellency, Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki in recognition of “outstanding and distinguished services rendered to the people of the republic of Kenya” – sold his assets and put them into establishing The Mully Children’s Family.  Alongside his wife, Esther, the MCF has invested in the lives of orphaned, abandoned, and abused Kenyan children.  Since its establishment twenty years ago, the program has served 5,000 children, and currently cares for over 2,000. 

The performance of The Mully Children’s Family Choir – noted for their beautiful voices, African culture and rhythmic adrenalin, as well as the impressive feats of strength demonstrated in their acrobatic routines – marked the beginning of an extensive Canadian tour in which 111 performances were given in five provinces over the course of fifty-eight days in the autumn of 2009.  The choir performed a selection of songs in English and Swahili.

Speaking on the success of The Mully Children’s Family Choir and their Canadian tour known as the North American Safari tour, Executive Director of The Mully Children’s Family Charitable Foundation in Pickering, Ontario, Glen Roadknight, acknowledged that, “as they traveled from city to city, it was humbling to see how large and committed The Mully Children’s Family community is here in Canada.”  Those interested in hosting the choir during future tours should email tours@mullychildrensfamily.ca

For more information, please visit http://www.mcfcf.ca/