Church musician fights hunger with nationwide tour

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Matt Gardner
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A renowned church musician and composer has teamed up with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for a cross-country tour to help fight world hunger.

Church composer Ron Klusmeier will be performing music and teaching a workshop at Calvary United Church on Sunday as part of his cross-country Tour of a Lifetime. 25 per cent of ticket sales from the tour will be donated to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

“I really do have a passion for social justice,” performer Ron Klusmeier said. “This connection that I’ve made with the Foodgrains Bank (is) a perfect fit for me, because it allows me to do my own work and at the same time be supportive of an organization that does tremendous work globally for feeding hungry people.”

Klusmeier’s Tour of a Lifetime, his final series of live performances, will take him to 200 communities across the nation through June 2013. The tour hits Prince Albert this Sunday, with workshops and a concert both set to take place at Cavalry United Church.

Klusmeier has been performing church music since he was 12 years old, and his professional career took off in the early 1970s with recordings and published work. Since then he has composed more than 750 hymns and songs, many of which have been published in hymn books around the world in many different denominations.

Despite his work with the United Church, Klusmeier has long had an ecumenical viewpoint. His desire to transcend Christian denominations was a significant factor in his decision to work with the Foodgrains Bank — which all Canadian churches belong to — as his charity of choice.

The Foodgrains Bank financed a special trip to Africa for Klusmeier earlier this year to get a closer look at their overseas initiatives.

“They sent me to Ethiopia in June so I could view some of their projects firsthand, and meet a lot of the aid recipients firsthand,” he said. “I was there for a good part of June, and just travelling a lot in the rural areas. We were only in a city on the first and last days. The rest of the time was spent high in the mountains and all over Ethiopia, really.

“As clichéd as it sounds, it was a life-changer. It gave me a whole new insight as to what poverty is all about. So I came away from there more committed than ever to help raise funds and awareness for this organization.”

The Tour of a Lifetime takes Klusmeier to many rural communities, who constitute a significant base of support for the charity. Twenty-five per cent of ticket sales go directly to the Foodgrains Bank for general use.

I really do have a passion for social justice. Ron Klusmeier

“It’s going to be a large sum, so he wanted to make sure it was available to use where it was most needed,” Canadian Foodgrains Bank communications co-ordinator Emily Cain said. “One of the big areas that we’re working in right now is in the Sahel area of west Africa. There’s been a big drought there over the last year, and about 18 million people are in need of food … Ron wanted to make sure that the money would be able to be used where it was most needed, so he didn’t want to get too specific saying where that would go.”

Tour attendees will also have the opportunity to write postcards to Ottawa imploring the government to allocate more tax dollars to hunger relief. The Foodgrains Bank is the only non-governmental organization in Canada that has a partnership with the federal government.

“That was another big thing for me, because the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, puts in $25 million a year in matching funds for whatever the Foodgrains Bank is able to raise,” Klusmeier said. “That’s a tremendous statement because normally the government doesn’t get involved in any church projects, but it’s because all of the denominations are all working together that they do that.”

Klusmeier’s Prince Albert concert starts at 7:30 p.m., but the tour also offers a choice of two concurrent workshops at the venue from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. One is taught by Klusmeier on the subject of music in religious services, and the other is led by his wife Christina Bogucki, who discusses technology and worship.

The music workshop is free, while the technology workshop costs $30. Interested parties can register for the workshops on Klusmeier’s website at www.musiklus.com.

Organizations: Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Prince Albert, Cavalry United Church Canadian International Development Agency

Geographic location: Africa, Ethiopia, Sahel Ottawa Canada

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