World renowned opera singer Simon Estes performed alongside a 1200-member choir comprised of students from across Iowa and the Des Moines Symphony Youth Orchestra at Hilton Coliseum in Ames for his Iowa Students Care Christmas concert on December 15.
Iowa Students Care is a program of the Simon Estes Foundation that involves Iowa students to help in the fight against malaria in Africa. Proceeds from the December 15 concert will go to buy nets for children in Africa through the Nothing But Nets program. The foundation’s goal is to raise enough money to buy five million nets by June.
Bishop Julius Trimble was among the thousands in attendance for the concert aimed at raising awareness and funds, offering a greeting and prayer at the event.
“The concert was phenomenal because one of my passions is eradicating Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa,” Bishop Trimble said. “And we believe if we can do it there, we can eradicate it in the whole world.”
“We’re doing that through Imagine No Malaria,” said Bishop Trimble. “Which began for us with the Nothing But Nets campaign.”
Estes was first acquainted with Malaria in Africa in 2010 when he was a singer for the World Cup Grand Finale Concert in South Africa. The program for the event was about the malaria crisis in sub-Saharan Africa.
The world-famous opera star was shocked by the situation, which results in the loss of roughly one million children each year. This stayed with Estes, and in July 2013 he announced his goal of presenting the concert with high school students from each of Iowa’s 99 counties.
“Simon Estes has embraced his own efforts through the Simon Estes Foundation and the Nothing But Nets partnership with the United Nations Foundation,” said Bishop Trimble. “In a relatively short period of time he’s raised a significant amount of money and gotten people, all across the state of Iowa in particular, engaged in something we’ve been doing through the United Methodist Church.”
Estes had partnered in the past with the Lutheran Church in Iowa for his campaign to fight Malaria.
“And now with the United Methodist Church as well,” said Bishop Trimble said. “So we consider ourselves to be partners in the efforts. “And as far as I’m concerned as the bishop of the Iowa Annual Conference, I’m not really particularly concerned about who gets the credit as long as lives are being saved, in particular the lives of children.”
“It was a phenomenal concert from a musical standpoint,” Bishop Trimble said. “I began the afternoon by saying this is a unique and unrepeatable moment in time.”
Bishop Trimble said United Methodists have heard this from him before.
“But it’s really true,” he said. “That experience, if you were there or even if you heard bits and pieces of it, I can say was just a once in a lifetime experience.”
“I’m a big fan of youth and young people anyway,” said Bishop Trimble. “But it was very much an intergenerational experience.”
Between one group from the Village Methodist retirement facility in Indianola, numerous active and retired Methodist clergy in the audience, and some Methodist laity volunteering for the event, Bishop Trimble said the United Methodist church was well-represented with all ages.
“And so we were very much part of that event,” he said. “My hat’s off to Simon Estes who had a vision for a big event.”
Imagine No Malaria Iowa had a booth at the Christmas concert. Rev. Katie Dawson, director for Imagine No Malaria Iowa, used the opportunity to present information to concert-goers.
“What an amazing opportunity to share with thousands of people about the importance of defeating malaria,” she said. “The platform the event gave to not only our own Bishop Trimble, but also Nothing But Nets, and the testimony of folks who are tirelessly working on this effort was wonderful.”
It was a night that celebrated faith, music, and what we can all do together, said Rev. Dawson.
“Imagine No Malaria was able to have a large presence on the mezzanine and shared information about our work with so many people who might have come simply for some Christmas Carols,” she said.
Bishop Trimble recounted seeing a young member of the 1200-member youth choir approach Simon Estes in tears after the concert and hand him a ten-dollar bill saying, “This is for saving lives.”
“We’ve seen that happen here in the Iowa Annual Conference,” said Bishop Trimble. “And whenever I see, whenever I know that children are moved, I have hope in the future.”
Rev. Dawson was part of the steering committee for the concert, and both she and Bishop Trimble met with Simon Estes in the weeks leading up to the concert.
“He’s called several times to encourage our efforts with Imagine No Malaria,” Bishop Trimble said. “A lot of information actually was distributed at the concert by Katie Dawson at the booth that she had, so people got information about it.”
While raising awareness for malaria meant it was not just a musical event, Bishop Trimble said it was a Christmas concert in every sense of the word.
“Choral music, orchestra music, solos by Simon Estes, and we sang, the whole crowd, can you imagine a 5000-member choir singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing? To be included in that?” he said. “People left, I know, feeling this was probably one of the best days of their lives, certainly ending out the year on a positive note.”
“When you think about it, we got some very helpful information out about the efforts that are being put forth to bring solution to the issue,” said Bishop Trimble.
“It was very hope-filled day,” he said.