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Lancaster Mass Choir reunites for June 28 concert

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By Denyse Clark

What a hallelujah good time it will be when the Lancaster Youth Mass Choir gets together for a one-day gospel concert 6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church, 317 E. Barr St. 

This long-awaited event will reunite singers of the one-time, 150-member choir from the 1990s, said former director James L. Kirk. 

“It’s real exciting that I get to see them again,” he said. “So many of them have done so well.”  

The Lancaster Youth Mass Choir was formed in 1991 as an outgrowth of the Lancaster High School Drama Club. 

LHS English teacher Mildred Robinson wanted to get more students to participate in the drama club so she contacted Kirk, a fellow church member at First Washington Baptist Church, to assist her.

“Of course you know in Lancaster there’s not too many places to go,” Kirk said. “So, this was about like-minded people in Lancaster who wanted somewhere to go and something to do.”

The drama club teens, under the direction of Kirk, put on a production that was a great success. This led to them being organized to do more in the community. 

Soon, Robinson, youth director at First Washington, some teens of the LHS drama club, who were also members of First Washington, and Kirk, began a collaborative effort to form a youth choir. 

This choir not only sang at local church services but traveled widely to render song services in both carolinas, Georgia, Virginia and Washington, D.C. 

Ultimately, the Lancaster Youth Mass Choir was the saving grace for local teenagers who needed something positive in their lives to give them a sense of direction, Kirk said. 

“Where some of them thought they had no way out, they saw they did. They loved it,” Kirk said about the choir. “Before we sang a song, we looked for scripture to know what we were singing about.”

Kirk said he is encouraged today to know the community choir spurred many youth to attend colleges, enlist in the military and get good jobs. He also expressed what the reunion concert means to him.

“It means the young people formed a strong bond with each other and it shows me that it helped the kids” he said. “It went way beyond my expectations and I’m looking forward to seeing them all.”

The Rev. Demarcus Thompson, director of the 2014 LYMC reunion concert, said he was “just a baby” when the choir formed some 23 years ago.

“When I joined the choir in 1998, I was just a regular member in the tenor section and later, I went on to become assistant director,” he said. “I’m excited to see us come back together from our foundation of beginning as a youth mass choir up to now.”

Thompson said he expects about 50 to 75 former mass choir members, including Kirk, to reunite for the concert but he wants to spread the word that all are welcome. 

“It’s just a fellowship,” he said. “It was more than a choir, it was family.”

Thompson said this is also an opportunity for choir members to thank Kirk for everything he’s done for them. To better show that appreciation, the choir will be singing all of its old songs. 

“We want to let him know, 'we do appreciate everything you instilled in us and what was accomplished on the mass choir.'” Thompson said.

The reunion choir rehearsal is 7 p.m. Friday, June 27 and 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 28. For details, call Thompson at (803) 235-1634.

 

Contact reporter Denyse Clark at (803) 283-1152