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United in song

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Mass choir concert brings local churches together

By Greg Summers

At 6 p.m. Sunday, Pat McManus will join more than 100 of her brothers and sisters in Christ to raise her voice in song during the annual Moriah Association Mass Choir Concert at Second Baptist Church.

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“We aren’t professional singers, but when we blend our voices together, it’s always beautiful,” said McManus, who has been a choir member at White Springs Baptist Church since 1959. “The chance to sing in front of that many people is just an awesome experience.”

The annual concert unites choir members and musicians from area churches for a night of worship, said Tim Dippel, music director for the Moriah Baptist Association.  Dippel said many singers from smaller congregations don’t have the chance to perform in front of a large crowd.

Accompanied by a 15-piece orchestra, the mass choir will be led by Mark Powers, the director of music and worship for the S.C. Baptist Convention. The men, women and orchestra have been practicing at separate locations once a week for a month to prepare for the concert.

They will come together for a combined rehearsal on Saturday morning.

“I’m really looking forward to this,” Powers said. “I had a great time being with them two years ago to do this and I’m excited to be coming back.

“We’re singing some real good Southern gospel and contemporary Christian music,” Powers said.

The mass choir will sing 12 songs from Dove Award-winning arranger Russell Mauldin’s “Ready to Sing: Southern Gospel, Volume 5.”

It contains songs like “Getting Ready to Leave This World,” “Who Am I?” and the patriotic “We Want America Back.”

There is also a distinct local flavor to the music.

One of the songs in the collection – “Fourth Man,” – was written by Arthur Smith.

Smith, 88, now lives in Charlotte, but calls Kershaw home.

A prolific songwriter and guitarist, Smith composed more than 500 songs.

While million-selling songs by Smith like “Feudin’ Banjos” were featured in the film Deliverance and others were covered by Randy Travis and Willie Nelson, Smith composed more than 100 inspirational songs.  “Fourth Man” was recorded by the late Johnny Cash, The Statler Brothers and the Statesmen Quartet.

“Out of all the songs, it’s my favorite,” McManus said. “It has beautiful words.”

Dippel said he is trying to reach Smith’s family to see if he can attend Sunday’s concert.

“We’d love to have him down here if he can come,” Dippel said. “We figured it was worth a try. Besides, you never know until you ask.”

Dippel said last year’s mass choir concert drew a crowd estimated at almost 1,000 worshipers and another packed house is expected Sunday.

Second Baptist is used because it has the largest sanctuary in the county.

“This is just a great time to come out to enjoy good music and worship with all of your neighbors,” Powers said. “The Moriah (Baptist) Association does a good job with this and I just enjoy being there with them.”  

Want to go?

WHAT: The annual Moriah Baptist Association Mass Choir Concert with guest conductor Mark Powers

WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Second Baptist Church, 1426 Great Falls Highway

HOW MUCH: Free, a love offering will be received.

INFORMATION: Call Tim Dippel at 283-3616.