The Greenwood Area Martin Luther King Jr. Mass Choir is nearly 40-members strong and approaching its 25th anniversary as a formally organized community choir.
However, the choir’s origins go back a bit further, according to Myron D. Hill, who has served as the choir’s co-director for the past 12 years, alongside Jade Fisher Perkins.
“The choir started after President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law (in 1983) recognizing King’s birthday as a national holiday,” Hill said. “Powers that be in Greenwood decided we needed to have a community event in honor of MLK and that a choir should be involved.”
Later, Hill said, the choir took on organizing community King observances.
The non-auditioned choir, Hill said, is open to all and performs at various community events. You can hear them at 4 p.m. Sunday at Macedonia Baptist Church in Greenwood as part of an observance in honor of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
A former director of the choir, Reginald Morton, is guest preacher and local dignitaries and youth are also involved.
“I’d like to see the ‘beloved community’ that Dr. King talked about become a reality, where everyone is at the table, no matter who they are,” Hill said. “We are different, but at the same time, we are all human beings, all created by God and we all have red blood.
“Our youngest choir member just graduated from Emerald High School on Tuesday and her great-grandmother is a longtime member of our choir. Our eldest member is in her 90s,” Hill said. “Just come to rehearsal, say you want to join and we will welcome you with open arms...Just a love for singing is why people join and we have a lot of fun.”
Mary A. Kinard is in the choir with her 18-year-old great-granddaughter, Janajhia Turner.
“I love to have her here with me,” Kinard said, noting she has been a member of the choir and served as its secretary since 1992. “My great-granddaughter is an alto and I’m a soprano.”
Turner said her great-grandmother invited her to one of the choir’s concerts and at its conclusion, Turner decided to join.
“Besides for good singing, it’s an opportunity for me to do something I love, and spend time with my great-grandmother,” Turner said.
The choir performs a mix of choral music, including tradition church anthems, spirituals, gospel and contemporary works, Hill said.
The choir also sponsors a scholarship.
Hill said the choir typically rehearses the second Monday of the month at Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Greenwood on East Cambridge Avenue Extension, working January through May.
“My mother organizes the Martin Luther King Jr. observances in my hometown and I took the choir there to perform two years ago,” Hill said...We typically perform for community events.”
Hill, 46, is a native of Shulerville in Berkeley County. He lives in Troy and is the pastor of Cypress Chapel AME Church in Abbeville. Hill also works as an instructional assistant at Emerald High School in Greenwood School District 50.
Hill has a bachelor’s degree in history from South Carolina State University and a master of divinity from Turner Theological Seminary. He has been playing music since age 6 and is one of the international officers for the music ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
The Greenwood Area Martin Luther King Jr. Mass Choir is marking its 25th anniversary May 21 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Coronaca, with special guests from the music ministry of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Then, the Greenwood choir travels to Charleston in October.
For information, contact Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.