By C.V. Moore
After a year’s hiatus, a renowned gospel choir makes its way back to Montgomery Sunday to participate in a long concert tradition, albeit at a new location.
For approximately 14 years, the Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus, based in Charleston, has provided a popular black history program at a local church in Montgomery. This year, they perform at the Tech Center Ballroom at WVU Tech.
“We’re so grateful that we’re able to come back to Montgomery and be a part of the lives of those Fayette Countians. We just love them,” says W.I. “Bill” Hairston, the secretary of the choir.
The free concert in honor of Black History Month, begins at 3 p.m. and is open to the entire Tech campus and the greater Montgomery community.
“The MLK Chorus just recently sang at the West Virginia governor’s inauguration. We’re looking forward to bringing such a positive group to our campus community,” said Angelia Russell, WVU Tech associate professor of management.
The choir is made up of men from 19 different churches, from Hurricane to Oak Hill. Several members live in the Montgomery area.
“Our choir is the draw because we’re the ones who have been coming to that community every year, but Tech saw it as an opportunity to get students, faculty and the community that surrounds the campus involved,” says Hairston.
In the past, the audience has drawn from Montgomery and surrounding communities like Hansford, Deep Water and Page.
Hairston says that the choir has seen many of the same faces year after year.
“Because we’ve been coming so long and because we’re so connected to the Montgomery area — there must be at least six or seven of us who live in that area — we’ve gotten to a point where we even miss people who were there at one point in time and who are no longer with us,” he says.
Attendees can expect to hear both traditional and contemporary gospel music performed with the men’s choir.
Hairston says the men are “a spontaneous group.” They rehearse songs but they never know what they’re going to perform until they are up there on stage with the crowd before them.
“Our director then chooses a song based on our audience and their reaction. It keeps it fresh for them and us also. We get all excited when we find out what the next song is,” he says.
The Martin Luther King Jr., Male Chorus is 16 years old and has been a part of many important moments in West Virginia history.
They sang in front of President Barack Obama at the memorial service for 29 miners killed at Upper Big Branch mine. They participated in Sen. Robert C. Byrd’s memorial service. And they performed at Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s recent inauguration.
They’ve also lent their voices to high schools, prisons, senior centers, hospitals, reunions and other gatherings. They support a variety of philanthropies through their singing as well.
“We’ve been in 25 of 55 counties in West Virginia over the past three years or so, and we continue to expand our ministry far beyond the Kanawha Valley,” says Hairston.
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