STEUBENVILLE - Juanita Slappy was struggling with laryngitis, so Juliette Hamilton joined her in singing the solo part of "How Excellent is Thy Name."
But in spite of the laryngitis, the members of the Martin Luther King Memorial Mass Choir joined their voices in unison recently to fill the sanctuary of the Quinn A.M.E. Church with song as they prepared to remember Martin Luther King Jr. on his birthday.
"Sopranos, I need you up front. Altos in the second row and we will have the tenors in the next row," instructed Delores Wiggins, the veteran director of the choir that has traditionally performed during the Martin Luther King weekend celebration.
"I am calling our concert a Mountaintop Experience this year to reflect what Dr. King preached about when he said he had been to the mountaintop," Wiggins told the choir during a recent rehearsal.
"This choir has been performing together for 33 years. I thought we would do something a little different this year, and I have invited Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison to be our guest soloist for this coming weekend. She will also join Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham in a duet performance of, "It Is Well." And we will have a solo performance by Charlene Dawkins, and our choir will be joined by the Greater Zion Temple Church Choir, Quinn Memorial A.M.E. Senior Choir and the Youth Instrumental Ensemble," explained Wiggins.
"I am excited by plans for this coming weekend. Knowing Dr. King preached for justice for each individual, black or white he will be remembered always. People may not always care for each other but we must learn to respect each other," continued Wiggins.
"We cannot relax in America and believe there is equal justice in America. The struggle for justice is continuing. That struggle will not be over until our Savior comes back. We cannot sit on our couches and do nothing. We must remember the message Dr. King fought for and continue his fight for equal justice. And we must stop corrupt politics in our county," stated Wiggins.
"We will be singing several Negro spirituals along with gospel songs, hymns. Those are the songs of hope and sadness," noted Wiggins.
"I feel so much joy in my heart that God has blessed me so when I sing these songs. It is the message of the words of the songs, not the beat of the music. The message is in the words," Wiggins said.
"I truly believe Rev. King was chosen for a time and season," she added.
James Baber, chairman of the Martin Luther King Committee, said the MLK weekend will start at 9 a.m. Saturday with a children's program at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.
"We will continue at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ with the Mountaintop Experience featuring the Martin Luther King Choir as well as several area church choirs. Then at 6 p.m. on Sunday we will hold our annual Ecumenical service at the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ and will hear music again from the Martin Luther King Memorial Mass Choir and from Dr. Walter Arrington of the People Baptist Church of Canton," Baber said.
"We will continue our celebration of the life of Dr. King at 9 a.m. Monday at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center with music and reflections. And at 9:30 a.m. we will march to Steubenville High School where we will meet in the commons area," added Baber.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)