Miss. Mass Choir celebrating 20 years

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The 165-member Mississippi Mass Choir is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2008 with a tour that will bring it in or near the hometowns of its members.

In 1996, the Mississippi Mass Choir was the first gospel choir to perform at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. A year later, the choir performed for Pope John Paul II in Italy.

On Feb. 23, Barbara Jones, who has been with the choir for 18 years, brought the choir to New Stinson Community Church in Rossville, Tenn., for a concert.

“This choir has been my heart and it has truly been a blessing,” said Jones, 65.

This past weekend, the choir performed at New Life Church in Renova, Miss.

“This has been a ‘thank you’ tour to the community for all their support over the years,” said Valerie Blue, the assistant business manager for the choir and also a member of the group. “It has been wonderful for us to work and witness for the Lord.”

The Jackson, Miss.-based choir was founded in 1988 by Frank D. Williams, a member of famed gospel group, the Jackson Southernaires.

Williams died in 1993. Jerry Mannery is the executive director today.

Jones, the mother of five children and seven grandchildren, said she loves the fact that the choir’s traditional gospel sound has not changed over the years.

The choir doesn’t have regular rehearsals.

“We all know the songs, because most of us have been members for years,” Jones said.

She said if needed, they will have occasional choir meetings in Jackson.

Since the group started, the choir has recorded eight albums that have topped the Billboard Gospel charts over the years and garnered the choir Stellar Awards and many other honors.

Jones said she has sung on every album except the first one.

“I have every intention of being with the choir until the Lord says it is all over,” she said. “I love performing.”