Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

Pulling back the heavy church doors at St. Aloysius on a Monday night might cause a flood — one where music pours all over the Leonardtown square.

It’s the place where the Southern Maryland Community Gospel Choir rehearses each week, bringing together the young and old, black and white, Catholic and Protestant, hand-clapping, foot-stomping swayers and those who’d rather sit calmly in their pew. One thing they have in common is a desire to forget their differences and spread the Gospel through music.

The group is scheduled to perform Sunday at 3:30 p.m., at the St. Mary’s County Fair. The annual fair itself is an event that once was segregated, but now welcomes the entire community. And that concept of inclusion is manifest through the gospel choir.

“This is a community choir, for everybody to sing and be a part of,” said Pat McEntee, a soprano from Piney Point who has recruited her share of members for the group. Before joining about five years ago, she admits, “I didn’t even know what gospel was.” Now, she’s performing around town, sometimes in several events a week. In recent days, the group performed at St. Mary’s Ryken High School and the Loffler Senior Center.

“It was just so uplifting,” said Pennie LaBarge, who was eating lunch at the senior center after the group performed. “What a way to start a meal.” It’s the kind of music that “makes your day,” she said, with “just that little extra prayer and a little extra praise.”

Joe Taylor, a burly bass from Loveville, said that’s the way he wants it to be. After being diagnosed with stage four cancer and surviving, “I’m a miracle walking,” he said. The choir gives him an opportunity to encourage people, of any faith or any background, whenever he can.

“When they hear that word ‘cancer,’ they don’t need to run,” Taylor said, after the senior center performance. “All they need is a little faith.”

Demonstrating a belief in God is what makes it all worthwhile for Dionne Saul. “When I hear the words of the music, in many cases, I can relate that to the Bible,” she said. “It’s what Jesus has been teaching us all along.”

“It’s very basic faith. Nothing fancy,” said choir member Ann Raley. Happy or sad, she plays the music on her iPad and teaches it to her grandchildren. She hopes it will become part of their lives, and for more people in Southern Maryland.

“The Community Gospel Choir works because it’s not attached to a church,” Raley said. Their goal is to get choir members from other churches to also sing with the community group, she said. “Then we could go anywhere and sing.” And, they’re looking for more members.

Led by Robert Jefferson, known for his teaching on music theory, the choir sings old spirituals that slaves sang in the fields. Some of the melodies are peppy and upbeat, others heavy as a dirge but with an undeniable air of hope. And, they also belt out modern songs, with tenors and altos, basses and sopranos tossing their voices into the air to meet, harmonize and send a message.

“From young to old, all races and different denominations, we’re here to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, to all who have ears and will hear,” said Winston “Kim” Crow, a bass who drives from Waldorf to sing with the choir. “I think it’s a ministry and outreach.”

To learn more

For information, or to join the Southern Maryland Community Gospel Choir, call Ann Raley at 301-994-2688.