Reunion concert planned to mark King Day

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PLEASANTVILLE – An approximately 15-year-old piece of paper containing a list of names has sparked the desire to create a Mount Zion Youth Choir reunion concert.

The concert will be part of the church’s annual Martin Luther King Day memorial service to be held at noon Monday, Jan. 21. A reception will follow in the church’s Winsan Center, formerly known as the Community Life Center.

Marriotte Todd, the transportation coordinator for the city school district, was cleaning out her desk recently with the intent of tossing out all of the papers and notes she no longer needed. That’s when she came across a gem, forgotten in a sleeve in her briefcase: a yellowed sheet of paper from the late 1990s containing the names of the members of the church Youth Choir.

“It brought back so many memories,” she said.

Todd has served as MountZion’s Youth Choir Ministry director for more than 20 years and has also served as the Martin Luther King Day service director since the ceremony began in the early 1990s.

Usually, MountZion uses a combined community choir during its annual King service.

But after she pulled the list of names out of her briefcase, Todd came up with an idea and instantly knew she would have a different plan for this year’s observance.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t we have a reunion concert?’” she said. “I wondered, ‘Where are these kids now?’”

Todd organized a steering committee comprised of Sharonica Canada, Janae Thompson, Tannia Davenport, Aleta Todd-Hoskins and herself.

“We started looking at Facebook,” Todd said. “It was nice to see them all grown up with families, some with children. Some look the same as they did back then.”

Between messages, texts, emails and good old-fashioned phone calls, Todd’s reunion committee reached out to all of the names on the list.

“I hope they all come back,” she said.

The former members aren’t the only ones she hopes will come.

“We are inviting all former directors and performers,” Todd said.

The first practice was scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 2. Other practices are scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9 and 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21.

During its heyday, the Mount Zion Youth Choir had as many as 40 participants, Todd said. But interest has faded in recent years, and now there are only 22 members.

“The youth don’t attend church like they used to,” the coordinator noted.

Todd said she hopes that the reunion concert will help create an interest in a young adult choir group or increase participation in her youth group of singers.

“It would be successful if we can see how many children come back and are still rooted in the church,” Todd said. “You never know what’s going on in their lives, and you wonder if they have found their way back.”

Todd said the gift of song could call others back to the church.

“Some are afraid to come back on their own because it’s not the hip thing to do,” she said.

The church will always provide a safe haven for children who want to avoid the violence that seems to plague a modern world, she said.

For information on participating in the youth choir reunion call (609) 641-4337 or (609) 214-6815.

This year the Rev. Tokunbo Adelekan, a professor at Palmer Theological Seminary in King of   Prussia, Pa., will serve as the guest speaker at the Martin Luther King Day service, Todd said.

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