Manchester Schools Gospel Chorus Celebrates 50 Years
It was an uplifting, inspiring and entertaining evening as the Manchester Township Schools High School/Middle School Gospel Chorus celebrated 50 years of tradition at their 50th Annual Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is believed to be the longest continually running tribute in the state and among the longest in the country, started the year following Dr. King's death by chorus founder, Queen Cannon, with the support of Manchester Schools.
Performances by the Manchester Gospel Chorus and a special Alumni Chorus, accompanied by a small band of talented musicians, brought the audience on their feet, clapping and singing along to a variety of gospel selections throughout the evening. The MTHS Marching Hawks drumline joined the gospel chorus for their opening number. Master of Ceremonies, Eric Lawson, introduced the performers and speakers, including a vocal ensemble from the Restoration Family Worship Center, Former Ocean County Prosecutor Rory Wells with the invocation, chorus alumnus Cheyenne Williams with an original spoken word performance, an inspirational dance, the reading of a proclamation from Mayor Kenneth Palmer, and remarks by Superintendent of Schools David Trethaway.
Reisa Sweet, a special guest speaker who marched with Dr. King in Alabama in 1965, was impressed with the tribute. "I am so honored to be here. I never experienced anything like this. I think Martin Luther King's spirit is listening and he would be very inspired."
The highlight of the evening was a special tribute to Mrs. Cannon by the chorus advisors who carried on her legacy after she retired: Evelyn Swift, Peg Viola, Joan Slater, and Claire Rutz. Also paying tribute was former chorus member and assistant director Christina Edwards and current chorus director, Selena Bullock. They told stories of how Mrs. Cannon had convinced them to take on the job and how she had influenced their lives and presented her with a plaque in recognition of her service. Mrs. Cannon was a teacher and guidance counselor in Manchester for 35 years and currently resides in North Carolina, where she is still very active in her church and community.
"I am so rejoicing tonight. I'm so happy, I'm excited. All the people here tonight, I just love you so much," Mrs.Cannon remarked. "And also, the choir - do you know that I love those little children and I don't even know who they are...I saw a couple of my gospel chorus alumni and it was so wonderful to see them. To God be the glory! I love you so much! And I thank my family so much... and thank you all my friends for coming. I love you! And I love you! (she said while pointing around the room) and you can't do anything about that!"