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New Birth Jail Choir
gaining popularity

By Staff
PHOTO BY PAULA MERRITT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
CHOIR PRACTICE Wayne Polk, a minister at First Baptist Church who volunteers with the Good News Jail &Prison Ministry, directs members of the New Birth Choir during a recent practice session. Members include, front row from left, Frederick Brassfield, Charles Price, Charles Smith, Michael Mitchell, Royce Dearing and Marcus Blakeney. In the second row are Leon Mason, Alfred Stewart, Cliff Nichols, David Dorman and Ken Rainey. Not pictured is Marcus Walker.
By Ida Brown / religion editor
Aug. 30, 2003
It's not unusual to hear Cliff Nichols singing as he performs his duties as a trusty at the Lauderdale County jail.
While singing as he works helps pass the time, his melodious renderings also help prepare him for choir rehearsals. Nichols, along with 11 other county trusties, is a member of the New Birth choir.
An extension of the Good News Jail &Prison Ministry, the group is an all-male chorus of trusties who perform at area churches and events. Just six weeks after their first performance, the choir is already in demand.
Getting started
While no one person is recognized for the idea, Marks credits Maj. Doris Callahan, jail administrator, with planting the seed for forming the choir.
Marks suggested the idea to Wayne Polk, a minister of outreach and ministry at First Baptist Church who volunteers with the jail and prison ministry. A former minister of music, Polk was enthusiastic about the possibility.
Not just about singing
While the choir provides prisoners the opportunity to perform outside the jail, it's not a "get out of camp" provision, said Marcus Blakney, choir member.
The choir performs a variety of religious music and arrangements, including a cappella; members sing to prerecorded music. Polk rehearses with the group every other week, and members rehearse on their own three times a week.
Marks said the choir also has benefited the jail and prison ministry, and can be an asset to the community.
Members of the New Birth Jail Choir are Marcus Blakney, Fred Brassfield, Royce Dearing, David Dorman, Leon Mason, Michael Mitchell, Cliff Nichols, Charles Price, Ken Rainey, Charles Smith, Alfred Steward and Marcus Walker.
For more information about New Birth Jail Choir, contact Chaplain Dennis Marks at the Good News Jail &Prison Ministry of the Lauderdale County jail at 485-7708.

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