Soul of the Lowcountry doesn't skip a beat with the B.J. Scott Choir

dlauderdle@islandpacket.comJuly 2, 2013 

The B.J. Scott Choir performs at a Christmas-season event on the Village Green at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton in 2006.

FILE PHOTO

Emily Stewart of Big Estate remembers the church music of her childhood, with the Gullah accent so thick she couldn't understand the words.

In those days, worshipers would get up and sing a song before talking about what was on their minds.

"There was this rhythm that came about, resulting from the tapping of feet on wooden floors," she said.

And quickly the music would pull listeners like a train into a peaceful, joyous place of tranquility and love.

As an adult, Stewart has a greater appreciation for that experience from the 1960s at the Huspah Baptist Church in Gardens Corner.

A member of the church's B.J. Scott Choir, she now feels the sway that music has on the Gullah church.

"It could be a dying art form," Stewart said. "We are trying to keep that alive."

The B.J. Scott Choir will hold its 23rd annual free community concert at the church this Sunday. It's always held on the first Sunday in July, starting at 6 p.m., but you need to get there an hour early to get a seat.

The traditional concert was the idea of former lead musician Cathy Morgan. With family gatherings around the Fourth of July, and relatives coming home from up North, Morgan saw it as a way for them to get a strong dose of the choir's message.

Members range in age from 20s to 80s, all rooted in the Lowcountry heritage of church music, hearkening back to the riverside spirituals of slavery days.

"We believe that our voices, our music has been anointed by God," Stewart said. "It is a ministry unto itself."

The choir is named for her uncle, the Rev. Benjamin Jerome Scott of Lobeco, who was pastor of the church for 35 years. He lived long enough to appreciate the annual concert.

The choir's baby blue robes were captured on canvas by the church's most famous member, artist Jonathan Green. Green and Stewart grew up together in the church, and Green travels from his home in Charleston now to serve on the Usher Board. His mother is associate pastor.

The B.J. Scott Choir sang at the dedications of the new Gardens Corner highway intersection and the Harriet Tubman Bridge nearby on U.S. 17. For many years, it performed during the Parish Church of St. Helena's Spring Tour of Homes.

It's asked to perform at a lot of weddings. Many are at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, where it sang at the wedding of Earvin "Magic" Johnson's son, Andre Johnson. It has sung at the McKissick Museum in Columbia and for appearances by Tony Evans and Juanita Bynam.

Choir president Brenda Myers, who manages to sing after two crushing automobile accidents, points to the words of an old gospel song: "To God be the glory, for he has done great things."

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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