'Lift every voice and sing...'

Most museums communicate history through the eyes for its visitors.

For the guests to the Barnwell County Museum Feb. 22, the program was one for the ears primarily.

The Barnwell County Museum held a musical tribute in observance of Black History Month with several local choirs and musicians performing to a crowd of about 55 people at the Effie Fuller Center.

The Effie Fuller Center is the home of the museum until the Fuller House next door is completed.

In opening remarks before the music started, Barnwell County Councilman Thomas Williams said he had to explain to someone recently the importance of having a black history month.

"There is so much black history that's missing. We didn't get black history when I was in school. We need to continue our heritage and we don't want it to be forgotten," he said.

Williams said he was pleased at another Black History Month event to see a large number of young people there and interested in black history.

After an invocation prayer by the Rev. Eddie Lee Jenkins, the crowd heard an audible appetizer from William Smith who played three selections on the piano, including "There Is A Balm in Gilead," an African-American spiritual based up the Bible verse from Jeremiah 46:11, "Go up to Gilead and take balm."

Other African-American spirituals and hymns were sung with spirit and praise by the Anointed Voices choir of the Union United Methodist Church of Kline and the Blackville Community Choir.

The praise dance team for Rosemary Baptist Church, Barnwell, acted out the emotions of one hymn with physical gestures and sweeping flags.

Dr. Yvette McDaniel of Orangeburg gave the old spiritual "Fix Me Jesus" a different perspective with her operatic voice.

"The African-American spiritual is one of the first indigenous art forms in America," McDaniel said.

Charles Kearse and Abraham Sexton sang a selection of songs. By the time they reached the end of the hymn "In My Room," much of the crowd was singing with them.

Williston saxophonist James "Bo" Gardner injected some jazz into the proceedings by playing "When the Saints Go Marching In," while encouraging the crowd to provide the voice for the lyrics. He also performed his own version of the Louis Armstrong signature song "What a Wonderful World."

The Blackville Community Choir closed the event with an intricate, harmonizing rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

"You don't need a piano," said museum board member Jennings Owens of the vocalists. "People think you need the finest pipe organ - but that's not necessarily so."