Nearing the century mark, the Sampson County Gospel Sing has long been a way for those across the county and beyond to get together, fellowship and enjoy good music that celebrates life and the Lord.
While the lineups, format and venue have changed a bit over the years, little about the core of the free event has, organizers say. It’s always been about good music and good people.
The 98th annual Sampson County Gospel Sing is set for Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Clinton Family Worship Center, located at 103 Raiford St. in Clinton. The center will open to the public at 5 p.m. with the first group starting a half hour later. There are about seven groups that will perform for about 30 minutes apiece, with a short break in between each.
In addition to the music, there will be a memorial service and presentation of the Sampson County Music and Hall of Fame Awards, given to those people — or their families — who have helped with the sing over the years and contributed to Gospel singing in the area.
Peyton Lee, president of the Sampson County Gospel Sing Board, knows about the rich history of the sing in Sampson.
Lee spent many years in a quartet called the Four Clefs, which was active for more than half a century. He has spent just as much time singing with the choir at Shady Grove Original Freewill Baptist, which he now directs. He’s been on the Gospel Sing board since 1976.
First known as the “Fleet Sessoms Sing,” the event has been a staple of the local Gospel community dating back to when the first sing was held in the Baptist church in Clinton. After being hosted in area churches for a while, the sing moved to the Sampson County Courthouse. That eventually gave way to other locations such as Roseboro-Salemburg Middle’s auditorium, as well as the NC Justice Academy campus in both inside and outside locations.
“It started out as the Fleet Sessoms Sing and went on from there and they ultimately called it the Sampson County Gospel Sing. It is about Southern Gospel singing,” Lee said.
Each year in January a board of directors meets to work on selecting from the applicant groups that are interested in participating. There are many groups that participate, from duets to quartets and more, and the sing has been something supporters say they really look forward to each year.
This year, the sing will feature a young group of four girls called Precious Jewels, which will kick off the festivities at 5:30 p.m. In a sing that normally features adult groups, many of them quartets, Precious Jewels are a unique addition.
They will be followed by the Marksmen Quartet at 6:05 p.m.; ViewMasters Quartet at 6:40 p.m.; Masters Call Quartet at 7:15 p.m.; His Voice Quartet at 7:50 p.m.; Kingsway Quartet at 8:25 p.m.; and Dixie Travelers Quartet at 9 p.m. The event will close with a prayer at 9:35 p.m.
Last year, the sing offered T-shirts. For a long time, the event would put out a leaflet on the performers at the event. Robin Owen and others starting putting together a booklet of local advertisers who support the event — that booklet has nearly doubled in size with increased sponsorships this year.
The sing is a non-profit, and four groups of area children will again benefit from it. A donation is taken up the night of the sing, which helps offset costs and in recent years, Robin Owen and others starting putting together a booklet of local advertisers who support the event — that booklet has nearly doubled in size with increased sponsorships this year. T-shirts will also be sold for the second year.
Those sales have served to put a little extra money in the Gospel Sing fund. That has gone right back into the community.
Harrells Christian Academy, Mintz Christian Academy, the Falcon Children’s Home and the Lake Waccamaw Boys and Girls Home each received $500 donations last year. The funds were given toward the arts, specifically music programs at those schools.
A number of door prizes, including gift certificates to many local businesses and restaurants, along with gift bags and other discounts to others, will also be given out to those in attendance.
At its heart, though, the sing is about just that — lifting a voice.
“It’s about showing your love for God, praising God, singing and fellowship,” said Owen. “It’s just enjoying the music that represents the worship of God.”
The Sampson County Gospel Sing will be featured next week on WRAL’s Tar Heel Traveler leading up to the 98th edition. Lee said he cannot wait.
“We’re looking forward to having a big crowd, a good time and fellowshipping, and listening to great groups sing,” he said.
Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.