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Groups offer melodic praise at Hagerstown gospel sing

July 12, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN -- The Morning Star Singers had arrived.

Miss Piggy, as the group's tour bus is known, rested amply among the trees near the arts pavilion at Doubs Woods Park.

A crowd of people, mostly 60-something and older, relaxed in lawn chairs cooling themselves with handheld fans.

And Don Sneckenberger, Carolyn Everitts and Ann Cunningham, the Washington County-based trio that is the Morning Star Singers, stood at ease on the stage, swaying from time to time as they blended smooth harmonies that sent them off the stage and into the audience of loyal listeners.

But it is not just the music that makes the Morning Star Singers who they are, fans will tell you. It is the message.

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"It's the gospel music. I really do love gospel music," said Ragan Shaw, who went to the event with his wife, Ecile. "This (gospel sing) is great. I wish they had more of them. I can't praise the Lord enough."

The Morning Star Singers used to perform more frequently. Group member Carolyn Everitts, 75, of Big Pool, said the trio got together in 1985 and performed nearly every weekend along the East Coast, into the Midwest and sometimes beyond.

But three years ago, Everitts' husband had a decline in health that required her full-time attention.

"(The Morning Star Singers) retired, but we come back together for a couple of things each year," Everitts said.

The Summer Sing, now in its 23rd year, is one of those events. Five other acts took turns performing Saturday afternoon.

Keni Ann Watkins of Frostburg, Md., considers herself a fan of the Morning Star Singers, who have appeared on "Gospel Music Southern Style." One day, while she was dining out in Clear Spring, Watkins spotted Everitts.

"I went up to (Everitts) and said, 'I know you. I see you on TV,'" Watkins said. "They were like old friends before I ever met them."

Watkins attended the gospel sing Saturday, greeting Everitts after a set and thanking her for performing one of her favorite songs, "Just a Rose."

Everitts said she attributes the group's strong following to the inspirational nature of the music.

"We try to do happy songs," she said. "People are so down today. We try to do things that are uplifting. Everything changes, but our God doesn't change. So we look to God and we try to minister to people."

Perhaps the group's playful flair also contributes to its appeal. Group member Don Sneckenberger of Sharpsburg spoke of the Miss Piggy tour bus.

"I think it looks like a pig. All you gotta do is put on a corkscrew tail," he said. "She oinks her way up the hills."

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