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Gospel a New Year's Eve tradition at Heritage

December 31, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Harmonies from a gospel bluegrass band echoed through a hall Wednesday night at Heritage Academy and spectators occasionally kept the beat with claps as a New Year's Eve tradition at the school entered its 29th year.

New Year's Eve may mean imbibing for some people, but the annual free concert is designed to provide "another kind of party" for the community, said Ann Cunningham, who helped organize the show.

About 150 people attended the show to hear gospel tunes sprinkled with commentary from performers about the power of God.

A man named Shields Secrest started the concert in 1979, and after he passed away not too many years ago, the New Year's Eve show was renamed in his honor, said Cunningham, a member of the Hagerstown-based Morning Star Singers who performed during the Secrest Memorial Sing.

Among those attending the show was Warren Hendershot of Cearfoss.

If it's gospel, it's music to Hendershot's ears.

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"That's what I prefer," Hendershot said. "Especially the bluegrass type."

The four-man bluegrass band Gospel Strings from Beavertown, Pa., delivered for Hendershot and others, performing numbers such as "Give Me That Old Time Religion."

Two other bands performing were Driven for Him and The Masters.

When Driven For Him was performing, singer Linda Altizer talked about when she was in India recently. Terrorists were there, but Altizer said she was not ashamed talking about God.

She made it out safe.

"God was with me," Altizer said.

Cunningham said she remembered when her band kept up a busy pace staying on the road and doing shows. She often took her children, too.

Cunningham said the Morning Star Singers stopped touring in 2005 due in part to members getting older.

Cunningham also remembered how the New Year's Eve shows at Heritage Academy used to be quite involved.

"We used to go way after midnight," Cunningham said.

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