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Focused on Mississippi: Jim Hill Choir provides movie soundtrack

Local News

We start our week with Walt Grayson as we do every Monday here at WJTV-12. Walt has a story that, as it turns out, is actually a continuing story.

Ten years ago the choir at Jim Hill High School here in Jackson won first place honors at the prestigious Toronto Music Festival. After the excitement died down, they thought that was the end of it. But another chapter is being written. Walt tells us what’s going on.

I chatted with my buddy James Hawkins recently about some news HE had just gotten from the days James was the director of the Jim Hill High School Choir. Back then they performed in Carnegie Hall and made several appearances in Europe. But the most attention came when they won first place internationally in 2009 in Toronto. And attracted the attention of a filmmaker who fell in love with their sound. She was working on a documentary about enslaved people crossing the Niagara River to freedom in Canada “Risking Everything” it was titled.

“They sent the songs they wanted done, we filmed them here in Jackson and they edited and put them into the documentary.

And then, nothing. Not a word. For years.

“Maybe they can’t find the money to finish and then like, this month she called me first part of the month and said, “You know, we’re fixing to the world premiere in Buffalo, New York.”

So now suddenly, everything’s back on again. Except I really don’t know what “everything” is. I think a lot of that is still being worked out.

“And she’s going to Canada now and on May the 9th is my understanding she’s going to come to Jackson.”

And it is MY understanding they are still looking for a venue in which to show the documentary when they come to Jackson. So if you happen to have a free sizable auditorium with a nice video projector and you’d like to it to them, I’m sure Mr. Hawkins would love to hear from you.

Soloist in that first song in the documentary, Robria Daniels, was, needless to say, ecstatic that her talent was about to be showcased. But then came the thought….

“Oh my goodness! What was I looking like then? Such an age gap. But Once I saw it I was in complete awe.”

“I thought we were going to be one song at the end.”

Nope. The 2009 Jim Hill Choir from lil’l ole Jackson Mis’sippi IS the soundtrack, background, and foreground, all the way through. James Hawkins touched a lot of lives at Jim Hill. And his touch is still being felt and passed on.

Former choir members have formed the James Hawkins Choral in honor of their former teacher. They get together every Sunday afternoon to practice and perform.

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