PIKEVILLE, Ky. (KT) – When Christian singer Jason “Bubba” Stewart was tasked with assembling a mass choir for the “Hope for the Mountains” crusade in Pikeville next month, he had no idea how easy it would be.
Kentucky’s Appalachian region is chock full of singers, and, as soon as he sounded the casting call for choir members, vocalists began stepping forward. As of this week, 500 people have signed on to be in the choir.
And they’re still coming.
Stewart, who serves as worship consultant to the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said at this point he expects the choir to have 600 to 700 members, but that he’s prepared to rearrange the stage to accommodate up 1,200 if necessary.
“We put it out there that we wanted a mass choir, and before we really were able to spread the word, 300 people had responded,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be a ‘y’all come’ choir. We actually haven’t rehearsed together. Our first and only rehearsal will be at 4 o’clock on the day of the crusade.”
Todd Gray, who leads the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s evangelism team, said he expects thousands of people to come to the crusade, which is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 11 at the East Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville.
Evangelist Jon Reed, based in Georgia, is the crusade preacher. The Jason Lovins Band will sing, and Amy Compston, an Ashland resident who leads a mission organization called Amy for Africa, will share her testimony.
Stewart said one of the highlights of the night will be the mass choir singing a medley of theme songs for each branch of the U.S. military in honor of veterans attending the crusade. They’ll also sing Christian standards like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Victory in Jesus.”
“I’m just amazed at the buy-in from musicians from the local churches,” Stewart said. “They all have expressed a desire to be a part of this historic event. I’m convinced that 25 years from now we’ll look back at this event and remember it well for what it has done for eastern Kentucky.”
Stewart said he also has been amazed by the quality of musical talent he’s seen in the region, which has produced a long list of famous singers, including Loretta Lynn, Wynonna and Naomi Judd, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Crystal Gayle, Chris Stapleton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dwight Yoakum and Patty Loveless.
Kentucky has capitalized on the talent, bolstering tourism by developing museums and performance halls to cater to country music fans. They've also dubbed a stretch of U.S. 23 in eastern Kentucky the “Country Music Highway,” putting up signs along the four-lane highway to honor the stars who grew up here.
Kentucky’s mountain region has a certain mystique because it has produced so many famous singers, but also because so many other great singers go about their daily lives working hard through the week in coal mines and factories and belting out gospel songs in church on Sundays.
“There’s an untapped pool of talent throughout all of eastern Kentucky,” Stewart said. “God has blessed the region with incredible musicians and singers. And we hope to have most of them on stage in this mass choir on Nov. 11.”
For additional information about joining the Hope for the Mountains choir, email Jason.Stewart@kybaptist.org.