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Released April 19, 2004



HATTIESBURG - The Mississippi Mass Choir has been making a joyful noise on concert stages around the world and in recordings since 1988. Its music has been a mainstay on Billboard charts, and its success has been recognized through numerous awards and accolades. Yet, the choir's mission remains the same, "serving God through song."

This talented singing ensemble of 40 voices will join the Symphony Orchestra at The University of Southern Mississippi May 1 in its musical celebration "Mississippi, The Birthplace of America's Music" in Reed Green Coliseum.

"They are the quintessential gospel organization in Mississippi," said Jay Dean, musical director for the orchestra. "In this concert, we are celebrating all types of music that has been defined by Mississippians, and there is no better example of gospel music in the world than the Mississippi Mass Choir."

The event, sponsored by BancorpSouth, was created to pay tribute to Mississippi's musical heritage. The famous choir will perform by itself, with the Southern Miss Symphony and with the 1,000-voice high school and college chorus. Other special performers include bluesman Vasti Jackson and actor Gary Grubbs, who will emcee the evening.

Frank Williams founded the Mississippi Mass Choir in 1988, but he was no stranger to the music. As a child, and under the guiding hand of his father, Leon, Williams would spend his evenings immersed in the sounds of gospel at church. Later, with his brothers, they formed their own gospel group, The Williams Brothers, who eventually joined the Jackson Southernaires.

After many years as a touring artist, Williams envisioned a choir made up of the great and soulful voices of Mississippi singers. For nine years, his idea developed and grew until he joined forces with gospel writer and friend, David Curry. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Mississippi Mass Choir recorded its first album in 1988 called "The Mississippi Mass Choir Live." Five weeks after the album's debut on Billboard Magazine's gospel chart, it rose to No. 1 and stayed there for 45 weeks.

After a decade of recording, the album "It Remains To Be Seen" is one of its most treasured recordings. It was released by the choir in 1993 and stayed on the charts for 12 months. But, more importantly, it was the last recorded performance of its founder, Williams, who died in March of 1993.

Through all the success and awards, the tours to Japan, Greece, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Italy and Spain, and the chart-setting records, the choir maintains its first mission is to communicate the gospel and its dedication to its ministry. Their joyful noise is their gift to the rest of us.

Tickets for the musical extravaganza featuring the Southern Miss Symphony, the Mississippi Mass Choir, Vasti Jackson and much more are available through the Southern Miss Ticket Office. Call (601) 266-5418 or 800-844-8425 or order online at


OCEAN SPRINGS -- Award-winning wildlife photographer Tom Ulrich will lead two photographic events at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory on Wednesday, March 10.

He will present a nature photography workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and then a talk and slide show called "Wildlife Images 2003" at 7 p.m., both at The University of Southern Mississippi GCRL.

Admission to the evening event is free and will be held in the Caylor Auditorium at GCRL. The veteran photographer will feature photos from his 2003 photographic safaris abroad and in North America. He will answer questions and sign his books during the reception following his slide show.

The registration fee for the all-day workshop is $50 per person, payable to GCRL. Registration includes a continental breakfast, light lunch and snacks. Participation is limited to 20. Though the workshop is geared toward beginners, Ulrich tailors the experience to meet needs for all degrees of skill.

"The beginners will definitely benefit from the workshop, but I always help the more advanced get something out of it also," Ulrich said. "I lead many photo trips and always find a wide range of levels."

Ulrich said participants do not need to bring their photographic equipment unless they need an explanation about some aspect of their equipment.

Topics include a brief review of the principles of photography, relationships between shutter and aperture settings, fundamental elements of composition, use and timing of fill-in flash, digital versus film photography, techniques of close-up photography, and a brief discussion of slide etiquette, the photography business and marketing.

Ulrich grew up in South Chicago, graduated with a degree in biology from Southern Illinois University and taught for four years before launching his career as a freelance photographer. He has supported himself with nature photography for the past 29 years.

His library of more than 300,000 transparencies includes birds and mammals from all over the world. His photographs have been featured in publications such as National Wildlife, Audubon, National Geographic, Montana Outdoors and Life.

He has published six nature books, including Mammals of the Rockies, Birds of the Northern Rockies, Once Upon a Frame and his 2002 release, Photo Pantanal. Dr. William E. Hawkins, GCRL executive director, said Ulrich brings the scientific and artistic worlds together.

"Tom earns his living photographing wildlife all over the world," Hawkins sad. "He is an outstanding observer and a biologist. His approach to photography is to capture his subjects exhibiting their natural behavior."

The GCRL is home to the university's Department of Coastal Sciences, the Center for Fisheries Research and Development, and the Gulf Coast Geospatial Center. The J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium is also a unit of the laboratory. The GCRL is part of the Southern Miss College of Science and Technology. For more information, call the laboratory at (228) 872-4200.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM