Local uses voice to spread the Gospel around the world
At age 6, Lillian Lilly of Wesson dreamed of singing professionally, never knowing that her voice and talent would be her ticket to adventures with some of the nation’s most renowned gospel singers.
Lilly was born to Rev. Burgess Jointer and Jessie Lee Jointer as one of 13 children, who she said all sang a little bit. During her youth at St. Peter Rock Church in Beauregard, Lilly sang with her twin sister as a duet called The Two Star Juniors, following in the footsteps of their mother and aunt who sang as The Two Star Singers. The sisters then became part of a group called The Traveling Stars.
Lilly married at 18 and sang solo shows while continuing to sing in church. Lilly would open concerts for headliners like the Jackson Southernaires, the Williams Brothers and Shirley Caesar. It was through a connection in 1988 with the Williams Brothers, who were signed with Malaco Music Group, Lilly got word Mississippi Mass Choir was in the makings.
“The spirit told me I was going to be in that choir,” Lilly said. So she called Frank Williams of the Williams Brothers and asked him about the choir she kept hearing about. She said Williams told her “nothing but you’re going to be in it.”
Lilly said her first solo as part of the choir came in the form of a song called “I Just Can’t Tell You How Good God’s Been” that was written for the music director’s wife who was not able to sing because she was on bed rest due to a pregnancy. Since then Lilly had a lead song on every project the Mississippi Mass Choir recorded.
As part of the choir Lilly was able to visit places all around the world including Japan, Greece, the Bahamas and countries in Africa.
“Even though they may not understand all the words, they receive it because of the spirit that it’s given in,” Lilly said. “What comes from the heart reaches the heart is a true saying because when it comes to the Holy Spirit, there is no language barrier.”
She said there were some universal songs that aided in crossing the language barrier like “Oh Happy Day” and “Amen”. She told a story about the choir’s first altar calling after their performance in Tokyo, Japan. She said that the interpreter could not keep up with the guy who was giving the invitation and all of a sudden the crowd just rushed down to the altar for prayer.
Lilly said one of her biggest accomplishments was being the first choir member to become a solo artist at Malaco Music Group and being nominated for Stellar Awards alongside artists she listened to growing up. Although she was excited to be considered on par with renowned gospel singers like Dorothy Norwood, Lilly said Norwood and others she’s met through her career are just like regular people.
Through the music group, Lilly recorded two albums: “Gotta Have Faith” in 1997, which Norwood produced, and “The Other Part of Me” in 1999. Both projects were recorded live and featured the Mississippi Mass Choir and a choir from the Jackson area called the Anderson United Methodist Choir. Her second album featured her daughter, Linda Lilly, and one of her sons, Rev. Waldo Lilly Jr. Lilly’s youngest son, Trawick Lilly, sang in youth choir but did not become part of the Mass Choir like his siblings.
“We are a huge family,” Lilly said about the Mass Choir. She said the company likes to have at least 100 members but have about 200 on roll. If the roster falls or sections lose members the company takes in new members.
“We still have a few trailblazers,” Lilly said referencing the approximately 65 original members still active in the choir.
“You have to love what you do,” Lilly said. “Because if you don’t you won’t stay in it too long. It’ll consume you. I love doing what I do.”
Lilly said she’s slowing down a little bit as she ages. She spoke of arthritis in her right hip.
“I’m hoping but there’s nothing wrong with my voice,” she said.
Lilly attends church at St. James M.B. Church in Brookhaven, where her brother, Rev. Larry Jointer, is the pastor.