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Mack Statham's trilogy was cornerstone of Sing for King [Obituary]

Mack Statham, 78, of Laurel, organist at First United Methodist Church and a composer whose "Trilogy of Dreams" was performed each of the last six years at Laurel's Sing for King commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, died Sept. 2.

Statham was born on Sept. 24, 1934, one of seven children of the late Tas and Betty Statham of Sparrows Point in Baltimore. He received a bachelor's degree in music education from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia in 1956. During his years as a student, he performed piano and organ concerts at historically black colleges throughout the South.

He taught music at public schools in North Carolina, Delaware and Baltimore, and also served four years as a missile officer in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of 1st lieutenant. In 1967 he joined Aetna Life and Casualty, from which he retired in 1990 as underwriting manager and second in command at one of Aetna's top-performing branches.

As he pursued his career, Statham never stopped playing and composing music. He was minister of music at Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Baltimore for 20 years, and also served Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, before becoming organist at First United Methodist in Laurel. Over the years he played as a concert performer with symphony orchestras and major performing artists throughout the United States, and played the organ postlude for the National Prayer Service of President Clinton's inauguration celebration in 1997. He received an honorary doctorate of music from Virginia Seminary and College (now Virginia University in Lynchburg), and was named an Alumnus of the Year by Hampton University. From 1995 to 2010 he taught at the Laurel School of Music. He was a member of the Laurel Rotary Club.

In 2007, Statham recruited the Sing for King Choir, singers from numerous area churches and synagogues, and instrumentalists from area military bands, to perform a concert in connection with Martin Luther King Day in January 2008. The featured work was Statham's moving 1988 composition, "A Trilogy of Dreams," based on three spirituals beloved by Dr. King. This Sing for King concert became a Laurel community tradition during the past six years on the eve of Martin Luther King Day. Statham also raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities through his annual Missions and Masterworks concerts at First United Methodist, performing with his son Robert Statham, also a pianist.

In addition to Robert, he is survived by his wife of 53 years, Loretta; daughter Sharon; grandchildren R.J., Ashley and Lauren; brother, Calvin Statham; brother-in-law, James; sisters-in-law, Malvilyn and Margy; and 10 nephews and nieces. A funeral was held on Sept. 7 at Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Baltimore. A memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church of Laurel on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 4 p.m.

Joe Murchison is a former Laurel Leader editor.

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