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Hospice concert hits personal note

Oct. 28, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- For Landau, Thursday's concert for Hospice of Huntington is personal.

For Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., the golden-voiced winner of America's Got Talent who hails from Logan County, W.Va., the concert is a chance to realize a goal he wanted to complete for a dying uncle.

"My uncle was in hospice care in Charleston in 2009 and before he passed, I went there to visit him and thought about trying to put on a show for the people there. That was before I ever became famous," Murphy said. "He gave me a really big hug and told me he'd see me on the other side. He died the next day."

Murphy was later approached at a Marshall basketball game by someone at Hospice of Huntington who invited him to sing a fundraising concert for the organization's 30th anniversary.

"It was something I wanted to do, even before the television show and all of this. I want to do my part," Murphy said.

Murphy will headline a concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center. Proceeds will benefit Hospice of Huntington.

"We are thrilled to have (Murphy) here to celebrate our agency's 30 years of service to the community," said Shelly Betz's, director of development and communications for Hospice of Huntington. "I'm not sure people realize all the thing Landau has done across our state to help those in need. [He] is a real class act."

For the concert's other participants, including opening act Andre Williams and Teresa Figgins, director of Unity in the Community Choir, which will accompany Murphy on several musical selections, the event is also intensely personal.

Williams, 18, and a freshman at Marshall University, understands loss. He buried his mother in September 2011 and before that, his father.

"Losing my mom was hard because she was my biggest supporter in everything I've ever done. Nothing can really replace that," said Williams, who is studying broadcast journalism. "You'll do something great and people will ask if you want to call and talk to someone and you don't have that. It's hard, but music is my refuge."

Williams' mom got him singing at an early age in church. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., his family moved to Greenbrier County, W.Va., where his mom was born and grew up, to escape what Williams called a bad environment for him and his nine brothers and sisters.

"We got here, bought a house, things were great," Williams said.

But, the tranquility was short-lived. Williams developed stage four non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma as a third grade student.

"Third through sixth grades were kind of a blur for me," said Williams, now seven years in remission. "My dad passed away when I was in the sixth grade. He was the rock of our family."

Williams was introduced to Murphy at a Christmas event last year at the Clay Center in Charleston. Murphy asked him on-stage to join in singing "Silent Night" and an instant friendship was born. At Murphy's request, Williams opened for him over the summer at the West Virginia State Fair.

"I'm really excited to sing at the Hospice concert and I'm blessed they'd allow me to be a part of something so amazing," Williams said. "With losing both of my parents, it's really special to me."

Williams said he hopes to honor his mother at Thursday's concert with the singing of "How Great Thou Art," her favorite hymn.

"She always used to tell me, 'Andre, you're trying to get to the top without enjoying the journey,'" Williams said. "So, I'm trying to slow down and enjoy everything I've been blessed with."

Teresa Figgins, director of the non-denominational Tri-State choir "Unity in the Community," also has a personal reason for her involvement in Thursday's show. Figgins formed the choir in 2005 when she felt God laying it on her heart.

"I had a bleed in my intestines and they couldn't find the source. I was dying," Figgins "When they finally found the source, it took surgery to correct it and I knew my time hadn't come."

She had been touched during her illness, she said, to form a community choir and quickly set about hand-delivering flyers to area churches. Today, the choir, which boasts 40 to 45 members, begins practicing in late July, shuttling between area churches that serve as host, and presents a free community concert in mid-October.

"I believe people need to see unity among the different denominations. Religion is such a touchy subject, people need to see how we get along and when they see that, they see there can be hope for anybody," Figgins said.

When approached with the opportunity to sing behind Murphy at Thursday's concert, Figgins said the choir thought it was a joke.

"They thought I was joking and I said, "No, this is for real!" It's a phenomenal opportunity and we're so excited to be a part of it," she said.

Three participants bound together for the love of Hospice are sure to touch the hearts of Thursday's audience, Betz said.

"We know that many people in the audience this Thursday night have had loved ones cared for by our dedicated staff, including our own employees and volunteers," she said. 'We are all looking forward to this special occasion."