By Laura McMillan
The citizens of Clayton County are in for a treat this Saturday evening when Arts Clayton and community partners present the United Kingdom's Southampton Pops Orchestra as a free concert on the lawn of the Courthouse in downtown Jonesboro.
Jonesboro is one of only two scheduled performances of The Southampton Pops Orchestra in the U.S., the second of which is in Chattanooga. Arts Clayton has been planning this concert for just under a year, after the orchestra's conductor, Ron Armstrong, visited in the fall of 2004.
Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin remembers the pleasant introduction. "After meeting with us, they like the atmosphere, the home town feeling," Summerlin said of the popular British orchestra that has performed for audiences in France, Canada and elsewhere in the U.S.
After the group of 110 young musicians finally arrives in Jonesboro at 4 p.m. that evening, it will be the end of a long journey that brought them all the way from the UK to a small-town courthouse in the southeastern United States.
"When they get off the bus, they immediately have to get set up and ready to play," Summerlin explained the time constraints that kept the city of Jonesboro from planning a more extensive welcoming process.
After the setup is complete, the musicians will be treated to a dinner provided by Chick-fil-A, a company serving as one of the many important partners in this production. Other partners are Show Business Sound and Lighting, the City of Jonesboro, Jonesboro United Methodist Church, Jonesboro High School, Superintendent Dr. Barbara Pulliam, the Performing Arts Center, and the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The partners help to welcome and provide for the musicians, and they absorb the costs of a free concert. "There is not a direct cost to us (to bring the musicians here), but... we're going to have to feed them. We're going to have to pay to set up the sound," Summerlin said in listing some of the expenses.
Everything is prepared for the musicians and everything will be ready for anyone who is looking forward to coming out to the courthouse lawn Saturday at 7 p.m. to hear music born across the Atlantic Ocean and shared with those lucky enough to attend.