By Joel Hall
Tara Winds, one of Georgia's premier community symphonic bands, will continue its annual tradition of giving the public a free Christmas concert this weekend.
The 20th "Music of the Season" concert will be at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center this Saturday starting at 8 p.m. The band will play nearly two dozen holiday works and feature three different choral groups from around the metro Atlanta area.
David Gregory, an associate professor of music at Reinhardt College in Waleska, has served as conductor of Tara Winds since its founding 21 years ago. He said the band considers the concert it's "musical gift" to the community.
"The idea behind the concert is the same as it is when we started it 20 years ago," said Gregory. "We do this once-a-year as a musical sharing with the people who have supported us over the many years."
Joining the 90-member wind ensemble this year will be the Cherokee Chorale, conducted by Don Stafford; the Starr's Mill High School (SMHS) Chanticleer, conducted by John Odom; and the Durham Middle School (DMS) Bel Canto, conducted by David Hirschorn. Each of the choral groups will share their own unique voice with the audience and then join Tara Winds for a grand finale.
"I've heard them perform many times and they have a rich and storied performing history in the area, so we are happy to have them," said Gregory in regards to The Cherokee Chorale, a Canton-based adult choir. He said this concert will be the first time the two groups have ever worked together.
Young concert-goers will see talented performers in the SMHS Chanticleer and the DMS Bel Canto.
Gregory described SMHS Chanticleer as "the top shelf when it comes to high school choirs," as they have been recognized around the state for their sound. The DMS Bel Canto was the only middle school choir invited to perform last January at the Georgia Music Educators Association's state convention in Savannah, he noted.
In addition to the choir groups, Amber Harris and Matt McCord -- vocalists and graduates of Lovejoy High School and Morrow High School, respectively -- will be the evening's featured soloists. The two will perform solos and duets, including "Ave Maria," "The Christmas Song," as sung by Nat Cole, "O Holy Night," and "The Prayer," made popular by Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli.
Arts Clayton, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the arts throughout the Southern Crescent, is a partner for the event. Linda Kirchner, director of children's programs at Arts Clayton, a life-long clarinetist, and one of the founding members of Tara Winds, said the concert is one of the ways the band can give back during the holidays.
"This is the only [concert] that's free," said Kirchner. "It's just a way of getting everyone into the holiday spirit."
The Clayton County Performing Arts Center is located at 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway in Jonesboro. For more information about the concert, call (770) 473-2875.