By Joel Hall
Tara Winds, "Georgia's Community Band," will host its free, annual holiday concert, "Music of the Season," this weekend at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center (PAC).
The concert will serve as the symphonic band's 21st holiday performance and its final holiday performance with David Gregory -- conductor of the group since its inception.
The joint symphonic-band and-choir concert will start Saturday at 7:30 p.m., featuring guest soloists Amber Harris and Matt McCord. The performance will also feature the Durham Middle School Bel Canto, of Acworth; a choral group from Starr's Mill High School, of Fayetteville; and the Griffin Choral Arts adult choir, singing classic holiday songs along with the band.
Gregory, a full-time music instructor at Reinhardt College in Waleska, Ga., has served as the conductor for 22 years, since the group was formed in 1988 by metro-area wind and brass musicians. While retiring as director next May to take on greater responsibilities at the college, Gregory said he hopes the concert will continue to be a "musical gift" to the community.
"Not to be able to do this every year, there will, of course, be a musical void in my life," he said. "When I look back at all of the music that we have been able to share with people over the years, it gives me great gratification. We hope that we model the spirit of giving ... We hope that they will leave here happier than they came, and will get into the holiday spirit."
The hour-and-a-half concert will feature several popular tunes, such as "Sleigh Ride," "Greensleeves," and special arrangements of "Deck the Halls," and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." According to Gregory, all three choral groups joining the concert will perform three separate selections, accompanied by the band.
"We will probably have 250 to 260 performers on stage," he said. "It's a wide selection of holiday favorites. No one will go home and not listen to something they enjoy."
In addition to large-scale choral works, the concert will have several symphonic-band performances featuring solo vocalists. Harris, a professional freelance musician and Lovejoy High School graduate, will perform "Ave Maria," while McCord, a McDonough general practice lawyer and a graduate of Morrow High School, will perform "The Christmas Song."
Harris and McCord, together, will perform "O Holy Night," and "The Prayer," as sung by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.
McCord, who graduated from Morrow High School in 1991, went on to graduate with a degree in vocal performance from the University of South Carolina, eventually obtaining a law degree from Georgia State University. He said Saturday's performance would be just as enjoyable for the performers, since many of them are products of the music programs of Clayton County Public Schools.
"When I was a senior in high school, I performed on that stage [at the Clayton County PAC] when it first opened," McCord said. "I was one of the first people on it. All of my teachers were in Tara Winds when I was growing up ... It is so great to be able to go back and perform with all my old teachers, because they were the best teachers I ever had."
McCord said Gregory has "created quite a legacy" and believes the conductor's "contribution will last far beyond his time with us."
"David was head of Clayton County's music program when me and Amber were there, and he left his mark," McCord said. "This will be a special time for all of us to get together one last time and do this with David."
The Clayton County Performing Arts Center is located at 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway in Jonesboro. For more information about the concert, visit www.tarawinds.org.