By Joel Hall
For the first time in recent memory, the Southern Crescent Symphony Orchestra (SCSO) -- the area's premiere community orchestra -- is offering a free concert to the general public.
During its "Celebration of American Music" next weekend, the orchestra will treat listeners to the works of Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, John Philip Sousa, and other prolific composers.
The orchestra will host two free concerts on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m., at Stockbridge United Methodist Church in Stockbridge, and on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 3 p.m., at Fayetteville First United Methodist Church in Fayetteville.
According to Richard Bell, conductor of the SCSO, the orchestra is in its 19th season. He said next weekend's free concerts will serve as a way to introduce more people to the orchestra.
"We usually charge for our concerts, but we thought this would be a good time to make it free to the community," Bell said. "Economic times are tough, so this is a way to get away from the stresses of life and hear a little bit of good music. It's the orchestra's gift to the community."
Pieces featured in the program include: "A Lincoln Portrait," by Copland, a full-orchestral piece featuring narrated exerpts of Abraham Lincoln's great speeches; Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess," a famous American folk opera; Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever," a famous military march; Morton Gould's "American Salute," an orchestral piece based on the folk song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home;" Charles Ives' "The Alcotts," inspired by the life of the family of "Little Women" author Louisa May Alcott; and "American Folk Rhapsody," by Clare Grundman.
Bell said the pieces will be familiar to many listeners, yet interesting enough to grab their attention.
"Gershwin is the bridge between broadway jazz and classical music," Bell said. "Copland is the quintessential American composer. He weaves together themes and folk tunes that sound very American. Anytime you go to a Fourth of July Celebration, you will hear a Sousa march. I think it's something the audience will enjoy."
Sam Lowder, the orchestra's principal cellist, hopes that having the concert in two different locations on two different days will allow the SCSO to reach a wider audience. "We're aware of the state of the economy right now, and we feel that everybody needs the gift of music," Lowder said.
"This is totally free for everybody. Putting the concert on in two different locations, one in Stockbridge and one in Fayetteville, we're hoping to draw people from all over the area."
For more information about the concerts, call (770) 722-5708, or visit www.scsymphony.org.