Popular choral festival returns to LaGrange

Published 7:51 pm Thursday, March 2, 2017

By Melanie Ruberti
LaGrange – The powerful sounds of vocal music will fill the campus of LaGrange College and Callaway Auditorium on March 11 for the West Georgia Choral Arts Festival 2017.
This is the second year for the event which is hosted by the Choral Society of West Georgia.
“We had such an overwhelming response to the festival last year,” said Bettie Biggs, artistic director of the Choral Society of West Georgia. “I was thrilled at the response … The first chord they (choirs) sang last year as one group … it took my breath away.”
Word of the festival spread quickly and favorably throughout the year,  that the event received several grants from the Georgia Council of the Arts, the Junior Service League of LaGrange, two grants from Suntrust bank and one from the West Point Fund.
The generous donations help fund the choral festival and several other projects hosted by the Choral Society of West Georgia.
“This is part of choral society’s community outreach program,” Biggs explained. “Outreach is part of our mission. The West Georgia Choral Arts Festival is one of the bigger events we hold. We also hosted the ‘Spooktacular’ event in October featuring organists, plus the Faure’s ‘Requiem’ last Spring.”
This year, seven choirs will be participating in the all day festival event. The choirs include: the Choral Society of West Georgia, the LaGrange High School choir, Sons of Lafayette, Voices of the Valley Children’s Choir from Columbus, the Young Singers of West Georgia and the Faithful Hearts Women’s Ensemble from the First Baptist Church on the Square.
“This festival is a great reflection of who we are,” Biggs explained. “We have singers who are as young as 7 years old. Some of the choir members are 70 and 80 years old. We have a diversity of ages, races and experience. You’ve got men’s only choirs, women’s only choirs, children’s choirs and mixed ensembles.  We don’t always get to sing together but this is one time of year we get to do that.”
The singers will rehearse with their own groups during morning sectionals. After lunch, which is provided by the Choral Society, the choirs will all harmonize together on one stage under the direction of guest conductor Dr. Byron Cartwright.
Dr. Cartwright is the chairman of the Fine Arts department at Pointe University.
“This gets you out of your comfort zone,” Biggs stated. “You get to meet, eat, rehearse, talk and hear people from other groups. You get to share your passion for music … and you don’t have to bring an instrument – you are an instrument.”
Each of the seven choirs will perform two pieces of music during a free afternoon concert for the public. The Choral Society of West Georgia will once again sing the “Prayer of Serenity,” a piece composed by Sgt. Robert Kirby with the LaGrange Police Department.
After each organization has performed separately, they will return to the stage as one, united choir. Dr. Cartwright will lead the group during three pieces of music.
“All three pieces will feature the children at some point,” Biggs said. “The last piece we’re doing is called ‘I hear America Singing.’ I chose this piece because it has a lot of energy, it’s upbeat and will highlight our unity through music. This music was based on a spiritual.

“There’s so much unhappiness, division and unrest in the world today, I just wanted something that would pull people together and bring unity,” Biggs added.
The united choir will also sing a piece called, ‘God, Thou Art Love.’ It was composed by Don Sewell. He wrote and dedicated the song to Dr. Cartwright and all the vocalists performing in the West Georgia Arts Festival 2017, said Biggs.
The concert will be held in the Callaway Auditorium on Saturday, March 11. The performances will begin at 4 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, etc. 2156.