A sound of thanksgiving

Published 6:58 pm Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Choral Society of West Georgia filled First Presbyterian Church with four part harmonies Saturday night for its fall concert.

Because of her recent shoulder surgery, artistic director Bettie Biggs was assisted this time with the help of Lanier Motes, director of Scott Fine Arts Center at Point University.

“He’s graciously stepped in and assisted us with this program,” Biggs said. “He and I had worked together at the West Georgia Choral Arts Festival. It’s been a marvelous experience for us all.”

Motes said he was honored to work with Biggs.

“[Biggs is] also brilliant at putting the program together. She and I talked about this, programing music and then whatever goes with that is vital to the success of that program or that concert. She does a wonderful job.”

The concert’s theme this year was Thanksgiving, praise and remembrance along with celebrating America. Biggs said almost all of the pieces’ composers are American.

“The focus on this whole concert is American music as much as we can present. The first part is praise and thanksgiving, and the next part of the concert is a lighter, more secular [part],” she said. “We’re doing a tribute to Stephen Foster, the American composer. Then we end up with a tribute to America, and who we are with the American hymn.”

Biggs said that while the choir had a lot of pieces, she and Motes worked in poems and reflections that were read by Cathy Hunt between songs.

“[Hunt] shares alternating reflections with the musical numbers, so that adds another contrast and another textural component to the program,” Biggs said. “When I designed this program a long time ago, I wanted a program that would keep the singers once they got up front that kept them upfront. This affords us a chance once they’re there, they stay and are front and center for the whole concert. The narrative threads the whole process together, but it gives them a chance to sit down. It also gives us a chance to highlight the instrumentalists that we have.”

The choir performed some of the pieces with the First Baptist Church Bells choir and other instrumentalists.  The concert featured harpist Milly Criswell, a local student.

“She is quite young and very accomplished, so we’re very very honored to be able to feature her,” Biggs said.

Biggs and Motes made sure to include variety of songs including having the audience join two pieces.

“We got a lot of variety and a lot of texture besides just a choir singing. There’s a lot of interest in this program this year,” she said. “We have two harvest hymns that the audience is invited to stand and sing with us. It invites them to come in and sing with the choir. Who wouldn’t want to sing with the organ and the choir and Lanier directing?”

Biggs said the choir also worked hard to perform such a big concert.

“Being a community choir, the entire choir is all volunteer,” Biggs said. “They don’t have to be here, and they don’t have to come out on Thursday night and sit for two hours and work hard and be tired when they leave, and do all the things that are expected of them to put on a performance of this caliber.”

Biggs said the next concert will be ‘Victory Through Harmony/ Songs that Won the War” with the Auburn Knights Orchestra, a university swing music band, on Feb. 24, 2018.

“We will be focusing on songs that won the war,” she said.

The Choral Society of West Georgia also plans to host the third annual West Georgia Choral Arts Festival on March 10 at 4 p.m. at Callaway Auditorium at LaGrange College and “A Southern Serenade” with Bel Canto LaGrange on May 6 at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.