‘We Gather Together’ in song

Published 7:38 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Candy canes and Christmas music are already beginning to fill local stores, but The Choral Society of West Georgia is encouraging everyone to slow down, count their blessings and gather together in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

The Choral Society of West Georgia will perform “We Gather Together: A Concert of Thanksgiving, Praise and Remembrance this weekend at First Presbyterian Church of LaGrange.

“With the holidays, the calendar has been shifted dramatically from what it used to be,” Biggs said. “Now before Thanksgiving is even celebrated, we are getting ready to start Christmas. I think this concert shifts the focus, or refocuses, for just that period of time on what it means to be together as a nation, to celebrate what we do have, how very, very fortunate we are to live where we do, to celebrate each other and our friends and our colleagues and as a musical director to put focus on American music. The majority of the concert is either composed or music that has been performed by American composers.”

For Biggs, the concert brings back happy memories of past Thanksgivings and allows her — and the choral society — to share a Thanksgiving experience with the community.

“It is a very personal concert to me,” Biggs said. “Growing up, Thanksgiving was a very special time in our family, and it was a time when we literally gathered together and spent time together, and that was the focus of the day — to be together. I always loved the two harvest hymns that we sang in church, ‘We Gather Together’ and ‘Come Ye Thankful People Come.’”

As in previous years, those classic hymns will be central to the concert.

The concert will be divided into three sections — sacred, secular and patriotic. According to Biggs, the concert will open with a Thanksgiving proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, which declared a national day of Thanksgiving. Prior to the proclamation, each state set its own Thanksgiving Day. Biggs said that spoken word will have an important place in this year’s Thanksgiving concert.

“The spoken word helps to set up and to compliment the musical number that follows it, and so there is this back-and-forth dialogue between the spoken word that Dr. [John] Beyers reads and the music selections that I have programed for this particular concert,” Biggs said. “Toward the last third of the concert, Dr. Beyers will share a personal reflection of his own acknowledging this particular holiday and what it means to him.”

In addition to Beyers, who will serve as the guest narrator, the concert will also feature Andrew Harry on the piano and organ and music played by The West Georgia Brass Quint.

“We are very excited this year to feature The West Georgia Brass Quintet under the direction of Dr. Brandon Slocumb, who is head of brass studies and the head of bands at LaGrange College,” Biggs said. “That should be a very different and really wonderful addition to the programming of the concert this year.”

The quintet will perform pieces by Duke Ellington, among other composers.

“We are doing a couple of jazz pieces,” said Dr. Brandon Slocumb, director of the West Georgia Brass Quintet and LaGrange College professor. “We are doing ‘Take the A Train’ and ‘Don’t Mean a Thing.’ I think the audience will really like those.”

The program will also feature guest cellist Marcia Taber and percussionist Jason Hernandez.

“The whole focus of this concert is pulling members of the community together, so we have this large community choir,” Biggs said.

“We have this brass ensemble representing the west Georgia and east Alabama area. We have a percussionist from the college. We have a cellist who lives here and plays here, and it comes back to being together, focused on the community, which again is the most unique aspect of this particular concert.”

“We Gather Together” will be performed Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 in advance or $20 at the door and may be purchased at Plum Southern, The MarketPlace, from members of the Choral Society of West Georgia or at Choralsocietyofwestgeorgia.org.