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Choral Guild anything but typical

Although Covington/Conyers Choral Guild musical director and conductor Roger Waters said the ensemble's upcoming pair of performances would be "a typical holiday concert," fans of the 100-voice choir know that "typical" hardly scratches the surface of this talented group.

Now celebrating its 24th year, the Choral Guild will host its annual holiday concerts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29 at the First Baptist Church near the downtown Square in Covington and at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 at the Rockdale Auditorium in Olde Town Conyers.

The item that ensures the concerts won't be "typical" will be a performance of Vivaldi's "Gloria," which is perhaps the Venetian composer's best-known choral work. Other pieces on the program include Mendelssohn's "There Shall be a Star Come Out of Jacob," "Angels' Carol" by John Rutter, "Behold the Star" by William Dawson and "Bethlehem Procession" by Pepper Choplin, who is the minister of music at Greystone Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C.

"We usually take between 15 and 17 weeks to prepare for these concerts," said Waters, who earlier this year led the choir for a series of concerts featuring the works of North Carolina native Joseph Martin, one of the most gifted composers of modern-day sacred music. "We started working on this program at the end of August."

Also featured on the program will what Waters calls "a beautiful arrangement" of "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and the group's rendition of "Here Comes Santa Claus," which is expected to showcase the arrival of a special someone who's usually pretty busy this time of year.

"Santa Claus has committed to be with us," quipped Waters. "But he won't be singing - he'll just make an appearance."

Through its long tenure, the chorus - which has seven members who have been with Waters since the beginning - has expanded in number and in ability.

"We have grown so much musically," said Waters, the longtime minister of music at Salem Baptist Church in McDonough. "The chorus is at a semi-professional level now, which makes concerts absolutely thrilling."

Waters, who also said the group would perform on Dec. 27 at the Candlelight Christmas event at the famous Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C., was also complimentary of the venues in which the holiday concerts will be held.

"The acoustics at both are very, very fine," said Waters, who leads weekly rehearsals at the Rockdale Auditorium. "We have hopes that the changes that Rockdale County is proposing for the Rockdale Auditorium won't affect the room's wonderful acoustics."

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga. If you have a feature story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

What: The Covington/Conyers Choral Guild annual holiday concert

When/Where: 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29 at the First Baptist Church, 1139 Usher Street in Covington, and 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30 at the Rockdale Auditorium, 903 Main Street in Olde Town Conyers

Cost: Tickets are $10 and are available online at www.choralguild.org, or at Tattersall's Book Store, the Arts Association in Newton County or the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts, or at the door.