That good old big-band sensibility
Orchestra to perform in Conyers to benefit Senior Services Center

A concert by the Atlanta-based Sentimental Journey Orchestra represents a sojourn to the past, but the ensemble's upcoming performance in Conyers will also embody a look to the future.

The 19-piece band, which specializes in the music from the big-band era and has been together for more than three decades, will perform from 3 to

5 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Rockdale Auditorium in Olde Town Conyers. The afternoon's activities will also feature the introduction of the Rockdale County Senior Center's Valentine Court and the selection of the Valentine King and Queen (and Mr. and Mrs. Congeniality) for 2008.

The orchestra is waiving its usual fee for the concert so that all proceeds can be used for the Olivia Haydel Senior Services Center on Dogwood Drive, which is undergoing a space expansion.

"It seems that the state is slashing funds for these types of projects and (Senior Center director) Jackie Lunsford is an old friend, used to live next door to me," said Rockdale County resident Dan Turner, who has played piano in the SJO for the past three years. "I knew they were breaking ground for the Haydel Center and Jackie didn't know how she was going to outfit the place. So we're not charging for this job so the Senior Center will get the entire gate to put to its use. We're just trying to give something back."

The planned expansion of the senior services center includes increasing the size of the dining/activity room, as well as adding a classroom, recreation room, porch, storage and office space and two bathrooms. Other renovations call for a new lobby and a space for the Meals on Wheels program.

Turner, an award-winning musician who plays in a blues band and a smaller jazz combo when he's not tickling the ivories for the SJO, succeeded charter member Doyle Faler (who died in 2004) in the band's piano chair. His first engagement with the orchestra was a job he'll not soon forget.

"We played a show to celebrate the Fox Theatre's 75th anniversary," he said. "I sight-read the music for five hours in front of thousands of folks. I think I was pretty well broken in at the end of those five hours - my hands were killing me for days afterwards. But it was a great concert and I had a great time doing it."

Although the SJO's concerts generally attract a varied audience, there's not much question that many of the folks attending the performance at the Rockdale Auditorium will remember many of the band's songs from when they were originally played.

"Seniors aren't always necessarily our target audience, but this is the music they grew up with," he said. "We'd like to raise some money for the senior center, and if we can put a smile on some faces, that makes it even better."

"We're really looking forward to the concert," added trombonist Hector "Butch" Bourg, a charter member of the ensemble and the president of the SJO. "We're playing a Valentine's dance the night before at Oak Grove Methodist Church in Decatur, so we should be at the top of our game.

"There will be a lot of seniors there and I've programmed our set list to lean toward the songs senior citizens remember so they'll feel really comfortable. I think they'll have fun with it. We'll play music from the '40s, '50s and '60s, so we'll strike a few of these folks right where they live."

Tickets for the concert are $20 each and may be purchased in advance at the Olivia Haydel Senior Services Center or at the door. For additional information, call the senior services center at 770-922-4633. For more information on the Sentimental Journey Orchestra, visit www.thesjo.com.

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens. If you have a story idea, e-mail Karen Rohr at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

What: The Sentimental Journey Orchestra

When: 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 9

Where: Rockdale Auditorium, 903 S. Main St. in Olde Town Conyers

Cost: Tickets are $20, and all proceeds benefit the Olivia Haydel Senior Services Center. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the senior center, 1240 Dogwood Drive in Conyers, or at the door.

Information: Call 770-922-4633.