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THURSDAY, MAY 17, 2007
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CONCERTS BY THE RIVER
Open your ears for Big Band, bluegrass, barbershop, brass and more on Mondays this summer

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

You can gather by the river nearly every Monday evening through August for a sampling of Big Band and bluegrass, barbershop and brass, country and Christian music.

Civil War era, dulcimer, folk rock, jazz and gospel music will be there, too.

Best of all, the Paul Stroud Concerts by the River are free for everybody.

Austin and Decatur High jazz bands and chorus performed at the first one Monday evening at Rhodes Ferry Park on the Tennessee River, and event coordinator Vickie Allaway has announced a varied schedule for the rest of the season. All concerts begin at 6 p.m.

On Monday, the Wesley Memorial Church Praise Band will begin playing Top 40 contemporary Christian songs at 6 p.m., followed at 7 by The Calvary Men, a Southern gospel quartet.

Just bring your lawn chair or blanket and perhaps even a picnic dinner to eat while you enjoy music and a breeze along the riverfront. Even pets on leashes are welcome, said Allaway, who works for Decatur Parks and Recreation Department as group sales coordinator for Point Mallard Park. Alcohol is prohibited.

The late Paul Stroud, a member of the Sophisticated Swingers, started this series 17 years ago, along with working on other musical projects around town. He booked 270 concerts for more than 15 years before retiring a couple of years ago, when the Decatur Music Club and then Allaway took over and the series was named in his honor.

This will be the first concert series in the park since his death last September. Allaway recalled that he came to some concerts last year, even though he often sat in a car, rather than with the crowd of several hundred.

Allaway has been busy booking both old favorites and new talent for this season.

"I have a lot of crowd favorites, and I try to take notes at each concert and get a good feel for what the crowd responds to and then try to call them first the next year," she said. "Some have been performing for many years, while some have never performed here before."

Last year, the split was about half and half.

"I've asked some back for this year, and I also have quite a few new ones this year, said Allaway, who took over bookings in January 2006.

She makes notes on the weather, too, because concerts are canceled in case of rain.

"Last year, I only canceled one, because storms were in the area and I didn't want to take a chance — but then it didn't rain, after all," Allaway said.

Rain call

Because a lot of set-up time is involved for most groups, she tried to make the rain call by 4 p.m. To check, you can call her office, 341-4904.

This year, she planned a bluegrass night for July 9 because she had a lot of requests for that style.

Barbershop quartet

An evening of barbershop quartet music, "which was a huge hit last year," will end the season Aug. 27.

"Jeff Whitlow is really popular, and he and the Old Barn Band bring a large crowd in," she said.

"A lot of people like Reggie Jackson, too, so he comes every year, but we couldn't get him until Aug. 13 this year," Allaway said.

"Old Towne Brass is a favorite, too, because they dress in Civil War attire and play Civil War instruments."

On the Net

Check the Web site for the schedule at www.decaturparks.com (click on “Programs” and scroll to “Concerts”).

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