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  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra 2016-2017 Season
  • Meridian Herald: Higher Ground Camp Meeting at Epworth, GA

Season Overview
As the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra enters its 72nd season, we are thankful for each and every day we get to create music for our patrons and the City of Atlanta. There is much to look forward to this season, including a special appearance by Joshua Bell in September, and the Opening Weekend of our Delta Classical Series featuring our good friend, pianist Garrick Ohlsson. Four of our own musicians will make solo appearances; Concertmaster David Coucheron, Principal Flute Christina Smith, Principal Trumpet Stuart Stephenson and Associate Principal Cello Daniel Laufer. And of course our esteemed Music Director Robert Spano and Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles continue their unique musical partnership, now in its 16th season. 

The Orchestra will spread even more holiday cheer this season with expanded holiday concert offerings, including the return of Handel's Messiah, Part I, in a special one-night-only performance. Our Family Concert series returns with four delightful programs for families with young children, with Assistant Conductor Joseph Young. And, as always, the Orchestra will play the best of the best of POPS! programming, under Principal POPS! Conductor Michael Krajewski.


Higher Ground Camp Meeting
Historic Epworth in N. Georgia

Saturday, August 13, 2016, 6pm

Rev. Dr. Graham Walker, Preacher
Steven Darsey, Music Director
Meridian Chorale, Soloists


Camp Meeting Service at Historic Epworth Church

Higher Ground 
Saturday, August 13, 2016, 3:00–6:00 p.m.

Graham Walker

The Meridian Chorale and Soloists
Steven Darsey
Music Director

Greg Brooks and Third Degree Bluegrass

Barefoot Creek
Appalachian Old-Time Music

Betty and Shirley Turner
Mountain Gospel

Epworth United Methodist Church
585 Madola Road, Epworth, Georgia

On the grounds of Epworth United Methodist Church in historic Epworth, in North Georgia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Click here for map.

In case of rain, the service will be held in the Epworth School auditorium, adjacent to the meeting grounds.

3:00 Bluegrass, Appalachian Old-Time Music Concert
4:30 Community Sing – Folk Song Favorites, Children's Songs and Stories at the Spring of Faith
5:00 All Invited to Learn a Service Anthem with the Meridian Chorale
5:30 Opening Service Music—Bluegrass, Old-Time Music
6:00 Camp Meeting Service

camp meeting

The Meridian Chorale at the Epworth camp meeting.

Meridian Herald presents its 19th annual Higher Ground: Camp Meeting Service, Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 6 p.m. on the grounds of historic Epworth United Methodist Church, 585 Madola Rd, Epworth, GA, 706.492.2043. Epworth is nine miles northwest of Blue Ridge, GA, and 101 miles from Atlanta via I-75 and I-575.

With soul-stirring music ranging from old-time to bluegrass-gospel to classical arrangements of traditional songs, along with compelling preaching, prayer, and spirited hymn singing, this camp meeting service will be held outdoors on Epworth's historic meeting grounds. Graham Walker of the University of Richmond will preach. Steven Darsey and the Meridian Chorale will provide music. Also performing will be the north Georgia based bluegrass band, Barefoot Creek, and children's music specialist, Amanda Galloway.

With a concert of traditional mountain music beginning at 3:00 p.m., a community sing-along of folk songs, a time for all children to sing and a chance for interested folk to sing an anthem with the Meridian Chorale, there is music for everyone to enjoy. The afternoon will culminate in the 6:00 p.m. service, where preaching, prayer, and holy music will bring all attendees together in a great hour worship.

All during the afternoon's activities, drinks and snacks will be available at the hospitality tent, tours of the historic Epworth Church and grounds will be available, and the Story Express van from the Craddock Center will be on hand giving away free books to children. After the service, watermelon will be served.

Graham Walker is associate dean and the John and Judy Zellars professor of theology at the McAfee School of Theology. Dr. Walker has served as a missionary and held academic posts in the Philippines and has also served pastorates in the United States. An accomplished writer and preacher, his research interests include World Christianity, the Holocaust and Christianity, and science and religion, in which field he received a Templeton research grant.

Steven Darsey is founding artistic director of Meridian Herald. A student of vernacular sacred music, he is also active as a conductor and composer. Since 1986, he has served Atlanta's Glenn Memorial UMC as Director of Music.

Epworth is located nine miles northwest of Blue Ridge, GA, and 101 miles from Atlanta via I-75 and I-575. Everyone is welcome. The service is free; an offering will be taken. Events will proceed rain or shine. In case of rain, all program activities will take place in the adjacent Epworth School auditorium.

The picturesque Epworth valley was the location of an ancient council-lacrosse ground of the Cherokee Indians. During the 19th century, white settlers began outdoor religious "brush arbor" meetings on the Cherokee gaming grounds. The Fightingtown Camp Meeting drew hundreds each summer to camp and worship. "Fightingtown" is an anglicized, shorthand version of the Cherokee name for the area and nearby creek, which lore says was named for "two frogs fighting each other with stalks of a plant."

With the theme "Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Embracing the Future," Epworth United Methodist Church commemorates 150 years of ministry. Founded June 25, 1865, it was the first Methodist Episcopal church founded after the Civil War. The Epworth School was founded in 1877 to help young people gain an education. The school now sits on the hill, the church in the valley, with the historic meeting grounds between. On the north side is the "Spring of Faith," which, according to lore and Epworth family Bibles, was fenced off one summer during a camp meeting, depriving hundreds access to their only source of water. That evening campers held a prayer vigil asking God for water. During the night, amid a howling storm, the spring moved onto church property; so, when morning came, the campers again had access to its waters. The church still holds baptisms and Easter sunrise services at those holy waters. The first camp meeting of record there was in 1843. In August of 2013, Meridian Herald and Epworth church presented the first camp meeting held there since the annual Fightingtown camp meetings ceased in the 1890s.

Camp meetings began in the 19th century south, when farmers, after the crops were laid by, would go "camping" with their families and friends for a week or more. The days and evenings were filled with fiery preaching and impassioned singing. According to on account of the Fightingtown meeting, "at night the camp ground was very beautiful; wagon loads of rich pine knots were hauled to the grounds. Log heaps covered with dirt were made and the pine knots placed on these. When they were lighted it was almost as bright as day." Camp meetings spread throughout the south and became an integral part of the region's cultural and spiritual traditions. Many camp meetings continue today, and the participants look forward with loving devotion to the familial, social and spiritual renewal of their annual camp meetings.

Darsey states: "Some of the songs we will sing have been passed down orally, virtually unchanged from the Great Awakening of the early 19th century. Thus, they are "doubly sacred" to generations of frontier folk who raised their voices to God.

This service is presented by Meridian Herald and hosted by Epworth UMC, Byron Ahrens, pastor. www.historicepworthumc.org

Order a CD of the 1998 Services with Fred B. Craddock, preacher


Information for Musicians >

Atlanta Music Festival >

Folk Advent >

Sing the Wind >

Folk Passion >

"Meridian Chorale brought the spirit and sound of the Great Awakening to Smyrna's Historic Campground. It was living history in our tabernacle! Mr. Darsey's talent and vision have produced a priceless time capsule not to be missed."


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