People seeking freedom founded the United States, but to fully gain that freedom their descendants had to fight a war to gain independence from the United Kingdom.
On Thursday, Dalton’s L’Abri Symphony Orchestra will celebrate that freedom and the sacrifices some have made to preserve it.
“From the very beginning of the country to today, America has had to fight to maintain its freedom,” said the Rev. Larry Flanagan, L’Abri’s conductor.
“They say freedom isn’t free, and that’s the truth. Many men and women have died to protect and preserve that freedom. We need to remember that and honor what they have done,” he said.
L’Abri will do its part to honor that heritage shortly before Memorial Day with a free concert at the trade center. The concert is called “Celebrate Freedom: A Salute to America and Those Who Have Served.” It starts at 7 p.m.
The concert will feature traditional patriotic music as well as several special performances.
“We will have a section where we will recognize everyone who has served.,” Flanagan said. “We will be performing a medley of songs from each of the services — the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Coast Guard. And during that, we will ask those who served in each of those services to stand so we can honor them.”
The concert will also feature a “missing man” ceremony, which Flanagan says was inspired by Jo Anne Shirley of Dalton. Shirley’s brother, Maj. Bobby Jones, was declared missing in action (MIA) after a plane crash during the Vietnam War. Shirley has been very active in the National League of POW/MIA Families, including serving as chairman, and its efforts to make sure those men and women are not forgotten.
“We have an honor guard that will be presenting the colors,” said Flanagan. “And during the (missing man) ceremony, we will bring out six chairs, and they will place a hat on each of them. One hat representing each of the armed services and one representing civilians because Jo Anne told us that there are civilians who are MIA, too. And she will talk to us about all of the people who have been declared MIA or who have been prisoners of war during our history.”
“In every war that we have been involved in, we have had people who were missing in action. They never came back,” Flanagan said.
“In addition to the orchestra, we have an 80-voice choir, made up of members of the choirs of the First Baptist and First Methodist churches as well as ChristChurch Presbyterian,” Flanagan said.
Founded in Dalton in 1992, L’Abri (French for “shelter”) is a faith-based orchestra that provides opportunities for area musicians to come together to play, learn and grow in musicianship, and to bring the orchestral experience to Dalton and northwest Georgia. It has grown from a 25-person string section to a full orchestra with about 55 members.
“We are a regional orchestra. We have people from Whitfield and Murray counties, but we also have people from Gordon County, from Walker County, Catoosa County and Hamilton County in Tennessee,” Flanagan said. “We try to go to those areas as well. For instance, we always do two Christmas concerts. The last couple of years, we’ve held one of those here at the (First Baptist Church of Dalton). But last year, we held the other one in Chatsworth, and the year before that it was in Calhoun. This year, we are planning on going to LaFayette for our second Christmas concert.”