Begin your Christmas celebrations early with the award-winning Tar River Children’s Chorus and the Tar River Youth Strings as they present their 2019 Christmas Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church at 200 South Church St.

The concert will showcase the young musicians’ talents through a delightful variety of ancient, traditional and modern carols and songs under the leadership of choir director Patsy Johnson Gilliland and strings director Chris Ellis.

There will even be an opportunity for the audience to join in the singing.

The highlight of the program will be Benjamin Britten’s complete Ceremony of Carols presented by the Concert Chorus with harpist Heather Hills. Britten is a foremost 20th Century British composer.

Another highlight will be the Cantare, complete with pajamas and Santa hats, performing Harry Simeone’s arrangement of “’Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Favorites, like “Carol of the Bells” and Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Canon” with chorus and strings, will not fail to please any audience. Dan Forrest’s arrangement of “Angels From the Realms of Glory” will be a wonderful finale for the full the children’s chorus and four-hand piano, violin and percussion. This family-friendly event is designed to provide a great start to your Christmas celebrations.

The Tar River Children’s Chorus was established in 1991 as a branch of the Tar River Choral and Orchestral Society Inc. A founding member of the children’s chorus, Gilliland has been the director since 1993. The children’s chorus consists of three groups of singers: Cantare, the training chorus for grades 4-6; Concert Chorus, the premiere performing group for treble voices, grades 7-12; and Ensemble, high school treble voices with advanced musical and performance skills.

The Tar River Children’s Chorus is an auditioned chorus. Contact Gilliland at for information and auditions.

The Tar River Children’s Chorus has given concerts at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Riverside Church in New York City, Bruton Parish Church in historic Williamsburg as part of their Candlelight Concerts, Philadelphia’s Church of the Holy Trinity, Charleston’s famous Piccolo Spoletto Festival, and Asheville’s Biltmore House at Christmas, as well as in many of our area churches and local events, particularly at Rocky Mount’s Martin Luther King Day program. They have appeared with the Tar River Orchestra many times over their nearly 29 years.

The Tar River Children’s Chorus has participated in many choral festivals and competitions in North Carolina, Virginia, Philadelphia and New York City. The Cantare and Concert Chorus have been five times rated as the top elementary and top high school choirs at the Music in the Park Festivals. At the National Heritage/World Strides Festivals in New York City the various components of the Tar River Children’s Chorus were rated superior and named winners of their divisional categories in 2013 and 2018.

The Tar River Youth Strings also was established in 1991 under the Tar River Orchestra & Chorus umbrella. The Tar River Youth Strings offers both private lessons and two different ensembles to privately train public school students. Ensemble ages are students ages 8 and above.

Contact Ellis for lessons or ensemble participation at

This annual concert is part of the Tar River Orchestra & Chorus season. Tickets for Friday’s concert may also be purchased at the door. Adult tickets are $15. Children and students through college — with ID — are free.

Go to or Tar River Children’s Chorus Facebook page for more information.