Article by Chris Starrs, The Citizen
COVINGTON — Just like Covington’s downtown Square is a community foundation, the popular Concerts on the Square – co-hosted by the Arts Association in Newton County and Main Street Covington – have also achieved institution status.
And even though the free concerts – which are held at noon each Thursday in May – have been around for close to three decades, they remain as popular as ever, perhaps even more popular.
“I have been booking them for going on 20 years and they were going strong before I got here,” said Ric Chiapetta, the Arts Association’s artistic and technical director. “If anything, the concerts are better attended now than when I started doing them.”
Pointing to the many shops and restaurants that make the Square a popular destination, Chiapetta says the free concerts are a way of encouraging community and a way for the Arts Association to show its appreciation for citizens’ patronage.
“The Square is so vibrant now,” he said. “People come and they buy lunch and listen to the free music. We have several hundred people there at every concert… We want to help keep the Square vibrant and to give something back to the community, which has given so much to us.”
This year’s lineup includes blues and pop with the Jon Browne Quartet (May 10), popular songs with a classical patina from Premier Brass (May 17), Americana from Benson, Leinweber and Gewin (May 24) and straight-up rock from Fields (May 31).
With the exception of Fields, all the artists on the May schedule have previously performed on the Square, which Chiapetta says is a testament to the artists’ popularity in the area. He adds that since a number of the businesses on the Square are now hiring musicians, the noontime concerts can also serve as auditions for certain acts.
“Some of the local restaurants are hiring bands, so some artists want to come out and be heard so they can pick up on some work that might be available here,” he said. “It’s become a win-win for everybody. They’re coming out and playing and they know they’ll be heard by the people who make decisions about who to bring to their establishments.”
When asked how he finds new groups to perform, Chiapetta said, “I check out what’s playing in the Atlanta area and try to find bands that I think will present something that’s different from what I’ve already booked. And if I see that a band that’s playing a lot, I’ll give them a listen to see if it’s something that works.”
And, as has been the case with the outdoor concerts since they began, Chiapetta tries to bring a wide range of musical styles to the Square.
“That’s the one thing, since I took over booking it years ago; I’ve really tried to make it as eclectic as possible, to introduce a lot of different sounds and styles and genres for the people who come to the concerts,” he said.
The Maddox Building (known by many as the old Belk Building) on Monticello Street will serve as the rain location for the concerts. For more information on the Concerts on the Square, call 770-786-8188 or visit www.newtoncountyarts.org.