ASO rings in the summer with an all-American theme at Verizon Amphiteatre

by Mark Gresham | 17 JUN 2016, Alpharetta, GA

Stand and deliver: Joseph Young and the ASO invited the audience to join in on "The Star Spangled Banner." (credit: Chris Eason Photography)

Stand and deliver: Joseph Young and the ASO invited the audience to join in on “The Star Spangled Banner.” (credit: Chris Eason Photography)

On Thursday evening, June 16, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed an all-American outdoor summer concert at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in the north suburban city if Alpharetta, led by assistant conductor Joseph Young.

As is expected with such American-themed seasonal concerts, the ASO opened with “The Star Spangled Banner,” with audience standing and joining in. That was followed by the first of several selections by John Williams to be heard in the course of the evening, “The Cowboys Overture” — music from the classic 1972 John Wayne western, The Cowboys.

On a humorous note, the ASO performed a novelty piece by Leroy Anderson, “The Typewriter,” with percussionist Michael Cebulski as soloist, playing an old-fashioned manual typewriter. Then came another
Anderson number, “Fiddle Faddle,” serving as a showpiece for the strings.

“Fly Forward,” the final movement of Jennifer Higdon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Violin Concerto featured assistant concertmaster Justin Bruns in a vigorous tour de force performance.

Aaron Copland’s “Three Dance Episodes from Rodeo” offered up a rousing conclusion to the program’s first half.

After intermission, the sun had essentially gone down and it was dark enough to finally see the live video mix projected on the large screens on either side of the stage. The daylight brightness essentially washed out the video during the first half. Air temperature also cooled to a more manageable level, helping relieve both audience and the musicians on stage, where it was much hotter.

The program’s second half opened with a number frequently heard in the ASO’s parks and open-air concerts: Morton Gould’s “American Suite,” a fantasia on the tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” That was paired with another Gould piece, the “Pavanne” from is Second American Symphonette, replete with jazzy elements and a walking bass line.

More jazz influences came with “Duke Ellington Medley,” a clutch of Ellington tunes arranged by Calvin Custer, and a similarly assembled group of elections from Leonard Bernstein’s music for West Side Story, arranged by Jack Mason, added some Latin flavor to the mix as well.

More Copland was in store with “Variations o a Shaker Melody” from his ballet Appalachian Spring, then two more film score excerpts from Williams: “The Flight to Neverland” from Hook and and audience favorite,“Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back. The program closed out on a patriotic theme with Samuel A. Ward’s “America the Beautiful” and John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Young and the ASO gave a consistently assured performance overall supported by rather well balanced audio mixing in the necessary amplification required by the large venue, which has a total capacity of 12,000 between fixed stadium seating, tables and open lawn combined.

This coming Thursday, June 23, Young and the ASO will present another outdoor concert, this time a free performance at 7:30pm in the open Oak Hill quadrant of Piedmont Park in midtown Atlanta. The program will feature music by Beethoven, Rossini, John Williams, Chris Brubeck and James Brown.

Fractured Atlas LogoThis post was made possible in part by funds from Fractured Atlas. Donations supporting the Fractured Atlas “Mark Gresham” project may be made online by clicking the linked logo on the right. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Sonic Generator concert at MOCA-GA engages with 5 solos and an ensemble finale

by Mark Gresham | 26 MAY 2016, Atlanta, GA

Sonic Generator performs “ACDC” by Michael Gordon.

Sonic Generator performs “ACDC” by Michael Gordon. (credit: Mark Gresham)


Georgia Tech-based new music ensemble Sonic Generator presented a free concert on Monday evening in the downstairs gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art–Georgia (MOCA-GA). The program consisted of five works for solo musicians then concluded with a work played the whole ensemble.

The show kicked off with flutist Jessica Peek Sherwood performing “It” (2012) by Dutch avant-garde composer Jacob TV (Jacob ter Veldhuis). Like many of his works, Jacob TV built “It” around samples of the human voice, in this case based on a 1928 newsreel of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. The accompanying soundtrack and video consisted primarily of the voices and images of Helen and Ann, fragmented into sentences, words and syllables. In its climactic concluding moments, Sherwood spoke breathlessly between her played notes, Keller’s final word of the film’s dialogue: “I… am… not… dumb… now!”

Violinist Helen Hwaya Kim played the first two of John Harbison’s “Four Songs of Solitude” (1985), his only work for unaccompanied violin. The first was gentle and flowing in demeanor, the second paired a simple folk-like melody with a more athletic second motif. Cellist Brad Ritchie performed Steve Reich’s “Cello Counterpoint” (2003), a challenging work notable for its exceedingly tight, fast-paced rhythmic figures, in its version for live solo cello and a soundtrack of seven pre-recorded cellos.

Pianist Tim Whitehead performed “Shadows” (2015) by Atlanta composer Jason Freeman, involving an interactive computer-based score, with Whitehead reading it from the screen, which changed in response to Whitehead’s playing. Each of its four movements explored the interaction from a different perspective. Clarinetist Ted Gurch followed with “It Goes Without Saying” (2007) by Nico Muhly, which felt astonishingly organic despite the more electronic character of its accompanying soundtrack.

The concert concluded with the sole ensemble piece, “ACDC” (1996) by Michael Gordon, one of the founders of Bang-On-A-Can, in which the vivid interplay of polyrhythms was the predominant feature. Taken all together, the concert was consistently indicative of the ensemble’s penchant for high-quality performances. It made for an engaging evening.

Fractured Atlas LogoThis post was made possible in part by funds from Fractured Atlas. Donations supporting the Fractured Atlas “Mark Gresham” project may be made online by clicking the linked logo on the right. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Maker’s Dozen: Percussionist Stuart Gerber sparks new music scene with performances, teaching [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 19 Mar 2015

Gerber in Lugo, Italy, for the world premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Heaven’s Door” (“Himmels-Tür”). (Photo by Alain Taquet)

Percussionist Stuart Gerber is one of Atlanta’s most skilled and influential musicians. One of the original cofounders of new music ensemble Bent Frequency, Gerber is…
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Review: Led by guest conductor Storgårds with pianist Ingrid Fliter, ASO performs Chopin, Rachmaninoff [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 13 Mar 2015

Ingrid Fliter made her reputation as a stand-out interpreter of Chopin. (Photo by Sussie Ahlburg)

On Thursday evening at Symphony Hall the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed a concert of music by Nielsen, Chopin and Rachmaninoff, led by guest conductor John…
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Review: The Riverside Chamber Players close out season in great style, seek new concert venue [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 9 Mar 2015

The Riverside Chamber Players played their final show at in the Bridge to Grace Church Roswell. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

The Riverside Chamber Players presented the final concert of the season Sunday afternoon at the Bridge to Grace Church in Roswell, featuring music by Michael…
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Review: ASO flutist Christina Smith flaunts chemistry with pianist Robert Henry at KSU recital [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 27 Feb 2015

Robert Henry and the in-demand Christina Smith at KSU. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

Morgan Hall at Kennesaw State University’s Bailey Performance Center was the scene of a free recital on Monday night by flutist Christina Smith and pianist Robert Henry…
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