by Mark Gresham | 17 JUN 2016, Alpharetta, GA
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.