Admiral Launch Duo proves sax and harp surprisingly amiable companions

by Mark Gresham | 10 JAN 2019

Admiral Launch Duo: saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis
Admiral Launch Duo: saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis

When saxophonist Jonathan Hulting-Cohen and harpist Jennifer R. Ellis first performed together, they were struck by the varied and beautiful blending of timbres that came from this instrumental odd couple, and decided it would make a great combination as an ongoing duo.

Named for the admiral butterfly, their Admiral Launch Duo first took flight at the Fresh Inc Festival in 2013, then began building their reputation, appearing at venues nationwide from San Francisco’s Center for New Music to New York City’s Spectrum.

“Launch,” the duo’s debut CD, was released December 1 on the Albany label (TROY1752), featuring a smorgasbord of pieces by nine composers: Yusef Lateef, Angélica Negrón, Ida Gotkovsky, Marcel Tournier, Stephen Rush, Natalie Moller, Patrick O’Malley, Christine Delphine Hedden, and Jasper Sussman. Its 18 tracks range from pieces commissioned by the Duo to a pair of notable transcriptions of French works: Ida Gotkovsky’s “Eolienne,” originally written for flute and harp, arranged by the composer, and Marcel Tournier’s “La lettre du jardinier,” a 1912 work originally for voice and harp, recorded here in the duo’s own arrangement. Six are world premiere recordings.

One of the tracks was posted to YouTube by Albany Records for free public perusal: “Whirlwind” which composer Stephen Rush describes as a spun-out “Funk-Indian Toccata plus a slow cadenza.” (Listen via the video embedded below.)

As thoroughly attractive as it is unlikely, the combination of sax and harp offers up a sonic experience that is as delectable as it is original, engagingly rendered on this disc by Ellis and Hulting-Cohen. It entices the listener to want to hear them perform live. ■

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.

ATL Symphony Musicians reach out with 6th annual appreciation concert

by Mark Gresham | 07 JAN 2019

A baker's dozen of ATL Symphony Musicians get cooking in a performance of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll. (photo: Mark Gresham)
A baker’s dozen of ATL Symphony Musicians get cooking in a performance of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. (photo: Mark Gresham)

On Sunday bright and sunny afternoon, the ATL Symphony Musicians presented their 6th annual Appreciation concert at Kellett Chapel in Atlanta’s tony Buckhead neighborhood, performing music by Ibert, Wagner and Brahms.

The concert opened with a set for woodwind quintet, Jacques Ibert’s “Trois Pièces Brèves,” a convivial bit of French modernism from 1930, as lucent in disposition as the day’s resplendent weather. Then a total of 13 musicians assembled onstage, sans conductor, for a moving performance of Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll.” After intermission, came the String Sextet No. 2 of Johannes Brahms, a substantial work of both technical ingenuity and poetic inspiration, to bring the concert to an emphatic close.

A total of 16 musicians* were involved in the concert, a combination of members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and alumni of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. One of the latter, violinist Davis S. Butner, who is currently studying architecture at Yale, gave a speech after intermission about, to quote his opening paragraph, “the impact the Atlanta Symphony has made on my life and musical upbringing as a native Atlantan.”

Beginning with the magic he discovered in his first Young Audiences Concert in 1997, Butner walked the audience through personal tales of the ASO’s passionate performances, engagement of the community, and the personal access he was afforded as a young person to the orchestra’s professional musicians, recounting the names of many who helped and inspired him.

Butner closed his talk with a cautionary passage from a speech by the late Robert Shaw, former music director of the ASO, “The Conservative Arts,” in which Shaw argues for the essential collegiality between amateur and professional, between orchestra and public, and that we must remain on guard together lest we lose our arts to careless cultural complacency.

It was a combination of professional and student musicians that launched the first ATL Symphony Musicians Appreciation Concert in 2012, in the tumultuous days following the first lockout of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, presenting a free concert as a statement of unity, identity and bonds between the city’s symphonic musicians, their students and the community at large.

The ATL Symphony Musicians Foundation, Inc. was formally incorporated in April 2014, not long before a second lockout would rock the orchestra, and the annual Appreciation Concerts have continued under their watchful auspices.

Although those difficult days for Atlanta’s classical community are past, and the situation less urgent and stressful, ATL Symphony Musicians is not going away or abandoning its mission of advocacy and musical outreach where needs are found to exist. It promises to still be here as a vehicle for support of the city’s symphonic musicians in the event another cultural crisis like the lockouts ever comes hurtling through Atlanta again.  ■

*Musicians performing in this concert were:

Violin: David Coucheron, David Butner+, Alice Hong+; Viola: Madeline Sharp, Erin Pitts+; Cello: Karen Freer, Grace Sommer+; Contrabass: Daniel Tosky; Flute: Todd Skitch. Oboe: Sam Nemec. Clarinet: Marci Gurnow^, Shaquille Southwell+; Bassoon: Laura Najarian; Trumpet: Stuart Stephenson; Horns: Chelsea Southwell^, Jack Bryant+.

+ASYO Alumni
^Both ASO members and ASYO alumni
All others are members of the ASO.

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.

Ideal Christmas gift for the music lover: The joy of classical music via digital radio

by Mark Gresham | 23 DEC 2018

Dear metro-Atlanta classical music fans: Do you miss listening to classical music on your old analog radio in the car, kitchen, or livingroom? Have no fear: while our most beloved programming has vacated the main analog radio signal in favor of talk radio programming, it’s fully available on WABE’s digital sub-channel 2. You just need the means to grab it from the airwaves and feed it to your starving ears. It’s not that hard, though it mans a shift in technology. You reliable old 1929 Philco radio can’t get it, but there are ways.

Tommy Joe Anderson

WABE Radio’s Tommy Joe Anderson

This past Thursday, ArtsATL published my brief Q&A with WABE Radio’s Tommy Joe Anderson. (Read it here.) Anderson talks about the the great shift of classical music programming to one of the station’s digital subchannel, and what that means for the avid listener who misses hearing it in the familiar, old-fashioned way. But there’s more to it than what would fit in that brief Q&A, a few more specifics for the listener who wants to recapture the sublimeness and variety they remember in classical music broadcasts of yore. It’s all there, just waiting to be heard, just in a new way.

Here’s Anderson’s advice for the various ways in which to listen to WABE’s HD2 all-classical music channel, including some devices that will make great Christmas gifts for your favorite classical music lover — including yourself, of course! He follows that with a list of the panoply of programs available on WABE 90.1-2.

First, about various devices and means of listening:

• Use your Smartphone, tablet or computer: At no cost, using your Smartphone or other online internet connection. From your computer go to WABE.org and at the the top of the webpage, click on the WABE On-Air (or) WABE Classics and choose WABE Classics to start listening to the All-Day Music, at no cost.

You can most easily use your Smartphone connection by downloading the free WABE Mobile App from the Google Play Store or iTunes. Once loaded, click on the WABE logo and select LIVE WABE or MUSIC WABE. Press LIVE MUSIC and the click arrow at the bottom of the screen, and you are ready to listen. You may then make use of a Bluetooth device to act as a speaker, if you do not want to use ear buds or your cell phone’s speaker. There are many different models ranging in price from $30 -$75.

• HD-Radio: These are available in many new cars and in a various array of audio components and portable versions. My suggestion to most new HD listeners is to get the Sangen HDR-16 that is available at Amazon for only $99. It is portable, stereo and also has AM/FM access.

• Internet Radio: These are radios that use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connection. They are more expensive, but can capture stations world-wide (100,000+), including our local WABE 90.1-2. My suggestion for this is the medium priced Grace Digital Encore ($195-$229) at Amazon.

Now that you know how to get it, here’s what Anderson lists as the current panoply of “Classical Music All Day” that can be heard on WABE’s HD-2 channel 90.1-2:

The all-day classical music programming on the WABE 90.1-2 weekly schedule includes such orchestras as:

  • Pittsburgh Symphony
  • New York Philharmonic
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic

Many popular nationally syndicated programs such as:

  • Performance Today (including the Weekend Edition)
  • The Metropolitan Opera
  • American Opera Series
  • From the Top
  • The Chamber Society of Lincoln Center
  • Live From the Grand Teton Music Festival
  • Carnegie Live
  • The Record Shelf
  • Pipedreams
  • Center Stage from Wolf Trap
  • Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

Locally WABE produced programs such as:

  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
  • Second Cup with Lois Reitzes
  • Atlanta Music Scene
  • Spivey Soiree
  • Strike Up the Band

With “Classical 24” filling out the schedule in the off hours. ■

Read Mark Gresham’s Q&A with Tommy Joe Anderson on ArtsATL