Chamber & Recital

Brian Nabors wins national Rapido! composition contest

by Mark Gresham | 21 JAN 2019

Composer Brian Nabors

Composer Brian Nabors (photo from www.briannabors.com)

Cincinnati-based composer Brian Raphael Nabors won the Rapido! National Composition Contest on Sunday, created and hosted by the Atlanta Chamber Players and the Antinori Foundation. Nabors was one of five composers to make it to the national finals, which took place yesterday afternoon at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Walter Hill Auditorium in Atlanta. The three judges for the competition were Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon and composer Michael Gandolfi, chairman of the composition department at New England Conservatory of Music.

Rapido! is so named because its primary criteria: composers who enter must write a four to six minute work in the span of only 14 days, not knowing either the competition’s theme or the three instruments for which they are to write the music until the beginning of that two-week period. A handful of composers are selected from entries to compete in regional competition. The winners of those regional contests then proceed as finalists in the national competition.

Brian Nabors

Brian Nabors (photo from www.briannabors.com)

The other four Rapido! finalists competing on Sunday were Jason Gerraughty (Redlands, CA), Mason Johnston (Atlanta, GA), Ben Robichhaux (Elizabeth City, NC) and Eric Segerstrom (Delmar, NY). All finalists’ entries were performed in front of the audience and judges by flutist Todd Skitch, clarinetist Alcides Rodriguez and cellist Brad Ritchie, three of the Atlanta Chamber Players who are all also members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

As winner of the National Grand Prize, Nabors receives a $5000 first prize commission to expand his competition entry, “3 Dances,” to a 15-minute work that will be premiered by Atlanta Chamber Players and three other ensembles across the nation, two weeks of residency at the Hambidge Center for the Arts in Rabun Gap, Georgia, and the opportunity to write a new work that will be premiered by Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Nabors is currently the 2018-19 Composer-in-Residence with the Castle of Our Skins organization, and from March 2 through 9 will also serve as the EarShot composer-in-residence for the Detroit Symphony and its Classical Roots Festival. Nabors is completing doctoral studies at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati where he also earned his Master of Music degree in Composition. His Bachelor of Music degree is from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. ■

Rapido! finalists and judges Top: Rapido! finalists Ben Robichhaux, Eric Segerstrom, Brian Nabors, Mason Johnston and Jason Gerraughty. Bottom: Rapido! judges Robert Spano, Jennifer Higdon and Michael Gandolfi. (photo credit: Chris Helton)

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.