Tag Archives: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

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.

Evans Mirageas departs Atlanta Symphony, goes full-time at Cincinnati Opera

by Mark Gresham | 18 DEC 2018

Evans Mirageas in front of Music Hall in Cincinnati

Evans Mirageas in front of Music Hall in Cincinnati

This past summer, Evans Mirageas was posed with a tough carer decision. As full-time vice president of artistic planning for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Mirageas has been flying back-and-forth from Atlanta to Cincinnati to fulfill a part-time role as artistic director of the Cincinnati Opera. The topic of going full-time with Cincinnati Opera was first brought up in June by its general director and CEO, Patricia Beggs. Mirageas and Beggs decided to revisit the question at the end of the company’s season, which takes place in summer months when the ASO is in the break between their own seasons. Ultimately, Mirageas chose to go with being at the helm of Cincinnati Opera full-time.

After the news leaked back in October, I sat down with Mirageas for a conversation which resulted in a substantial Q&A published yesterday on ArtsATL. If you haven’t already, go read it first.

As is typical, there was a little more in our discussion which didn’t make it into that article, which was already on the long side. The following excerpts, which of necessity hit my cutting room floor as I paired down the Q&A for ArtsATL, are what could be called a pair of “bonus tracks” for readers of that article.

Read Mark Gresham’s Q&A with Evans Mirageas on ArtsATL

First, Mirageas on the current status of Cincinnati Opera, which played a large role in his decision to go for it:

What has happened to Cincinnati Opera is it has grown from a company that presented four grand operas in one theater to now a much more diversified and expanded menu of three grand operas in our main theater, a chamber opera or Baroque opera or new opera in a slightly smaller theater, and a whole new line of operas on contemporary subjects in non-conventional spaces. With great plans going ahead to the future, the company’s also about to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020. So I answered [Beggs’] question in the affirmative, that I thought there was a way we could do this.

With the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming 75th anniversary season in 2019-20, for which he had essentially finished his planning work before departing, Mirageas had a few additional things to say about that season and beyond, as a kind of philosophical reflection on the orchestra’s past and future:

What I’m excited about, as far as the 75th anniversary of the institution is concerned, is that the ASO at 75 has already begun to re-imagine itself as a leader in the community, a bellwether for this community’s cultural arts in a way that perhaps it hasn’t enjoyed since the headiest days of the early days of Mr. Shaw. Because when Robert Shaw came here in the late 1960s [to be the orchestra’s music director] it was at the height of the civil rights movement. He came here in part because this was the city of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Of course tragic events ensued and Shaw never really got to have the collaboration he dreamed up with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We honor his memory every year but for Atlanta and for Shaw at the time, it was a season of new beginnings. He created, of course, our first chamber chorus and then our Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus, which just carried our name worldwide. He was at the ground level of the creation of our digital recording project, which of course made us worldwide stars on Telarc with both symphonic and choral literature.

The orchestra grew under Yoel Levi by leaps and bounds in technical prowess. It consolidated and went in new directions with repertoire with Robert [Spano] and Donald [Runnicles]. In other words, the evolution, as it were, from just 50 to 75, a 25-year span, which is the blinking of an eye for any institution of longevity, has been enormous. As we look at 75, I think it is a tremendously significant time for the institution because we are on the cusp of Robert handing over the reins to whoever will succeed him. [That person] will be only the fifth music director in an orchestra that is 75 years old. With all the new activities that we have already undertaken, with the broadening of our repertoire, with the fact that we are more and more a citizen of Atlanta, again I think 76 and beyond is going to be amazing for this institution.

EarRelevant will be keeping an ear and eye on Mirageas and his continued artistic adventures in Cincinnati and elsewhere. ■

Read Mark Gresham’s Q&A with Evans Mirageas on ArtsATL

Violin prodigy David Coucheron takes “musical journey” as ASO concertmaster [ArtsATL “30 under 30” profile]

By Mark Gresham | 2 Aug 2013, ArtsATL

David Coucheron began playing the violin at age two. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

David Coucheron began playing the violin at age two. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

When violinist David Coucheron began his role as concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in September 2010, he was just reaching his 25th birthday, making him the youngest concertmaster of any major symphony orchestra. That remains true today. Coucheron, who plays a 1725 Stradivarius, will turn 28 in September. … • READ MORE on ArtsATL