by Mark Gresham | 07 JAN 2019
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. ■