Tthe Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet: Michael Moore, Kimberly Gilman, Michael Tiscione, Stuart Stephenson and Jeremy Buckler.(source: video still)

Brass music blooms at Atlanta Botanical Garden

Mark Gresham | 24 JUL 2020

The Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet (aka ASO Brass Quintet) performed a pop-up concert on Thursday evening at the Atlanta Botanical Garden as part of the “Cocktails in the Garden” summer event series.

The five Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians – Stuart Stephenson and Michael Tiscione, trumpets; Kimberly Gilman, horn; Jeremy Buckler, trombone; and Michael Moore, tuba – performed the 50-minute program, which began at 7pm, from the Lanier Terrace that faces the Levy Parterre formal courtyard.

To ensure a safe, crowd-free experience for the audience, capacity was limited, with admission by timed tickets purchased only online. Guests were expected to adhere to health guidelines on social distancing and masks were required.

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The sold-out event was originally scheduled for late June but postponed to July 23 due to inclement weather. This time, a small threat of rain never materialized, and it remained sunny and hot, even as the sun dropped below the treeline.

This was actually the second live performance by ASO musicians to take place at the Atlanta Botanical Garden this summer under the “Cocktails in the Garden” banner.. The first took place on July 2, featured the Franklin Pond Quarter (violinists Jun-Ching Lin and Carolyn Hancock, violist Paul Murphy, and cellist Daniel Laufer) plus flutist Christina Smith performing music of Haydn, Valerie Coleman, George Walker, and Mozart.

Thursday’s program by the Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet was a mixture of mostly lighter classical and popular arrangements. opening with the sprightly “Dance” by Wilke Renwick. That was followed by Johannes Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance #5” and then a medley of tunes drawn from works by Brahms, arranged by Moore for use in academic processions, which the group has a tradition of playing at Emory University graduation ceremonies. Edvard Grieg’s “Wedding Day in Troldhaugen” rounded out the opening salvo of more classical fare.


The group then turned to a suite of three pieces by Scott Joplin With floral monikers: “Sunflower Slow Drag,” “The Chrysanthemum” and “Gladiolus Rag.”  These were followed by Fat;s Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” from George Gesrhwin’s folk-opera, Porgy and Bess.

The American theme continued with John Philip Sousa’s “King Cotton March” and a pairing of Samuel Ward’s “America The Beautiful” with “America” from the Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

A centerpiece of the final group of selections Hoagy Carmichael ‘s iconic “Georgia On My Mind” as arranged for the group by Moore. (See the YouTube video below.)

Johannes Brahms: Piano trio No. 3 in C minor Op. 101

Atlanta Symphony Brass Quintet offers up  a “virtually distanced” performance of Hoagy Carmichael ‘s “Georgia On My Mind” that made its premiere on YouTube May 12, 2020.

Click the “expand” button in lower right corner to enlarge (recommended)

A pair of somewhat more “serious” classical selections came next: “Promenade” from Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exposition and J.S. Bach’s “Contrapunctus IX” from Art of the Fugue. The quintet then closed on a bright and energized note with the enduring Dixieland standard “That’s A Plenty” by Lew Pollack.

Overall, the concert exuded optimism and a positive mood, something we despeately need after months under the restrictions of the COVID-19 crisis, with live performanes canceled across the board. That it went well as an experience for the limited public audience, is a sign of hope and that this successful “dipping the toe in the water” twice this summer by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will lead in due time to safe and successful concert performances with both larger ensembles and larger audiences. If we’re really lucky, in time for the new ASO classical subscription series.

You can be a part of bringing that closer to reality with your own pragmatic, common sense behavior. To that end, we urge readers to observe the Governor’s “Four Things for Four Weeks” advice described in this article. Stay safe, and do your part to help bring back more live concerts sooner.  ■