The ASO on GPB - March 20 & 23

Thursday, March 20 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 23 at 10 p.m. on GPB, please join us for an Atlanta Symphony concert recorded in late October 2007.

Music director Robert Spano conducts a program that weaves together themes of France and dance and jazz. Spano also chats with us about the art of picking music for the orchestra (the important part is choosing what to whittle away - just like Michelangelo, he says) and the thrilling risk of making an in-concert recording of La Boheme for CD release.

We also meet ASO prinicpal harpist Elisabeth Remy Johnson, who explains what everyone wants to know about harps, and solos in music of Debussy. (More on her below.)

Here's what's on the program:

  • A Frenchman in New York beats Gershwin to the punch when it comes to injecting classical music with jazz. We hear The Creation of the World, by Darius Milhaud.
  • The harp's not just for angels. Debussy gives it both Sacred AND Profane Dances to play.
  • Ravel looks back to the nineteenth century with two waltzy works, La Valse and Noble and Sentimental Waltzes.
  • And to close the ASO's month-long French festival, the fruits of Gershwin's 1928 trip to Europe: An American in Paris, complete with the homesick blues in the middle.
The broadcast concludes with rhythmic selections from the Atlanta Symphony's new CD The Garden of Cosmic Speculation - music by Michael Gandolfi, in a world premiere recording - and Jean-Michel Damase's Sicilienne Variee, from Elisabeth Remy Johnson's CD Whirlwind.

By the way, Elisabeth Remy Johnson's harp activities extend well beyond Symphony Hall. She has also been making a mark in the community as co-founder and artistic director of the Urban Youth Harp Ensemble (, which serves harp students from the Atlanta public school system. That work has won her Atlanta's Channel 11 Community Service Award and the TBS Pathfinder's Award. She explains what inspired her to launch the group:

After I moved to Atlanta to be the principal harpist with the ASO, I went to a national harp convention and saw a performance given by the Richmond Public School Harp Ensemble, and thought it would be great if we started something similar in Atlanta. Another really strong motivating factor was acknowledging the fact that I kind of 'fell across' the harp. My mom just happened to take me to a harp concert when I was 6, and it was literally a life-changing experience. I wanted students to have access to harps and to instruction, so they could have the exposure to the instrument that might be life-changing for them, too. . . . One of our first students kept with his harp studies throughout high school, and was offered a full scholarship to the University of Michigan to continue his harp studies! Through music, the students can develop skills and achievements throughout high school that will open the door to many post-secondary experiences.