NPR: A King Celebration 2003

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A King Celebration 2003


Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Monica Kaufman
Laura English-Robinson | Crystal Harris
Mel Foster | Martin Woods
Spelman College Glee Club | Morehouse College Glee Club
Fred Child

Robert Spano

ROBERT SPANO, Music Director
The Robert Reid Topping Chair

Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano this season conducts numerous Classical Season concerts on the main subscription series and joins the orchestra for the annual concert in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., a tour of Florida cities, and a variety of other musical and outreach activities. His first recording with the ASO, of Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade and Russian Easter Overture, appeared last year. The Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony, recorded with the ASO and Chorus, has recently been released to widespread acclaim.

Mr. Spano is recognized internationally as one of America's outstanding conductors, acclaimed for leading vital, musically distinguished performances as well as for the breadth of repertoire he explores and his consistently imaginative programming. He has conducted nearly every major North American orchestra, including the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Toronto Symphony, as well as the Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Santa Fe Opera. He has also appeared with orchestras and opera companies throughout Europe and Asia, notably the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala (Milan), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Residentie Orchestra of the Hague, Ensemble Intercontemporain (Paris), New Japan Philharmonic (Tokyo), Royal Opera at Covent Garden (London), and Welsh National Opera. As Music Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra since 1996, he has brought the orchestra to serious international attention.

This season, in addition to his Atlanta and Brooklyn concerts, Mr. Spano makes his New York Philharmonic debut and conducts the orchestras of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Saint Louis, and the City of Birmingham, England. He gives the London premiere of Kaija Saariaho's opera L'Amour de loin, of which he conducted the North American premiere last summer in Santa Fe. He has recently been appointed Director of the Festival of Contemporary Music for the summers of 2003 and 2004 at the Tanglewood Music Center, where he has served as Director of the prestigious conducting fellowship program since 1998.

An accomplished pianist, Mr. Spano performs chamber music with many of his colleagues from the Atlanta Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Oberlin Conservatory and this season will appear with the Emory Chamber Music Society as part of ASO Connect!, a chamber music initiative of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Born in Conneaut, Ohio, and raised in Elkhart, Indiana, Mr. Spano grew up in a musical family, composing and playing flute, violin, and piano. A graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, he studied conducting with Robert Baustian and continued his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Max Rudolf. Last season he received an honorary doctorate from the Curtis Institute. He has been featured on the PBS series City Arts, A&E's Breakfast with the Arts, CBS's Late Show with David Letterman, CBS Sunday Morning, and "Sound Choices"- Inside the ASO with Monica Kaufman of WSB-TV. He makes his home in Atlanta.

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Serving as the cornerstone for musical performance and training in an area extending far beyond the city's borders, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra serves nearly half a million people through its various concert series and its diverse initiatives in music education and outreach. The orchestra performs more than 200 concerts each year, with its main subscription series augmented by pops series, family concerts, and a full summer schedule including classical, pops, and free parks concerts. Its educational concerts for young people are consistently sold out, reaching more than 50,000 youngsters annually.

The annual King Celebration concert has become one of the most widely recognized national musical tributes to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Broadcast by National Public Radio, the concert features the Glee Clubs of Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. Over the course of more than a decade, the observance has included guest artists such as Jessye Norman, Billy Taylor and his Trio, André Raphel Smith, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Avery Brooks.

A participant in the National Black Arts Festival since its beginning, the ASO joined with the festival in 1994 to sponsor a competition for new compositions by African-American composers. The orchestra also treasures its relationships with area churches, with concerts given in collaboration with Ebenezer Baptist Church, Cascade Road United Methodist Church, and others. Expanding its touring to surrounding cities, the orchestra has begun "ASO Around Georgia," in which it presents concerts supplemented by related activities designed in collaboration with host communities.

The ASO's educational programs include the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, an auditioned and professionally coached performing organization for musicians of high-school age; the Talent Development Program, which develops young minority players on an individual basis through coaching and mentoring by ASO musicians; and Young People's Concerts, providing an educational experience for preschool through secondary-school youngsters. High-school and college-age students can meet ASO musicians and tour Symphony Hall in conjunction with the orchestra's regular concert series.

In addition, the ASO has launched a number of ambitious outreach initiatives through the "Partners in Performance" program, taking musicians, individually or in groups, into schools, churches, neighborhood centers, retail establishments, arts organizations, and government agencies. These programs combine performance with a variety of musical activities to bring music to children and adults who are not part of the regular audiences at Symphony Hall. Most of the ASO's players regularly volunteer their time for these activities. Through partnerships with Georgia State University's Neighborhood Music Schools program, the Rialto Performing Arts Center, and the Sphinx Competition, the ASO provides expanded performance and educational opportunities for many budding musicians.

Since its first concerts in 1945, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has grown from a local youth group to become one of America's major orchestras. The 95-member orchestra is complemented by the acclaimed Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and the widely recognized Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. European tours in 1988 and 1991 presented the Orchestra and Chorus on an international stage. The ASO and the ASYO were also prominently featured in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games in 1996.

Recordings by the ASO have drawn international praise, winning an Audio Excellence Award, Gramophone and Ovation Magazine Awards, and 18 Grammy awards. (ASO recordings have just received five Grammy nominations in the current year's competition.) The ASO records for Telarc, with additional releases available on the Argo, New World, Nonesuch, Sony Classical, and Vox labels.

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Monica Kaufman


WSB-TV's "Action News" anchor, Monica Kaufman joined the Channel 2 staff in 1975. A graduate of the University of Louisville, she was a reporter with The Louisville Times for four years. She worked in public relations for Brown-Forman Distillers before joining WHAS-TV in Louisville as a reporter and anchor for two years.

Monica is a member of various professional organizations, which include the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists, and the Atlanta Junior League. Among her numerous honors are 23 local and Southern Regional Emmy Awards for talent, reporting, and her own program, Monica Kaufman Closeups. In 1992 the Women's Sports Foundation and Miller Lite presented her with the Women's Sports Journalism Award for local television reporting for her investigative report on the Georgia High School Association, which in its 87 years had never had a woman on its executive committee and did not have a statewide competition for girl's soccer or cheerleading. She was awarded first-place recognition for excellence in documentary journalism by the Atlanta chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for "Hot Flash! The Truth About Menopause" in 1995. The documentary also won two National American Women in Radio and Television Commendations in competition with network programs.

Monica is the mother of two daughters.

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Laura English-Robinson


A native of Atlanta, Laura English-Robinson received her bachelor of arts degree from Spelman College and a master of music degree from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She has been a scholarship recipient and vocal fellow at the Berkshire Music Center (Tanglewood), the Brevard Music Center, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, and the AIMS summer study program in Graz, Austria. She has toured Italy, the United States, and South America performing in chamber, solo, orchestra, and opera performances. She was the winner of Italy's Golden Puccini Vocal Competition and recipient of the Sullivan Foundation Awards, Mayor's Fellowship in the Arts (City of Atlanta), and Martin Luther King, Jr., Artistic Achievement Award.

Ms. English-Robinson has performed on numerous occasions with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under the late Robert Shaw, Yoel Levi, and guest conductor William Eddins for King Celebration 2001. She made her New York debut at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall. She has performed in recital and oratorio at the National Cathedral in Washington, Spivey Hall in Atlanta, Sumner Museum Artist Series in Washington, and Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston and as soloist with the Chattanooga, Baltimore, Valdosta, Montgomery, Lexington, DeKalb, and Albany Symphonies and Orchestra Atlanta. She sang the title role in the world premiere of the opera Zabette by composer Curtis Bryant and librettist Mary Bullard. Her CD Let It Shine!, a recording of Negro spirituals by traditional and contemporary African American composers and arrangers, is in its second release.

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Enjoying a growing reputation as one of this country's most exciting artists, Crystal M. Harris made her professional debut with Onyx Opera Atlanta in the 1991 production of Gallantry. She has also performed major roles in Treemonisha and Dream Lovers with the company. Her repertoire includes roles in Dialogues des Carmelites, The Medium, Le nozze di Figaro, and The Old Maid and the Thief. She joined the Houston Grand Opera during its 1994 international tour of Porgy and Bess. In 1998 she made her role debut as Bess in Bremen, Germany.

A graduate of Spelman College, Ms. Harris has previously appeared with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in A Child of Our Time by Michael Tippett and The Three-Cornered Hat by Manuel de Falla. She appeared in a concert version of Porgy and Bess with the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers at Spivey Hall. A committed educator, she has presented lectures, "informances," and master classes at many high schools, colleges, and churches.

Ms. Harris has performed in prestigious opera houses in Milan, Paris, Düsseldorf, Rome, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, and Los Angeles, among others. She is featured on the compact discs Music for Our Time - The Choral Music of Lena J. McLin, 125th Church Anniversary Concert - Live from Wheat Street Baptist Church, and For Doc - The Choral Music of Wendell P. Whalum.

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A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Mel Foster has a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Recent performances have been with the Fairbanks Symphony as tenor soloist in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Fairbanks, Alaska; with the Rome Festival 2001 as Ferrando in Mozart's Così fan tutte in Rome, Italy; as a featured soloist in the Bach Society of St. Paul's performance of The Passion According to St. John; as Seth Fitzgerald in the premiere of The Opera Singer by Sharon Willis, founder of the Americolor Opera Alliance; in Adolphus Hailstork's I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes with the Augusta Choral Society (regional broadcast); and as soloist with the Atlanta Chamber Players. Dr. Foster is an Assistant Professor of Voice at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

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A member of the Morehouse College Glee Club and student of Dr. Melvin Foster, Martin L. Woods was recently a soloist with the Glee Club in "Christmas with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra" concerts in Symphony Hall. He began classical training at the age of 15 in his native Chicago, and while in high school he studied and performed at the Oxbridge Académie in Paris and the Dorolyn Academy in OakPark, Illinois. At Morehouse he is majoring in both Music (voice performance) and Business (marketing). He has participated in numerous master classes and regional competitions of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. In the summer of 2001 he was a member of the Janiec Opera Company at the Brevard Music Festival.

Mr. Woods has performed opera roles in The Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach, The Magic Flute by Mozart, Carousel by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and The Yeomen of the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan. He has also performed with the Atlanta University Center Opera Workshop. Last summer he was a featured soloist with the Moses Hogan Singers on their recording This Little Light of Mine.

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Kevin Johnson, Director

Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a privately endowed four-year liberal arts college enrolling approximately 2,000 women. For over a hundred years, the college has stood strongly and proudly as a beacon of education and leadership preparation for bright, gifted, and dedicated women of color.

Open by audition to all students of the college, the Spelman College Glee Club has maintained a reputation of choral excellence for over fifty years. Its repertoire places special emphasis on traditional spirituals, music by African-American composers, music from many cultures, and commissioned works. The Glee Club has traveled throughout the country, performing in such venues as Boston's Fanueil Hall, the Academy of Music in New York, Avery Fisher Hall at New York's Lincoln Center, and in churches, high schools, colleges, and universities. Its international travels have taken it to Brazil and Canada.

The Glee Club is the primary performance organization of the College and sings for most major campus events. It frequently appears with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and such renowned soloists as Jessye Norman in the Symphony's nationally broadcast Martin Luther King, Jr., Birthday Celebrations. A perennial highlight of the Christmas season in Atlanta is the Christmas Carol Concert presented by the combined Spelman and Morehouse College Glee Clubs. The audience swells to over 6,000 for the three nights of these festive concerts.

Past directors of the Spelman Glee Club include the late Willis Laurence James, Roland Allison, and Norma Raybon. The Glee Club is now under the direction of Dr. Kevin P. Johnson, Assistant Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department. Dr. Johnson, who earned degrees from California State University at Los Angeles and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is an active conductor/clinician for school honor choruses throughout the United States; he is often invited to provide choral workshops and retreats for music educators and churches. His choral compositions and arrangements are published by Colla Voce, Lion & Lamb, and GIA Publishers.

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David Morrow, Director

Embracing a tradition of musical excellence and achievement, the Morehouse College Glee Club is the official singing organization of Morehouse College, on call to serve the college's president throughout the year. Its members have earned such honors as the Merrill Travel Study Award for overseas experience, a listing in Who's Who among American Colleges and Universities, and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. All receive no academic credit, but sing as a labor of love. Their majors include all offered by the college, and they come from homes encompassing the U.S., Africa, and the Caribbean. Along with local concerts, the Glee club makes an annual spring tour of ten to fifteen cities.

In the early years of the 20th century, Georgia Starr, a music professor at what was then Atlanta Baptist College, directed a choral ensemble of ten to twelve students and an orchestra of five to six students. Kemper Harreld assumed directorship of these ensembles in 1911, officially founding the Glee Club. He is credited with initiating the Glee Club's strong tradition of excellence and passing it on to its members. Wendell Whalum took the helm as the Glee Club's director in 1953. Under his direction the Glee Club performed for the funeral services of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in the Second International Choral Festival at New York's Lincoln Center, made a month-long tour of five African countries, performed for the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter, and sang in the East Room of the White House with Coretta Scott King. They also recorded "I'm Buildin' Me a Home," arranged by former Glee club member Uzee Brown, Jr., for the soundtrack of Spike Lee's movie School Daze.

David Morrow, a prized student of Whalum's and valedictorian of his Morehouse graduating class, became the ensemble's director in 1987. Under Dr. Morrow the Glee Club performed the national anthem with Natalie Cole for Super Bowl XXVIII. They participated with Jessye Norman, the ASO, Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, and Trisha Yearwood in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, and toured Poland and cities along the Volga River in Russia. They have sung in each of the ASO's concerts observing the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, including the initial concert in 1993 with soprano Jessye Norman, and they have sung with the ASO at Christmas time almost every year for 30 years.

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Fred Child


Classical music expert and enthusiast Fred Child is the host of NPR's daily classical music program Performance Today. He brings extensive knowledge and experience to his work, sharing the breadth and excitement of today's classical music with PT's millions of weekly listeners. He is also a frequent guest music columnist for Billboard magazine.

Mr. Child was born in Huntsville, Alabama, but grew up in Portland, Oregon. He studied classical piano for ten years in his youth. Although he loves to entertain himself at the keyboard (as well as on guitar and bagpipes), he doesn't consider himself a classical player. Having performed in bands in the Northwest and "recorded a few albums here and there," he is no stranger to the workings of the American music scene, and his appreciation of musicians and music is evident in his amicable and intelligent interviewing style.

As music host and programmer at NPR member station WNYC in New York, Mr. Child drew upon a strong background in radio hosting and programming. He was the host and producer of a daily performance and interview program, and he hosted the weekend afternoon classical music shows, filling in as substitute host for weekend music and news programs. He also produced a season of NPR's Selected Shorts radio series.

Mr. Child previously served for a year as the morning drive host of Sony's SW Classical Network, where he hosted a lively, accessible music program for the national network, and for ten years he was a host, announcer, producer, and programmer for Oregon Public Broadcasting Radio.

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