On the Road with Joanne Robinson: Four Shows in Four Weeks

Fall has just begun, and we already have lots to catch up on! We’ve produced four shows over the past few weeks, and it’s been quite the whirlwind of activity.

Towering Pipe Organ

The towering pipe organ at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. That’s Forrest up there!

We started out in Atlanta, Georgia, where we recorded a show at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. The Schwartz Center is home to a truly enormous pipe organ – it towers 36 feet above the stage! Of course, we couldn’t waste the opportunity to showcase it, so found an outstanding young organist to do the honors – 15-year-old Forrest Eimold.

Now as you may know, a big part of playing the organ is pedal technique, but when do you get to actually watch how it’s done? Production Manager Elizabeth Devore to the rescue! She was in the hall while Forrest was rehearsing, and had the inspired idea to videotape Forrest’s feet in action. Scroll down to view!

The following week found us in beautiful Big Sky, Montana, where we recorded our show before a full house at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. This recording seemed especially transformative for our young musicians, some of whom seemed nervous beforehand. The energy in the house was electric, and the kids came alive onstage in a way that was so wonderful to see. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to watch a young musician play the final note in his or her piece and be met with thunderous cheers.

When we left the venue that night, we were all treated to another powerful event – a total lunar eclipse! In the wide-open skies of Big Sky, Montana, it could not have been more spectacular.

Next up (ie one week later) we were back in our hometown, Boston, to record a show at NEC’s Jordan Hall. Luckily for us, Jordan Hall happens to be directly across from the From the Top office, so it made for an extra convenient tour stop after all that traveling.

This show featured one of our alums, pianist George Li, who we’ve known since he first performed on From the Top at the age of 10. Now a young man of 20, George recently won the silver medal at the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition. To give you an idea of just how big an accomplishment this is, this competition was the one that launched Van Cliburn to fame back in 1958. George is the highest placing American since since 1966! We were thrilled to welcome him back to the From the Top stage, where he treated the audience to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with NEC’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mark and Maggie O'Connor take selfies with young performers.

Mark and Maggie O’Connor taking selfies with the young performers

Last up on our month-long touring adventure was a trip to Orono, Maine, where we welcomed two very special guests – violinist/fiddler/composer extraordinaire Mark O’Connor and his wife and musical partner, violinist Maggie O’Connor. They worked extensively with our young musicians, and showed such warmth and generosity towards everyone. I think they were as excited to be on the show as we were excited to feature them. After the show, I caught both of them in the lobby taking selfies with the kids!

There were so many other wonderful moments over the past few weeks, really too many to mention, so you are going to have to tune in when these episodes hit the airwaves starting this November. In the meantime, check out this fancy footwork!

Check out Forrest Eimold's fancy footwork in his organ dance that will be featured on Saturday night at Emory University.

Posted by From the Top on Friday, September 18, 2015