American Composers Orchestra opened its 2019-20 season in November with a program called “New England Echoes,” but it wasn’t exactly Currier and Ives nostalgia. Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton performed songs by Charles Ives with a fresh twist: new orchestrations for chamber orchestra by Jonathan Bailey Holland, Hannah Lash, and Hilary Purrington, commissioned by the ACO. More new work included the world premiere of Purrington’s concerto for guitar and orchestra, Harp of Nerves, with soloist JIJI (the artist uses all capital letters for her name). Of the new guitar concerto, which was commissioned with support from Paul and Michelle Underwood and additional support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, Purrington wrote, “Throughout the concerto’s three movements, the orchestra serves as an extension of the guitar. This relationship also inspired the title—the entire ensemble becomes a kind of nervous system with the soloist acting as its control center, tethered to all members of the orchestra.” ACO Music Director and Conductor George Manahan led the concert at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, which also included the New York City premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s 2016 Evidence.


Caption: JIJI was the soloist for the world premiere of Hilary Purrington’s concerto for guitar and orchestra with the American Composers Orchestra and Music Director George Manahan in November at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. Photo by Jennifer Taylor.