Erin Wright | WABE 90.1 FM

Erin Wright

Radio Producer

Erin Wright produces "City Lights" and "Strike Up the Band." After studying viola, German and Musicology at UGA, Erin began working at Public Broadcasting Atlanta in 2011. 

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M.D'Angelo / Shore Fire Media

In April of 1916, centuries of British occupation in Ireland turned violent. While this was not the first Irish insurrection against their British oppressors, the events of 1916 proved especially significant. The 1916 Easter Rising, as it's now known, led to full Irish independence and far warmer relations with their Anglo-Saxon neighbors.

Jennifer Bienstock / MJCCA

Once upon a time, at a Jewish Community Center not so far away, a special theater company was born. It was named "Habima Theatre," from the Hebrew word for "stage."

Jerry's Habima Theatre (re-named in honor of its longtime supporter) at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta is Georgia's only theatrical company featuring a cast of adult actors with special needs. These are adults with developmental disabilities like autism or Down Syndrome — and serious acting chops.

Ken Howard / Opera Theatre of St. Louis

Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" ranks among the most riotous of comic operas, a genre that reminds die-hard opera fans and newcomers alike that not all operatic stories involve untimely deaths and forbidden passions. That does not mean that a lighthearted work, like "The Pirates of Penzance," is lightweight material.

Jason Thrasher / Courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development

Here in the South, some states are recognized for their musical heritage more than others. Jazz quickly follows any mention of New Orleans, Louisiana. When you think of country music, Nashville, Tennessee comes to mind. 

How about Georgia? It turns out Georgia's music heritage is pretty hard to define in one word, or even one place. That's partly because the state's done little to claim its stake in music history, and largely because Georgia's musical offerings are incredibly diverse. 

Courtesy of Michal Daniel for Minnesota Opera

The opera scene in Atlanta is evolving, growing and blossoming. That's largely thanks to one company, the Atlanta Opera, and their general and artistic director Tomer Zvulun.

When he took over the troupe in 2013, Zvulun told Lois Reitzes that his mantra has been to "increase the artistic risk and lower the financial risk." That meant pairing familiar opera favorites with new, visually-stunning interpretations. 

ruru /

On the southern coast of Iceland, there's a beach called Reynisfjara. Mangled pillars of rock weather continuous crashes of frigid ocean water. Black sand shores give way to strange basalt cliffs. It's the kind of place that leaves an impression.

For Atlanta Symphony Orchestra double bassist and composer Michael Kurth, that impression was distinctly sinister.  

"It feels like ... a Bond villain would have his lair there," Kurth said.

Library of Congress

Perhaps it's the Scots  — and the Scots alone — who find a dish like haggis palatable, but poetry lovers the world over adore the national hero of Scotland, Robert Burns.

Burns was born on Jan. 25, 1759, and Scots generally celebrate his birth on or around his birthday. And how does one celebrate a long-dead poet? With Burns Night — an evening of music, poetry and, of course, haggis.

Courtesy of Spivey Hall

Spivey Hall welcomes back one of their own this Saturday. But this is not a homecoming decades in the making.

A recent Curtis Institute of Music graduate, Bryan Anderson spent his formative years singing in the Spivey Hall Children's Choir. Tomorrow's recital, however, will not showcase Anderson's vocal talents. He will instead sit at the hall's grand organ and perform works of William Bolcom, Maurice Duruflé, Antonio Vivaldi and others.

Joe Holloway Jr / Associated Press

Robert Shaw called it "physical and intellectual agony." Donald Runnicles said it's "excruciatingly difficult." These two distinguished conductors are not  talking about a climb to the peak of Mount Everest; they're describing the "Everest" of Beethoven's compositions — the "Missa Solemnis."

Paul Kolnik

"Art is universal; art connects people." Those sentiments may seem trite -- maybe even cliché -- nearly to the point of losing all meaning.

But sometimes a notion or phrase becomes trite because it is true. The latter certainly applies if you are talking about a performance by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  

Emily Murray / Georgia Council for the Arts

Last week, local artists and arts leaders gathered at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center to welcome a distinguished guest: Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Balazs Mohai / AP Photo/MTI

Gigantic space operas, frozen Cold War thrillers, claustraphobic westerns are just among a few of the options that members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be choosing from this year in the genre-rich category of Best Original Score.

Film music commentator Dr. Scott Stewart just got back from the red carpet world of the West Coast, and came back buzzing about the range of options that could win the gold statue next month.

Courtesy of (C) Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2015 for MASTERPIECE

Freelance writer Jessica Fellowes knew her uncle Julian created something special with "Downton Abbey," but neither expected such widespread and cross-cultural admiration.

A look at the numbers alone attest to the public media program's popularity: 12 Emmys, three Golden Globes, three SAG awards, broadcast rights granted to over 220 countries and territories. The evidence of the show's near-universal appeal is staggering.

Library of Congress

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” 

That's just one of the many witticisms attributed to Mark Twain, perhaps America's most quotable author and humorist. And though Twain has been dead some 106 years, his spirit will grace the stage of a Stone Mountain theater this week.

Didriks /

New Year's Eve is synonymous with sparkling champagne, and WABE contributor Dr. Scott Stewart has the perfect playlist to accompany the libations. Along with Lois Reitzes, Stewart explored the "oddly specific genre" of the drinking song.

According to Stewart, the drinking song "actually became a standard, formal element" in 19th-century opera. European traditions hopped the pond, and the operatic drinking song became a staple in American songs and musical theater at the turn of the 20th century.

Gage Skidmore /

When comedian T.J. Miller pauses to think about the past year, he hesitates. Not because he's unsure what to think, but because "it's almost unbelievable."

Miller has had an incredible year — he's signed on to host next month's Critics' Choice Awards. Season 3 of "Silicon Valley" premieres in early 2016. And T.J. and his writing partner recently sold a screenplay to DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg. The actor/comedian admits that it's all "beyond surreality."

USAG- Humphreys /

For older generations, there are two George Wallaces: the controversial racist governor of Alabama, and the veteran African-American comedian. For younger generations, neither George Wallace is really on their radar. That's something the comedian, whose friends call him Henry, is here to fix.

Damon Dahlen / Complexions Contemporary Ballet

After more than 20 years of nomadic life, Complexions Contemporary Ballet co-founders Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson are putting down their roots in Atlanta.

Rhoden and Richardson founded their multicultural ballet company in 1994, following their tenures as principal dancers in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. This was in New York City, where Complexions was based for the next two decades. So why move to Atlanta?

Elizabeth Remy Johnson

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) lead professional lives well beyond the stage of Symphony Hall. They teach, compose, mentor, volunteer, perform ... and much more. Now, the ASO's principal harpist, Elisabeth Remy Johnson, has released her latest recording. It's called "A Christmas Collection" and it's an album of carols and holiday songs arranged for solo harp.

Leslie Leonard / Medical Legal Art

Imagine you were in an accident at work that required surgery, but something went wrong with that surgery and the surgeon insists that the complications were beyond his control. You suspect medical malpractice. The case goes to court.

How do you show a jury that your trauma could have been prevented? And if you're the surgeon, how do you illustrate that the unfortunate outcome was out of your control, or worse, that the patient is to blame? You hire a medical illustrator.

Carla Cometto /

Imagine looking out the window at an icy, hostile and frigid landscape. How would you set that scene to music? 

Commentator Dr. Scott Stewart says that is a fundamental challenge for composers attempting to musically represent winter. On the one hand, winter is a season of darkness, cold and dormancy. On the other hand, it hosts some of the most festive holidays, not to mention activities like skiing and ice skating.

amanda_munoz /

Seasonal affective disorder. The holiday blues. No matter what it's called, melancholy seems intrinsically woven into the jolly fabric of the Christmas season. 

Those desolate sentiments are heard in Christmas music as well, with melodies and harmonies written in the minor mode. Songs in the minor key are described as "sad" or even "scary," but "City Lights" contributor Dr. Scott Stewart warns that those reactions are culturally conditioned. 

Lucas Garzoli / Hood Street Art Center

The late sculptor Andy Davis left a lot behind after his tragic traffic accident this past summer. 

Davis was working on the new bronze sculpture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol when he died. It was a weighty task that Davis called a "jovial burden." The celebrated sculptor was also close to realizing another landmark accomplishment: opening a multi-disciplinary arts center for artists living in and around McDonough, Georgia.

Will Hastings /

Long before Guy Fieri and "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," we had Jane and Michael Stern. The husband and wife team have been traveling the highways and byways of the USA since 1977, uncovering the best local eateries and celebrating regional American food. 

Virginia Sherwood / NBCUniversal

The third time's the charm.

But NBC isn't just banking on luck with their third live musical theater telecast in as many years. For Thursday's production of "The Wiz Live!," NBC asked Atlanta's own Kenny Leon to direct the iconic 1974 adaptation of the classic children's novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."

Leon is no stranger to adaptations and revivals himself. He won the 2014 Tony Award for best director for his revival of "A Raisin in the Sun," which he also directed for television in 2008.

Tyson Horne / Dominon Entertainment Group, LLC

Not many people can call themselves anointed, but Latrice Pace was born into gospel music royalty. As a member of the "Anointed Pace Sisters," Pace has released five albums since 1992 – of which four hit Billboard's gospel chart.

Atlanta Radio Theatre Company

Radio, particularly classic American radio drama, is known as the "theater of the mind." The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company takes that classic format to contemporary audiences year-round with their podcasts and regular live performances.

Chris O'Donovan / The King's Singers

Some travelers send postcards; other travelers collect them. The King's Singers, on the other hand, could be considered world-class collectors of musical postcards.

The group – a six-man a cappella ensemble named after King's College in Cambridge, England, where the group originally formed in 1968 – boasts nearly 50 years of world travels. One of the newest members, baritone Chris Bruerton, told Lois Reitzes that the group's travels around the world inform their repertoire.

TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd./EPK.TV

With less than a month remaining before the Dec. 14 release of "Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens," fan anticipation has reached fever pitch. You can count WABE film music contributor Dr. Scott Stewart among those eager fans — though it's John Williams' soundtrack he'll be standing in line for.

Stewart joined Lois Reitzes for their continuing conversation on Williams and his compositional approach, especially in the "Star Wars" films, ahead of next month's release. Williams is most famous for his epic themes like "The Imperial March," but that's only half the story. 

Carolyn Cook
Christopher Bartelski

It's difficult to laugh at Alzheimer's Disease. It's also difficult to endure any hardship without laughter.

"There's humor in every situation ... You're not going to live through it without the full range of emotion," Atlanta actress Carolyn Cook observed in a conversation with Lois Reitzes on "City Lights."

Drawing from personal experience, Cook portrays Vivienne Avery, a daughter caring for her mother who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It's important to Vivienne that she "make this an experience that validates her mom all the way to the end," Cook said.