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From heavy metal to acclaimed contemporary composer

Michael Kurth breathes fresh air into world of stuffy music

Kirth to perform Feb. 12 at Fellowship Presbyterian Church

Michael Kurth

Don’t miss your chance to see Michael Kurth, who ArtsATL says is “increasingly noted as one of Atlanta’s leading composers, both for his chamber music and the orchestral works.” He will perform at a free concert in Jasper on February 12. 

Pickens County residents have a rare opportunity to see someone considered Atlanta’s most unique, star-on-the-rise composer at a free concert Monday, February 12. 

Michael Kurth, who also plays double bass with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, will perform with the Riverside Chamber Players as part of the Casual Classics Concert Series. This series has brought some of the finest chamber musicians to Jasper audiences for the last 12 years – and Kurth is no exception. 

“He’s an incredible composer and we are blessed to have him perform here,” said Casual Classics promoter Marc Unger, who recently interviewed Kurth leading up to the event. Unger will introduce Kurth and the Riverside Chamber Players that evening. 

“For a lot of these performances I’m talking about composers who are long gone,” Unger said. “This time around I get to talk about someone alive – and he’s such a nice guy, very funny and humble, but such an amazing talent.” 

The 45-year-old Kurth describes himself as a “tallish, noise-makey bag of meat” on his Facebook page. That colorful, quirky description coupled with his profile picture (seen here), aren’t what one would expect from a contemporary composer. Also not expected are influences like Icelandic pop musician/composer Bjork, or his introduction to music as an electric bass player in a heavy metal garage band in high school. As legend has it, Kurth’s teacher advised he could either be in a metal band and have beer thrown on him, or learn classical bass and wear tails every Saturday, “so I chose the tails,” Kurth said. 

He went on to study at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory under Harold Robinson and has been a member of the ASO for 20 years. As a budding composer, Kurth wanted to be original. Because late 20th century classical music “has become so cerebral,” he decided he wanted his music to have a broader appeal, to “connect with the audience,” and be “something you can hum, tap your feet to.” 

His body of orchestral work includes “May Cause Dizziness,” which debuted in 2011, followed by “Everything Lasts Forever,” inspired by graffiti on the Krog Street bridge in Atlanta, “Prometheus Unhinged,” and “Opting Out of Irony.”

“You can see how he loves to play on words from his titles,” Unger said.  

Kurth and the Riverside Chamber Players will perform his new arrangement “Some of a Sudden” at the Casual Classics concert on February 12th. The Riverside Chamber Players were first to record and promote Kurth’s compositions for small ensembles. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is currently recording his works, to be released in 2019. 

“Anyone who is interested in music, any child who is taking lessons or may want to pursue music in the future, they need to see this concert,” Unger said. “It’s an incredible opportunity.” 

See Michael Kurth and the Riverside Chamber Players on February 12 at 7 p.m. They will perform at Fellowship Presbyterian Church located at 389 Bent Tree Drive, Jasper, Ga. 30143. 

Learn more about the Casual Classics Concert Series at casualclassicsjasper.org or contact founder Suzanne Shull at 404-281-0790.