Best Classical Premiere

Gateway Chamber Orchestra’s 2015-16 season was one for the books. The Clarksville-based orchestra toured a robust schedule of more than 25 unique bills across multiple Middle Tennessee cities, secured The Franklin Theatre as an official venue partner and featured an ambitious four-part Masterworks Series showcasing contemporary commissions alongside era-defining masterpieces. Of these four commissions, none resonated quite like the world premiere of Austin Peay professor Jeffrey Wood’s Different Bodies. Inspired by poet Kenneth Sherman’s 1983 “Words for Elephant Man,” Wood’s Different Bodies interprets the struggle of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, and Sherman’s take on his complex existence. The composition channels Merrick’s dramatic story as that of a man fully cognizant of the condition that kept him a lifelong pariah. Baritone Jeffrey Williams tackled the text with complete control through stories harrowing and uplifting, delivering an impassioned retelling of Merrick’s life alongside GCO’s underscore. With performances in Clarksville and Franklin, GCO curated an emotional and engaging premiere focused on the talent in our own backyard. MATT FOX

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