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Published: 2008/06/13

The Dead Symphony to Debut on Jerry’s Birthday

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will celebrate would have been Jerry Garcias 66th birthday, Friday, August 1 at Baltimore, MDs Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall with the world premiere performance of Lee Johnsons Dead Symphony No. 6. More than a decade in the making, Dead Symphony No. 6 is considered to be the first orchestral tribute to The Grateful Dead ever composed. For this one-night-only performance, the lobby will be refashioned as a counterculture museum featuring Grateful Dead memorabilia and other artifacts from the 1960s and 1970s. Rare Grateful Dead photographs by Baltimore native Amalie Rothschild—-the former house photographer for Fillmore East—-will also be auctioned online and in the lobby the night of the performance with all proceeds benefiting the BSO.

Johnson began working on the symphony shortly after Garcias death in 1995. I wasn’t a Deadhead at the time, so I had to start at the beginning, Johnson said in a statement. I bought everything The Dead had published and became a student of their art. I would finish a movement or two and gather up those that loved The Grateful Dead and see what happened when I played it for them. Their honest reactions told me everything. Tears, smiles, closed eyes and sometimes dancing. Any new movement that didn’t create a genuine vibe in the listening room went away for good.
The Russian National Orchestra recorded and released Dead Symphony No. 6 in 2007. The August 1 gig will be the first time Dead Symphony No. 6 is performed in front of a live audience. Dead Symphony No. 6 dedicates separate movements to Grateful Dead chestnuts ‘St. Stephen,’ ‘Here Comes Sunshine,’ ‘Mountains of the Moon,’ ‘Blues for Allah,’ ‘Sugar Magnolia,’ ‘To Lay Me Down,’ ‘If I Had the World to Give,’ ‘Stella Blue,’ ‘Bird Songs’ and ‘China Doll.’

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