The Man with the Violin

Joshua Bell, Michele Norris, National Symphony Orchestra, Michael Stern

Violinist Joshua Bell, narrator Michele Norris, and the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Stern, perform the world premiere of The Man with the Violin, co-commissioned by the NAC Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Photo: Scott Suchman

Scott Suchman

The Man with the Violin: Suite for Violin and Orchestra, a new work based on the story of superstar violinist Joshua Bell performing outside a Metro stop, had a triumphant debut at its sold-out world premiere on Sunday, February 12 at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The piece, which was the closing work in a family program about stories, drew cheers from the crowd of 2,200 and a standing ovation.

A co-commission with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.), The Man with the Violin is based on the award-winning children’s book by Canadian author Kathy Stinson with artwork by acclaimed illustrator Dušan Petričić.

The book is based on a 2007 experiment by the Washington Post in which Joshua Bell played outside a Washington Metro stop as an anonymous busker. More than 1,000 people rushed by and barely any turned to look. The article describing the experiment, called “Pearls Before Breakfast,” won journalist Gene Weingarten the Pulitzer Prize.

The Man with the Violin: Suite for Violin and Orchestra was composed by the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning British composer Anne Dudley. It was performed by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Stern, narrator Michele Norris (former host of All Things Considered, and a former Washington correspondent for ABC News), and soloist Joshua Bell as himself. The innovative Montreal production studio Normal brought Petričić’s beautiful illustrations to life through animation. The concert concluded Bell’s week-long « The Man with the Violin » residency at the Kennedy Center.

This concert marked the first collaboration between the NAC Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra, and the first time the NAC has partnered with the Kennedy Center, America’s premier performing arts centre.

Composer Anne Dudley remarks, “Kathy Stinson's wonderful book reminds us all to notice things; to listen and to be responsive to our world rather than going about in our own little bubble. It has been very exciting to work on this project as it brings together live performance and ‘live’ animation to children who may be hearing this music for the first time.”

"Such a natural – to bring music to the story of The Man with the Violin,” Kathy Stinson said. “I'm delighted with the wonderful talent that has been brought to bear in bringing it to a wider audience in this way."

The Man with the Violin: Suite for Violin and Orchestra will receive its Canadian premiere on December 20, 2017 at the NAC, performed by Joshua Bell and the NAC Orchestra, and conducted by Music Director Alexander Shelley.

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Mary Gordon

National Editor
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