Monday, May 16, 2016

Saying Goodbye to a Guinness World Record Client

Jane Little/ASO
On a weekend that started on a musical high -- attending a Jane's Addiction concert at the Shaky Knees Music Festival in Centennial Olympic Park -- Sunday brought sad news of the passing of a Guinness World Record candidate named Jane Little.

I enjoyed the pleasure of meeting Little through an ongoing client project for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. It was an honor and privilege to share her story with media.

Last summer the ASO asked me to help with some press release writing, and when news of Little reaching her 71st consecutive Atlanta season crossed my desk, the wheels got to turning -- could she set a Guinness World Record?

Inspired by attending a November 2014 Guinness World Record-setting event with another client, the International Association of Amusement Parks And Attractions (a record for "most participants launching a hand-held model glider" was set during IAAPA Attractions Expo 2014), with the ASO we submitted the necessary paperwork to establish Little's candidacy for "longest career in a symphony orchestra."

Though the application remains in review pending confirmation later this month, we've been spreading the good cheer of Little's remarkable achievement since February.

Little performed with the ASO from Feb. 4, 1945, to yesterday, May 15, 2016 -- about 71 years and two months. Unfortunately, she collapsed during Sunday's afternoon performance. Though emergency responders and a medically-trained chorus member briefly revived Little, she died later at Grady Memorial Hospital.

I met Jane on stage following her Feb. 4 performance. Her double bass is the orchestra's largest instrument, and it was remarkable to see Little playing and later carrying her the bass several inches taller than her 4'11" stature. I could hardly believe Little turned 87 only two days earlier!

Officially, Little was assistant principal bass emeritus in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She started her musical career at ASO during WWII following two years of high school bass study. In the decades since, she played under all four of the ASO's directors: Henry Sopkin, Robert Shaw, Yoel Levi and Robert Spano, according to the press release my ASO contacts and I wrote earlier this year.

She also performed with guest conductors Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, James Levine and many others.

Most impressive to me was Little's work with "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" composer/conductor John Williams -- both performed "Summon The Heroes" (Williams' 1996 Olympic composition) with the ASO during the Atlanta Olympic opening and closing ceremony. You can catch a glimpse of Williams and Little in the stadium via this video:

"Performing with John Williams is one of my favorite experiences with ASO," said Little when we met at her locker backstage.

She added the Olympic symphony practiced extensively and performed in both a dress rehearsal on July 18, 1996, and at the main event the following evening for a crowd of more than 80,000 at what is now Turner Field.

Little played using a rare bass built by Carlo Giuseppi Testore in 1705, one of the few elements of the ASO older than Jane. In 1953, she met and married fellow ASO musician Warren Little, a 6'4" flute player who carried her bass during 49 years until his death in 2002.

Signed Sheet Music on view
at Atlanta History Center
Also remarkable about Little was her perseverance over illness. In addition to battling a form of cancer, she returned to the ASO early this year after suffering a fall and cracked vertebrae in autumn 2015.

During the media interviews booked for Little locally and nationally, she was fond of stating her retirement plans included taking up bass guitar and starting a jazz group she named "The Grannies." A Washington Post reporter wrote and extensive story and later tribute, and The Violin Channel published a first person report Jane verbalized for me to type and submit on her behalf -- she was a great storyteller. She died doing something she loved dearly.

Listening to WABE's tribute and early 2016 interview made me smile as it is clear Jane was one lively woman!

I will miss listening to Little at future ASO performances, and certainly will cherish working with this Guinness World Record holder among my favorite public relations client projects. She was a positive inspiration for many, and she set a very high bar for future generations of musicians.

ASO performance photos by Nicholas Wolaver. Atlanta Olympic opening ceremony photos via Eileen Langsley. Photo below via Washington Post/Dustin Thomas Chambers

Photo via Dustin Thomas Chambers/Washington Post

1 comment:

Deepster Langan said...

Hope this place turns out good. It’s great that this venue offers services such as catering, lighting, tables and chairs, table linen and parking. I am here to choose New York Event Venues for my event, glad to know that they do not put any restrictions regarding music played.

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