Johnstown Symphony Orchestra music director Blachly wins Grammy

David Hurst, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·1 min read

Mar. 14—Moments after capturing his first Grammy on Sunday, Johnstown Symphony Orchestra music director James Blachly was on the phone sharing in the shock and excitement with some of the more than 400 performers and project partners who made it happen.

He said he counted the community of Johnstown and its orchestra among that list.

"This was a five-year-project and Johnstown is inextricably connected to this victory because we gave the U.S. world premiere of this piece in April of 2018 here in Johnstown," he said Sunday. "We're all beside ourselves with joy."

As the conductor of the New York-based Experiential Orchestra, Blachly won the Grammy in the Best Classical Solo Vocal Album category for his orchestra's recording of Ethel Smyth's "The Prison."

Originally performed in 1931, it's considered the last major piece by the early 1900s British composer and champion for woman's suffrage. And to Blachly, the Grammy win serves as long-overdue respect for a composer who was well ahead of her time.

The Prison's "expressive, beautiful and powerful music" inspired him," he said.

"And to make it recognizable by the world in this way is truly wonderful," Blachly added.

Featuring heralded performers Sarah Brailey and Dashon Burton, the Experiential Orchestra recorded the piece in New York before releasing it on U.K.-based Chandos Records. It topped four other hopefuls, including a performance of Farinelli by 17-time Grammy nominee and five-time winner Cecilia Bartoli.

The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra was celebrating the moment with a Zoom celebration Sunday evening after using two words to announce Blachly's victory.

"He won!" they wrote.