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Climate Change Activism Inspires WNC Concerts By Former Asheville Symphony Cellist

courtesy of the artist

Three decades ago, as the principal cellist of the Asheville Symphony, Judith Glixon performed pieces from Bach, Benjamin Britten and other composers for the sheer love of the music.

But over the years, long after moving away from the southeast, Glixon’s commitment to social activism has grown and rivaled her devotion to music.

“I call myself a Type A personality with a Type B constitution,” she said. “I was wearing myself out with various kinds of activism, working as a freelance cellist, raising my daughter and doing my part-time psychotherapy practice.”

There are elements of each—activism, music, therapy and motherly care—wrapped into what Glixon is calling “One Cello, One Planet.” It’s a program of solo cello music Glixon has themed around climate change awareness.

Performances are Aug. 16 at First Christian Church in Black Mountain, Aug. 18 at United Church of Christ in Tryon, Aug. 23 at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville and Aug. 25 at Jubilee Community Church in Ashevillle.

Glixon’s overarching goal is raising climate change awareness among classical music fans.

“(It’s) just to make it more of an experiential event and a way for people to take in the information on a level other than statistics and theorems,” she said. 

Glixon spent 10 years with the Asheville Symphony and Brevard Chamber Orchestra and now lives in Lexington, Mass. Over the past decade, she grew active in Mothers Out Front, 350.org and other progressive climate efforts. She has marched in rallies and protests and, now in her early 60s, has embarked on several three-day solo walks, collectively raising about $16,000 for efforts to stem climate change.

Glixon conceived “One Cello, One Planet” after hearing French composer Maurice Ravel’s version of the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. She paired Ravel’s Kaddish with other compositions in a program she sees as telling the story of the Earth from the beginning of time.

“I’m Jewish as well, so the Kaddish really spoke to me in that I felt like I was in mourning for the planet,” she said. “Each day, some new idea was coming to me. ‘Oh, maybe Bach would go well with that,’ so I played the beginning of the Third Suite, and I went ‘Wow, this is sort of like creation.’ This is like the Big Bang and parts of the Earth coming to fruition, so I was able to give the whole thing a story.”

Glixon returns to Western North Carolina about once a year for family visits, but this program brings her back for her first performances in a quarter-century.

“It’s kind of a culmination,” she said. “It combines music with the activism which I also have much passion about. It’s about the music, it’s about the story and about the planet and we need to do to bring the planet back to the way it needs to be.”


Matt Peiken, BPR’s first full-time arts journalist, has spent his entire career covering arts and culture.
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