The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will honor longtime double bassist Jane Little with a memorial service this Sunday evening at Symphony Hall.

Photo: Louie Favorite / AJC
Photo: Louie Favorite / AJC

Little, 87, believed to be the longest-tenured musician with any single orchestra, collapsed onstage May 15 during the encore of the ASO’s “Golden Age of Broadway” concert and died a short time later at Grady Memorial Hospital. Sunday’s service is at 6:30 p.m. Lanier Parking and North American Properties will provide free parking at Colony Square beginning at 5 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, Little’s family requests that donations be made in her memory to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Musicians’ Endowment.

Those attending the service should pull a ticket when entering the Peachtree Street entrance to the Colony Square garage, then take the escalators up to the retail level and exit the west doors near Chick-fil-A restaurant. Parking vouchers will be available at the Symphony Hall concierge desk.

Little, who stood about 4-feet-11 and weighed less than 100 pounds, played the orchestra’s largest instrument for 71 years, beginning at age 16 on Feb. 4, 1945. To put that in perspective, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president and America was about seven months from the end of World War II.

Little’s death was widely reported nationally and internationally by such online and print publications as The Associated Press, The Washington Post, the New York Daily News, CNN, National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the Toronto Star, Slate, Billboard Magazine, People magazine and the Huffington Post.

Closer to home, colleagues expressed sadness about her passing and admiration for her musicianship and tenacity.

“She seemed to be made of bass resin and barbed wire. She was unstoppable,” said bassist Michael Kurth, 44, who was playing next to Little when she collapsed. “I honestly thought I was going to retire before she did.”

An ASO spokeswoman said the musicians were about 30 seconds from the last measures of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, the concert’s encore, when Little collapsed and was carried backstage by her colleagues. She never regained consciousness.

Photo: ASO
Photo: ASO

In recent years, Little had fought illness and injury, and was being treated for multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. She had returned to the orchestra in February after healing from a fall that broke a vertebrae.

“We can truly say that Jane Little was fortunate to do what she loved until the very end of her storied life and career,” said ASO spokeswoman Tammy Hawk.

“To me, it seems like more than the end of an era,” Kurth said. “She outlasted every era of this orchestra. She outlasted three music directors. The next, most longest-tenured member was here, I think, 20 years less than she was. There are no words to describe how remarkable she was. You think of superlatives and you just run out.”