June 10, 2021

Under the galvanizing leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams, the 2021 summer season of the Britt Festival Orchestra (BFO) features the world premiere of Brush: Music in the Woodlands, a new work by Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy-winning musician and composer Caroline Shaw, who served as Britt’s Composer/Conductor Fellow in 2019. This site-specific musical installation brings the countryside to life, with audience members walking along a 2.5-mile, eight-station loop on the Jacksonville Woodlands Trail system above the Britt Pavilion, through groups of musicians spread along the trail. Six free performances of the work take place from July 30–Aug 2. Registration is required, available starting June 25, when the rest of the offerings for the 2021 BFO season will be announced. Throughout the summer, the orchestra also presents Soundwalk, another kind of musical installation by Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellen Reid. Using a phone app and headphones, audience members will explore Jacksonville, Oregon to discover music selections around the town (July 1–Oct 15).

Abrams – a recent profile of whom on PBS’s Articulate can be seen here – has made waves with his innovative programming and involvement with the community at the helm of the Louisville Orchestra. Likewise, he and the BFO offer these free performances as a gift to the Oregon community following its own unique set of challenges over the past year. Britt President and CEO Donna Briggs explains:

“We are excited to offer this special musical experience to our patrons and the southern Oregon community. After the devastating fires of last year and the ongoing pandemic, this is our chance to give back and share the joy of live music with our community.”

Brush: Music in the Woodlands also continues Britt’s efforts to take the BFO into distinct outdoor settings to highlight the relationship between music and nature. These efforts are foundational to Britt’s mission and have become a point of emphasis for the BFO since the 2016 Crater Lake Project, chronicled in the Emmy-nominated documentary Symphony for Nature: The Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake. As Abrams says:

“We’ve always been dreaming about a successor to the Crater Lake Project, another piece that brings music together with nature. Given that Britt’s venue is immediately next to these beautiful Woodlands Trails in Jacksonville, it seems only natural that we would connect these two elements together. Caroline is the perfect person to imagine this music. She has such a creative mind and spirit of wonder that lend themselves well to developing this kind of experience.”

While COVID-19 complicated the planning of the summer season, the nature of Shaw’s work will allow performances to happen with all the necessary safety measures in place. About her inspiration, the composer elaborates:

“It points toward the idea of experiencing a brief encounter with something new and unexpected (‘a brush with…’), and thinking about musical textures and ideas as brushstrokes, and of course the image of the brush in the woodlands. Ultimately, I want the piece to be about how we listen and how we pay attention to the world around us, and if you give the world just a little bit more of a moment, you’ll notice something you wouldn’t have noticed before.”

Among Shaw’s other summer highlights are a solo vocal debut recording with Sō Percussion on the Nonesuch label in June, and the world premiere in August of a new work for the Vail Dance Festival, choreographed by Justin Peck. A video conversation between Abrams and Shaw is available here.

Support for this project was provided by Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, the Oregon Community Foundation, Cutler Investment Group, and individual donors.

Click here for more information about the Britt Festival Orchestra. A video introduction to Shaw’s world premiere is available here.

About the Britt Orchestra and Britt Music & Arts Festival

Founded in 1963, the Britt Orchestra brings together 90 professional musicians from across the United States for three weeks of open-air performances each summer. Forming the heart of the annual Britt Music & Arts Festival, the Britt Festival Orchestra Season takes place in Jacksonville, Oregon, less than half an hour’s drive from the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The festival was the brainchild of Portland conductor John Trudeau and musician Sam McKinney, who came to southern Oregon in search of the perfect location. When they discovered the superb natural acoustics and stunning views of Britt Park – the former hillside estate of Jacksonville pioneer Peter Britt, a Swiss-born photographer who became one of Oregon’s most celebrated citizens – they knew that they had found it. In 1963, with a small chamber orchestra on a makeshift stage, the first summer outdoor music festival in the Pacific Northwest was born.

Since its grassroots beginnings, the non-profit organization has grown from a two-week chamber festival to a multi-disciplinary summer-long concert series with year-round education and engagement programs. Constructed 40 years ago, the 2,200-capacity Britt Pavilion enables Britt to present world-class artists while maintaining the intimacy for which it is known.

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Britt Orchestra world premiere of Caroline Shaw’s Brush: Music in the Woodlands

Jacksonville Woodlands Trails (above the Britt venue located at 350 S First St., Jacksonville, Oregon)
Fri, July 30–Mon, Aug 2
July 30, 6:30-8:30pm
July 31, 10am-12:30pm
July 31, 6:30-8:30pm
Aug 1, 10am-12:30pm
Aug 1, 6:30-8:30pm
Aug 2, 6:30-8:30pm

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© 21C Media Group, June 2021