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Inaugural Creators Corps Member Lisa Bielawa Debuts New Work with Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra (Jan 14)

Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, home of the Louisville Orchestra (photo: Frankie Steele)

“A pioneering force in new music.” Billboard on the Louisville Orchestra

(November 2022)—On January 14, the Louisville Orchestra (LO) will celebrate the first milestone of the new Creators Corps initiative, which has brought three full-time resident composers to Louisville to create works for the community they’re living in. Under the baton of Music Director and Musical America 2022 Conductor of the Year Teddy Abrams, the orchestra will perform the world premiere of Send the Carriage Through, a composition by Creators Corps member Lisa Bielawa, alongside Beethoven’s Fifth “Emperor” Piano Concerto – featuring soloist Jonathan Biss – and Fifth Symphony. Shortly thereafter, at a press conference on January 18 in the Kentucky Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, the orchestra will announce the complete schedule for its other major new initiative: a multi-season, statewide touring program that expands the LO’s central mission of serving the community to the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The unique Creators Corps program is already gaining momentum and taking on a life of its own, influenced by the distinctive characters of the three composers, in concert with the vision and intention of Abrams and the inspired team that brought the idea to fruition. The composers have now taken up residence in Louisville’s Shelby Park neighborhood, with dedicated workspaces for composition, and all three are actively involving themselves in the community as ambassadors for the orchestra. A collaborative atmosphere prevails among them, enabled by the circumstances that the LO has engineered with this innovative program. The three have a “composer’s date night” every Wednesday, joined by Abrams when possible, to share ideas, groceries, and, most importantly, their individual discoveries about the challenges and rewards of the initiative and the city. Each of the composers will have their chance to premiere a new work with the orchestra this season. In addition, they will be working with local schools and ensembles outside the concert hall. Future concerts on March 4 and March 11 will feature world premieres by TJ Cole and Tyler Taylor.

Abrams states:

“Lisa, TJ and Tyler are consummate examples of 21st-century artist-leaders. Their musical talents match their intellects, and they share a remarkable sensitivity to the needs of the world beyond musical composition.”

Bielawa explains:

“The LO and Teddy, himself a gifted and visionary leader, have unlocked/opened the door to the Louisville community for us, welcoming and energizing our own individual and unique visions for music-making in civic life … On our block in Shelby Park, we are always there for each other – for bouncing ideas around, cheerleading, relaxing and always nurturing one another. We ignite each other’s imaginations … We have formed a kind of intergenerational think-tank … As more and more local musicians and artists of all ages – plus the superb guest artists that come to Louisville to work with the LO – come into our circle, this idea world grows. It is about the future – what we have learned as artists and as people in the past few years, and how orchestras, composers, cities and communities can use this knowledge to build new meaning together.

“While its title is a transcription of one of the shouted commands in the Queen’s funeral procession, Send the Carriage Through is at its core a gift of gratitude to the players of the LO, who have already embraced the musical presence of the Creators Corps with zeal, and a celebration of Teddy’s own open-hearted vision of leadership as connection and invitation.”

Composer, producer, and vocalist Lisa Bielawa, whose world premiere will be presented January 14, has made it her personal mission to try different coffee shops around town and meet local residents and artists, facilitated by what marks a first in her adult life: the purchase of a bicycle. A Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition, her artistic vision has long been characterized by community-making, perfectly matching one of the primary purposes of the Creators Corps. She has composed music for public spaces in Lower Manhattan, the banks of the Tiber River in Rome, the sites of former airfields in Berlin and in San Francisco, and to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. She also composed and produced a twelve-episode, made-for-TV opera, Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, filmed in locations across the country and featuring over 350 musicians. In 2020, she was awarded the OPERA America Grant for Female Composers, and is currently at work on La Ballonniste, an opera inspired by the first woman to ascend in a hot air balloon. As Gramophone reports, “Bielawa is gaining gale force as a composer, churning out impeccably groomed works that at once evoke the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock.” The New York Times describes her music as “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart,” while the San Francisco Chronicle declares: “[Bielawa’s] music boasts a distinctive blend of Romantic effusion and steely, almost austere contemporaneity…. a fluid and arresting creation that is at once dramatic and probing.”

Simultaneously with the blossoming of the Creators Corps initiative, plans are rapidly developing for the orchestra’s other major new undertaking: the annual statewide touring program. Thanks to an unprecedented $4.3M appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly, the orchestra will visit every region of the Commonwealth of Kentucky over two years. The statewide project launches a new era of deep community partnerships reflecting the character and interests of each town on the tour, fulfilling the orchestra’s dedication to building creative communities with performances, shared music-making, and artistic partnerships in cities and towns across Kentucky. Participation in all touring activities, including tickets to all performances, will be free.

About the Louisville Orchestra

Established in 1937 through the combined efforts of Louisville mayor Charles Farnsley and conductor Robert Whitney, the Louisville Orchestra is a cornerstone of the Louisville arts community. With the launch of First Edition Recordings in 1947, it became the first American orchestra to own a recording label. Six years later it received a Rockefeller grant of $500,000 to commission, record, and premiere music by living composers, thereby earning a place on the international circuit. In 2001, the Louisville Orchestra received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, presented annually to a North American orchestra. Continuing its commitment to new music, the Louisville Orchestra has earned 19 ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music and was also awarded large grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the National Endowment for the Arts, both for the purpose of producing, manufacturing and marketing its historic First Edition Recordings collections. Over the years, the orchestra has performed for prestigious events at the White House, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and on tour in Mexico City, and their last two albums for the Decca Gold label, All In (2017) and The Order of Nature (2019) – the latter launched with an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – both topped the Billboard Classical and Crossover charts. The feature-length, Gramophone Award-winning documentary Music Makes a City (2010) chronicles the Louisville Orchestra’s founding years, and in spring 2018, Teddy Abrams and the orchestra were profiled on the popular television program CBS Sunday Morning.

High-resolution photos are available here.

Louisville Orchestra: 2023 Concerts Featuring Creators Corps Compositions
All concerts take place at 7:30pm at the Kentucky Center for the Arts

Jan 14
Classics Series
“Fifths of Beethoven”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor” (Jonathan Biss, piano)
Lisa BIELAWA (inaugural member of LO Creators Corps): Send the Carriage Through (world premiere)
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5

March 4
Classics Series
“Festival of American Music 1: Journeys of Faith”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
Louisville Chamber Choir
Children’s Chorus
TJ COLE: world premiere commissioned from the Louisville Orchestra Creators Corps
Olga NEUWIRTH: Masaot/Clocks Without Hands
BERNSTEIN: Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish”

March 11
Classics Series
“Festival of American Music 2: The Literary Influence”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
Sebastian Chang, piano
Joel THOMPSON: To Awaken the Sleeper (LO co-commission)
Tyler TAYLOR: world premiere commissioned from the Louisville Orchestra Creators Corps
BERNSTEIN: Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety”

All dates, programs, and artists are subject to change.

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© 21C Media Group, November 2022

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