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Louisville Orchestra Launches Second Annual Festival of American Music This Saturday, April 15

This Saturday (April 15), Louisville Orchestra’s annual Festival of American Music returns for a second adventurous season. Celebrating the glorious diversity of the past century of New World composition, the festival is one of galvanizing young Music Director Teddy Abrams’s most ambitious signature initiatives to date. It was last year’s inaugural edition that prompted Arts-Louisville to conclude: “The orchestra, specifically this orchestra, is a living, breathing, evolving, and relevant art form.”

Abrams explains:

“I think we’re building our identity around these festivals. … We’re bringing icons in, like Ben Folds and Michael Tilson Thomas, but we’re also introducing composers that most people in Louisville will not have heard of – maybe most people even in the general music world have not heard of – yet who I’m convinced are some of the most talented people alive. They need to have their voices heard.”

The 2017 festival comprises three programs, held in the concert hall and beyond. In Program 1, “Maverick: A Celebration of Michael Tilson Thomas,” eminent guest conductor Michael Tilson Thomas – one of the great champions of new American composition and a key mentor to Abrams – conducts his own Agnegram and Grace, Copland’s Our Town, and Gershwin’s An American in Paris and “Promenade (Walking the Dog),” with the multi-talented Abrams on clarinet. To round out the program, Abrams joins Sebastian Chang at the keyboard for Stravinsky’s Greeting Prelude and takes the podium for Copland’s Orchestral Variations, Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, and John Adams’s exuberant Short Ride in a Fast Machine (April 15).

In Program 2, “American Journey,” the versatile Abrams – a prolific and award-winning composer – conducts Grammy Award-winning soprano Susan Narucki and local hip hop artist Jecorey “1200” Arthur in the world premiere of excerpts from his own one-act opera-in-progress The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, a grand-scale, genre-straddling tribute to the late Louisville boxing legend. The excerpts form the centerpiece of a wide-ranging program that also includes Barber’s Overture to The School for Scandal, Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island, Steve Reich’s Triple Quartet, Darcy James Argue’s Transit, and four selections from Penelope by Sarah Kirkland Snider, for which soprano Narucki rejoins the orchestra (April 28 & 29). An expanded version of the program also features Lou Harrison’s Suite for Symphonic Strings and the Kentucky premiere of Everything Happens So Much by 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist Timo Andres (April 29 only).

Presented as part of the innovative LG&E Music Without Borders series, which takes the orchestra into non-traditional neighborhood venues, a third program sees the Music Director conduct new music by eight contemporary American composers – seven of them women. For festival concerts at The Temple, Kentucky’s oldest and largest Jewish congregation, and at the Ogle Center in New Albany, Indiana, Abrams leads The Bluegrass and movements from Book of Leaves by Louisville natives Noah Sorota and Rachel Grimes, respectively; Rene Orth’s Run for the Roses, a recent Louisville Orchestra commission; TJ Cole’s Death of the Poet, Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst, Joan Tower’s Island Rhythms, and Anna Clyne’s Masquerade; and Big Beautiful Dark and Scary, a response to 9/11 from new-minted MacArthur “genius” Julia Wolfe (April 20 & 21).

By way of an upbeat to the festival, iconoclastic pop polymath Ben Folds – the chart-topping American pianist, singer-songwriter, and producer known for his sophisticated tunes and irreverent lyrics – joins Abrams and the orchestra for a program of his own music. Besides selected hit songs, this will include his celebrated Piano Concerto, in which he himself will undertake the solo role (April 14).

The Louisville Orchestra is grateful to Brown-Forman Corporation for its support of the full Classics Season, Fifth Third Bank as the Festival of American Music sponsor, and LG&E for their support of the Music Without Borders Series.

About the Louisville Orchestra

Established in 1937 through the combined efforts of the Louisville business community, and later, 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 20th-century music by living composers, thereby earning a place on the international circuit and an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall. 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 recently 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. The feature-length, Gramophone Award-winning documentary Music Makes a City (2010) chronicles the Louisville Orchestra’s founding years. More information is available at the orchestra’s newly redesigned website.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

Louisville Orchestra: Festival of American Music II

Except where noted, all concerts take place at Whitney Hall under the leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams.

April 14
Ben Folds Concert
Ben Folds: Piano Concerto (with Folds, piano)
Ben Folds: works TBA

April 15
Festival of American Music,
Program 1: “Maverick: A Celebration of Michael Tilson Thomas”
With Michael Tilson Thomas, guest conductor
LEONARD BERNSTEIN: Three Dance Episodes from On the Town (Abrams conducts)
AARON COPLAND: Orchestral Variations (Abrams conducts)
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: Grace (vocal soloist, with piano, TBA; Thomas conducts)
JOHN ADAMS: Short Ride in a Fast Machine (Abrams conducts)
IGOR STRAVINSKY: Greeting Prelude (with Abrams and Sebastian Chang, piano duo)
COPLAND: Our Town (Thomas conducts)
GERSHWIN: An American in Paris (Thomas conducts)
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: Agnegram (Thomas conducts)
GERSHWIN: Promenade (with Abrams, clarinet; Thomas conducts)

April 20: The Temple
April 21: Ogle Center in New Albany, Indiana
Music Without Borders + Festival of American Music
NOAH SOROTA: The Bluegrass
TJ COLE: Death of the Poet
RENE ORTH: Run for the Roses
RACHEL GRIMES: Selections from Book of Leaves
JULIA WOLFE: Big Beautiful Dark and Scary
JOAN TOWER: Island Rhythms
ANNA CLYNE: Masquerade

April 28 & 29
Festival of American Music
Program 2: “American Journey”
SAMUEL BARBER: Overture to The School for Scandal
SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER: Four songs from Penelope (with soprano Susan Narucki)

  • “The Stranger with the Face of a Man I Loved”
  • “The Lotus Eater”
  • “Dead Friend”
  • “Baby Teeth, Bones and Bullets”

HERBIE HANCOCK: Cantaloupe Island
D.J. ARGUE: Transit
STEVE REICH: Triple Quartet
TEDDY ABRAMS: “Still I Rise,” “Song of the Broad-Axe,” and “Float Rumble Rest” (with soprano Susan Narucki and Jecorey “1200” Arthur, hip hop artist) from The Greatest: Muhammad Ali (world premiere)
LOU HARRISON: Suite for Symphonic Strings (excerpts; April 29 only)

  • Estampie
  • Chorale, “Et in Arcadio Ego”

III. Double fugue, “In Honor of Heracles”
TIMO ANDRES: Everything Happens So Much (Kentucky premiere; April 29 only)

NB:  All artists and programs subject to change.


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© 21C Media Group, April 2017

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