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Teddy Abrams and Louisville Orchestra Join Gabriel Kahane for Kentucky Premiere of Pattern of the Rail at Paristown (Jan 10) and More

The Louisville Orchestra and its galvanizing young Music Director, Teddy Abrams, topped both the Classical and Classical Crossover charts this past fall with The Order of Nature, recorded with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. Their next genre-crossing collaboration follows hard on the heels of this success, when the conductor and orchestra join Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Kahane in concert. Their appearances together at Old Forester’s Paristown Hall, Louisville’s new state-of-the-art performance space (Jan 10), and in the orchestra’s innovative “Music Without Borders” series (Jan 9 & 11) showcase the Kentucky premiere of Pattern of the Rail, six orchestral songs from Book of Travelers, the “song cycle of unwavering seriousness” that confirmed Kahane’s standing as “one of the finest, most searching songwriters of the day” (New Yorker).

The youngest Music Director of a major American orchestra, Abrams is not only an “energetic young maestro” (New York Times) on the podium, but also a bold risk-taker with an extraordinary flair for community engagement. Next month’s Kahane collaboration is characteristic of the imaginative, outside-the-box initiatives with which he has succeeded in re-establishing the orchestra as the cornerstone of Louisville’s vibrant music scene. NPR Music observes, “If we’re relying on the younger generation to help boost interest in classical music, look no further than Teddy Abrams.” As Time magazine marvels, “A genre-defying orchestra in Louisville? Believe it. The locals do.”

It was immediately after the 2016 presidential election that Gabriel Kahane embarked on the two-week, 8,980-mile, cross-country train trip that would inspire his piano-accompanied song cycle Book of Travelers. Drawing on the conversations he held with fellow passengers over the course of the journey, the cycle explores today’s divided nation through the lens of their diverse stories, representing what Kahane has called “a plea for empathy,” and Rolling Stone has hailed as “a stunning portrait of a singular moment in America.”

To create Pattern of the Rail, Kahane orchestrated six songs from the cycle to create a new suite that preserves the centrality of his lyrics while making full use of the orchestra’s extensive palette of colors and textures. The suite opens with “Baedeker,” named for the once-ubiquitous guidebooks, which contemplates the beneficial but limiting experience of traveling with a guide, and “Baltimore,” which juxtaposes Roosevelt’s optimism with the bleak realities of present-day urban life. Next, in “Friends of Friends of Bill,” a devout Christian mother mourns the death of her opioid-addicted son, and in “What If I Told You,” a well-to-do African-American woman explains why she is taking the train South: “My two grown sons were afraid/Me driving through the night on a stretch of farm-stand highway in Mississippi/’Cause they don’t need a hood or a cross or a tree.” Finally, in “October 1, 1939/Port of Hamburg,” Kahane recalls the story of his own grandmother’s flight from Nazi Germany and her experience of arriving in the U.S. as a refugee.

Pattern of the Rail forms the centerpiece of Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra’s second appearance at Paristown Hall, Louisville’s new, 28,000-square-foot performance space, which hosts standing audiences of up to 2,000. Their thoughtfully curated program combines youthful energy with thematic coherence, also featuring two compelling 20th-century works inspired by locomotives – Honegger’s pioneering 1923 example, Pacific 231, and Steve Reich’s minimalist classic Different Trains as well as the opening and closing movements of Schumann’s “Rhenish” Third Symphony, written in the wake of the Romantic composer’s own train journey through the Rhineland. To complete the program, Kahane joins Abrams and the orchestra for Empire Liquor Mart, a song from his evocative 2012 record The Ambassador; capturing the soul of Los Angeles, this was pronounced “one of the year’s very best albums” (Rolling Stone).

The “Music Without Borders” series takes the Louisville Orchestra into such non-traditional neighborhood venues as houses of worship and community centers, typically selling to capacity audiences whose members have never previously heard the orchestra. For their upcoming appearances in the series, Abrams, Kahane and the orchestra perform Pattern of the Rail at The Temple, Louisville’s Reform synagogue (Jan 9) and the Paul W. Ogle Cultural & Community Center at Indiana University Southeast (Jan 11). At both concerts, the new work will be bookended by the orchestra’s accounts of Pacific 231 and all five movements of Schumann’s Third Symphony.

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Abrams and the orchestra’s remaining 2019-20 highlights also include the fifth edition of their annual Festival of American Music, for which they join Grammy-winning soul-funk organist Cory Henry for a gospel-themed program with the local virtuosos of the St. Stephen Baptist Church Choir (Feb 22), before pairing Art of War, a powerful symphony by 2019 Grammy-winner Mason Bates, with works by two jazz composers – the late Horace Silver and Louisville native Jacob Duncan (March 14). One of Abrams’s most ambitious signature initiatives to date, it was the Festival of American Music that prompted Arts-Louisville to declare that “the orchestra, specifically this orchestra, is a living, breathing, evolving, and relevant art form.”

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 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 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, 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 and Teddy Abrams

Jan 9 & 11 at 7:30pm
Music Without Borders Series
“Book of Travelers”
The Temple (Jan 9)
Ogle Center (Jan 11)
Gabriel Kahane, piano and vocals
HONEGGER: Pacific 231
GABRIEL KAHANE: Pattern of the Rail: six orchestral songs from Book of Travelers (with Kahane)
SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3 (“Rhenish”)

Jan 10
Louisville Orchestra Series
“Gabriel Kahane at the Louisville Orchestra”
Paristown Hall
Gabriel Kahane, Wurly, guitar, piano and vocals
String quartet: Heather Thomas & Jack McFadden-Talbot, violins; Evan Vicic, viola; Lindy Tsai, cello
HONEGGER: Pacific 231
GABRIEL KAHANE: Empire Liquor Mart (with Kahane)
STEVE REICH: Different Trains (with string quartet)
GABRIEL KAHANE: Pattern of the Rail: six orchestral songs from Book of Travelers (with Kahane)
SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3 (“Rhenish”), movements i. Lebhaft and v. Lebhaft

Jan 17 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Mahler’s Fifth”
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 

Jan 18
Signature Classics Series
“Teddy Talks Mahler”
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 

Feb 15
Paristown: Hip Hop 502”
Paristown Hall 

Feb 22
Signature Classics Series
“Festival of American Music 1: Gospel at the Symphony”
With Cory Henry, vocals and organ; St. Stephen Baptist Church Choir
VARIOUS: Gospel selections with orchestra, incl. “Worthy of All the Praise,” “You’re All I Need,” “This Praise,” and more

March 13 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Festival of American Music”

March 14
Signature Classics Series
“Festival of American Music 2”
JACOB DUNCAN: Somnambulist in America
JACOB DUNCAN: Lonely Lament

April 24
Louisville Orchestra Series
“The Blue Hour”
Paristown Hall
With Shara Nova, mezzo-soprano

April 25
Signature Classics Series
“Concerto for Orchestra”
With Shara Nova, mezzo-soprano
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

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© 21C Media Group, December 2019

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