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Teddy Abrams and Louisville Orchestra – Now Topping Classical and Classical Crossover Charts – Make Paristown Debut This Saturday (Nov 2)

The Louisville Orchestra is on a roll. In May, the orchestra and its galvanizing young music director, Teddy Abrams, were featured on TV’s CBS Sunday Morning, and last month, the orchestra launched its sixth season under Abrams’s leadership with a concert streamed live by New York’s WQXR, the country’s biggest classical radio station. Now, as they prepare to make their debut this Saturday (Nov 2) at Louisville’s new state-of-the-art performance space, Old Forester’s Paristown Hall, Abrams and the orchestra have just learned that their new album, The Order of Nature, has topped both the U.S. Classical and Classical Crossover charts. Released on October 18 by Decca Gold, the recording is a cross-genre collaboration between the Music Director and singer-songwriter Jim James, frontman of Grammy-nominated Louisville rock group My Morning Jacket.

Robert Massey, who launched his tenure as the Louisville Orchestra’s Chief Executive Officer seven months ago, observes:

“This is an exhilarating time for the Louisville Orchestra. Our ambitious vision is to become the ‘world’s most interesting orchestra,’ and I can honestly say that this group of musicians and staff are up to the task. I look at what this ensemble is able to do and it’s unprecedented in this industry. This entrepreneurial spirit is in the Louisville Orchestra’s DNA, reaching back into the mid-20th century when we undertook the now famous commissioning program that put new works at the core of who we were. Under the artistic direction of Teddy Abrams, we’re seeing a renaissance of that mission. Now, with the release of this authentic and very moving album, and the reaction people are having to it, the momentum and energy of the LO continues to grow.”

The Order of Nature follows All In, Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra’s first recording for Decca Gold, which was also a number one Billboard bestseller. Hailed as a “magical collaboration” (NPR), the new project was born of a friendship between James and Abrams, and the fertile music scene of their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. (James’s connection to the Louisville Orchestra is also something of a family affair – his great-aunt, Betty Cheeseman, played bass in the ensemble). Captured live in a single take at last year’s Festival of American Music, the album comprises brand-new songs penned by James and orchestrated by Abrams into lush, cinematic soundscapes that present the singer’s voice and lyrics in a whole new light. They also offer reimagined versions of some of James’s solo projects (Uniform Distortion, Uniform Clarity, Eternally Even), as well as of works by Leonard Bernstein and Nina Simone. Together, the songs make up an album that seeks to explore the absence of hate in nature. As James says in the album text, “Animals kill each other, but only out of hunger, while humans daily choose to hate – we choose to ignore the order of nature and that choice is wreaking havoc.

Abrams and the orchestra reunited with the singer in New York City for a whirlwind of promotional activities to celebrate the album launch. These included a live webcast by Relix magazine of their sold-out performance of a scaled-down version of The Order of Nature at Le Poisson Rouge; a conversation with Jon Batiste, pianist/bandleader of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, at The Club Car @McKittrick Hotel; and an account of “Back to the End of the World” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Click here to see the performance.

Louisville’s Mayor, Greg Fischer, followed the news with enthusiasm from afar, noting – in the first of a pair of tweets –  that the Fallon performance “sounded amazing & did a great job representing our city on a national stage.” Critical acclaim for the album was immediate and unanimously enthusiastic. The Associated Press marveled: “You’ve never heard anything quite like this. … [It’s] an album that is sonically magnificent.” The review continued:

“In their symbiotic relationship, James, … has given Abrams and his orchestra an edge and lyrical depth. Abrams, meanwhile, has lent James a theatrical element unmatched by anything he could have created on his own in a studio. Together, they build a story complete with expositions, arching climaxes and grand denouements.”

Rolling Stone praised the “potent collaboration,” dubbing Abrams a “hotshot conductor/composer.” AllMusic found his arrangements “beautiful and evocative” and Pitchfork singled out his treatment of James’s song “Over and Over,” noting that thanks to his “rollicking arrangement, … the song’s impact practically doubles. This sounds like the version it was meant to be, the best one.”

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This Saturday (Nov 2), Abrams and the orchestra make their debut at Louisville’s newest venue, Old Forester’s Paristown Hall. For their first appearance at the 28,000-square-foot performance space, which hosts up to 2,000 standing patrons, they present “Teddy’s Soundcheck,” a program pairing selections from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with American music by composers including 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winner Ellen Reid and Grammy-winner Mason Bates. Louisville locals can also enjoy the concert from the adjacent park, Christy’s Garden, by means of Paristown’s first free outdoor HD wall-vision simulcast. The simulcast is an innovation driven by the Music Director to support the community-wide wellness programs of the Humana Foundation and Mrs. Christina Lee Brown, principal funders of the orchestra’s performances at the new venue. As Abrams explains, “We’re taking some risks and trying something new, thus creating a fun event that underscores how music truly connects us all.

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

Paristown Hall debut, Nov 2 at 8pm
“Teddy’s Soundcheck”

COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man
BARBER: Second Essay for Orchestra, Op. 17
IVES: The Unanswered Question
MASON BATES: Auditorium, for orchestra and electronica
ELLEN REID: Petrichor
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5, movements I and II

Activities in the park begin at 6:30pm; doors open at 7pm; post-show DJs till 11:30pm
Click here for tickets.

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© 21C Media Group, October 2019

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