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Teddy Abrams and Louisville Orchestra Present Fifth Festival of American Music, with Norah Jones, Hammond B-3 Star Cory Henry, the St. Stephen Baptist Church Choir, and Composer and Saxophonist Jacob Duncan (Feb 22 & March 14)

This winter, the Louisville Orchestra presents the fifth annual Festival of American Music under the galvanizing leadership of Teddy Abrams – variously described as “an unstoppable force” (Arts-Louisville), the “next Leonard Bernstein” (WQXR), and “the orchestra’s great young hope” (Wall Street Journal). The orchestra – which has carved out a unique niche by building on its storied past as a champion of new music and emphasizing community involvement at every level – showcases Louisville’s vibrant gospel tradition in the Festival of American Music 1: Gospel at the Symphony, with Grammy-winning vocalist and Hammond B-3 organ superstar Cory Henry and the virtuosos of the city’s St. Stephen Church Choir (Feb 22). A month later, the Festival of American Music 2 features Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and pianist Norah Jones and a family of local and regional musicians, many already familiar from previous Louisville Orchestra collaborations, performing the music of Louisville composer Jacob Duncan, who also joins the orchestra as a saxophone soloist (March 14). It was after the inaugural edition of the Festival of American Music five years ago that Arts-Louisville was moved to proclaim: “The orchestra, specifically this orchestra, is a living, breathing, evolving, and relevant art form.”

A two-time Grammy winner with his band Snarky Puppy and the leader of the all-star band The Funk Apostles, Cory Henry’s solo albums have also cracked the Top 10 on Billboard’s Jazz charts and he has toured or recorded with a roster of musicians including Kenny Garrett, Bruce Springsteen and P. Diddy. The Boston Globe raves: “if anyone’s going to preach the gospel of the Hammond organ, it should be Cory Henry.” Henry has also proved a versatile vocalist on his latest album, The Funk Apostles’ Art of Love, which blends blues, soul, R&B, Afrobeat, gospel, and jazz, blurring genres and upending expectations at every turn. In the Festival of American Music 1: Gospel at the Symphony, Henry joins Abrams and the orchestra for a selection of his own music on the first half of the program. After the intermission, one of the finest gospel choirs in the United States, Louisville’s own St. Stephen Church Choir, takes the stage to sing a rousing program of gospel tunes arranged by André Wilson, including a work by Jason Clayborn, who will be a featured vocalist on the second weekend of the festival. A free, pre-concert discussion will be hosted by Daniel Gilliam, program director and director of radio at Louisville Public Media, at 6:45pm in Whitney Hall.

On March 14, the Festival of American Music 2 will feature nine-time Grammy winner Norah Jones, joining Abrams and the orchestra for a program of music by Louisville jazz saxophonist Jacob Duncan, as well as Horace Silver’s iconic 1959 ballad, Peace, which Jones has recorded twice. The program also features a roster of Louisville’s finest musicians and vocalists, with a web of connections to one another and to the Louisville Orchestra. Duncan’s frequent collaborators on the program include jazz vocalist Carly Johnson; pianist Gabe Evens, who had a work commissioned by the orchestra in last season’s Festival of American Music; tenor saxophonist JD Allen; and drummer Mike Hyman. Local hip hop artist Jecorey “1200” Arthur first collaborated with the orchestra in its sensational Independence Day waterfront concert in 2016, and was subsequently featured in the world premiere of Abrams’s genre-straddling tribute to Muhammad Ali, The Greatest. Vocalists Haley De Witt and Tyler Dippold were both featured in the orchestra’s mammoth performance of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS in 2015. Grammy-nominated Louisville music minister and gospel songwriter Jason Clayborn, recently signed by the legendary gospel label Tyscot Records, also wrote one of the songs on the “Gospel at the Symphony” program. JD Green is a classically-trained vocalist specializing in spirituals and roots music and the lead singer for the Louisville band The Afrophysicists. Last but not least, trumpeter Marlin McKay is Artist in Residence and Assistant Professor of Music at Kentucky State University. The program of Duncan’s music includes War Prayers, with text from a scathing indictment of war and its apologists by Mark Twain (“O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds”), and Somnambulist in America, based on the poem “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes (“O let America be America again / The land that never has been yet / and yet must be”).

The March 14 Festival of American Music 2 performance will be preceded by an 11am Coffee Series concert on Friday, March 13, including all the program selections by Jacob Duncan. Also on the March 14 program is Mason Bates’s Art of War, a dramatic orchestral work about human conflict that incorporates field recordings of weapons tests made with the U.S. Marines and the printing presses of the U.S. Treasury, as well as elements of American and Iraqi folk music.

For a complete schedule of the Louisville Orchestra’s 2019-20 season, visit:

The Louisville Orchestra’s Festival of American Music is presented with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Louisville Fund for the Arts, and Louisville Tourism. Additional support is provided by Hotel Distil, the White Lodging property. The LO Signature Classics Series is sponsored by Brown-Forman, and the Coffee Series is sponsored by Baird.

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, and their last two albums for the Decca Gold label, All In (2017) and The Order of Nature (2019), 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: Festival of American Music
Except where noted, all concerts take place at 8pm at the Kentucky Center for the Arts

Feb 22
Signature Classics Series
“Festival of American Music 1: Gospel at the Symphony”
With Cory Henry, vocals and organ
STEVIE WONDER: Love’s in Need of Love Today
CORY HENRY: Trade It All
CORY HENRY: Just a Word?
CORY HENRY: In the Water
CORY HENRY: Send Me a Sign

St. Stephen Church Choir:
TRADITIONAL: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow
KEVIN B. JAMES: Worthy of the Praise
TRADITIONAL: God is Worthy
TRADITIONAL: Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around

March 13 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Festival of American Music 2”
JACOB DUNCAN: Somnambulist in America
JACOB DUNCAN: Lonely Lament

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

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

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© 21C Media Group, February 2020

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