“I think this is our boldest Festival of American Music to date, and that’s saying something,” says Teddy Abrams, galvanizing young Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra. Highlighted by four world premieres – of a new multidisciplinary opera by Louisville native Rachel Grimes, of two new commissions from Gabriel Evens and Tyshawn Sorey, and of the first new choreography in the history of Copland’s Appalachian Spring – the festival’s fourth season kicks off this Saturday, February 23. Click below to see Abrams talk about putting the festival together, building long-term relationships with local artists, and learning to love the “uncomfortable place where creativity happens.”

Teddy Abrams talks about the Louisville Orchestra's fourth Festival of American Music Celebrating the orchestra’s storied past while reengaging with the local community to create something radically new, Louisville’s annual Festival of American Music is one of Abrams’s most ambitious signature initiatives to date. It was the festival’s inaugural edition that prompted Arts-Louisville to conclude: “The orchestra, specifically this orchestra, is a living, breathing, evolving, and relevant art form.”

The 2019 festival’s opening program, “Kentucky Spring,” features the world premiere of The Way Forth by Louisville native Rachel Grimes. Inspired by a treasure trove of family photos, documents, and letters, her folk opera uses music, narration and film to weave together the voices of generations of Kentucky women from 1775 to the present day (Feb 23).

Sharing the program is a fully staged performance of Aaron Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ballet, Appalachian Spring, for which the orchestra will be joined on stage by the Louisville Ballet. Marking the first time new choreography for the work has been approved by the Copland Foundation since its 1944 debut, the world premiere choreography is by South African-born Andrea Schermoly, choreographer-in-residence of the Louisville Ballet (Feb 23).

Two weeks later, the festival’s second program, “The Jazz Influence,” explores the intersection of classical music and jazz with the world premieres of two new Louisville Orchestra commissions. The orchestra collaborates with the University of Louisville Jazz Ensemble in Run For It by the university’s jazz scholar Gabriel Evens (March 8 & 9), while trumpeter Ansyn Banks and guitarist Craig Wagner are the soloists in For Bill Dixon and A. Spencer Barefield, the first orchestral work by MacArthur “genius grant” Fellow Tyshawn Sorey (March 9 only).

Grammy-nominated soprano Measha Brueggergosman joins the orchestra for the Louisville premiere of Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, a work written for her by Abrams’s key mentor Michael Tilson Thomas (March 8 & 9). Finally, to complete the program, Abrams serves as both conductor and pianist in Gershwin’s beloved and pioneering classic Rhapsody in Blue (March 8 & 9).


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