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The Louisville Orchestra Presents: War + Peace

In October of 2016 Teddy Abrams went to an art exhibit at the 1619 Flux Gallery. The sole artist in the exhibit “Displaced Narratives” was Vian Sora, a visual artist from Bagdad who now resides in Louisville. That is where the idea for War + Peace germinated.

I started thinking,” said Abrams, “that many Americans likely don’t know many people if any) from Iraq, which is surprising considering how important the relationship between these countries has been for the past almost two decades. And if someone did happen to know someone from Iraq, the chances they shared an intimate conversation about the war is likely minimal. As an artist, Vian is continually exploring that area and opening up the door to have that conversation.”

On Friday, February 2 at 11AM and Saturday, February 3 at 8PM Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra tackle themes of heroism, lost companions, and even life and death in the dramatic and moving program War + Peace. Composer Sebastian Chang collaborates with Iraqi artist Vian Sora to create the new work Between Heaven + Earth based on Ms. Sora’s artwork and personal experiences.

Single tickets start at $27 and are available by calling 502.584.7777 or by visiting

“Music is one of the most powerful languages we have,” said Abrams. “And because subjects like war and displacement make people uncomfortable, I feel s particularly important that we take it on from a musical perspective. Wars (as dreadful and horrifying as they are) often produce some of the most interesting periods in artistic history. ”

Abrams will elaborate on the musical inspirations of war through thematic works including a selection from Prokofiev’s opera, War + Peace (based on Tolstoy’s novel), and Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings which was not initially about war, but has developed this association through its usage in films like Platoon.

“Think about pieces like Ravel’s La Valse,” suggests Abrams, “an interpretation of what happened in Europe after World War I, or the musical shift in American culture after the Civil War. These often created new paradigms for art and the ways different cultures interacted with each other.”

The highlight of the two concerts will be the world premiere of Between Heaven + Earth by Sebastian Chang and inspired by visual artist Vian Sora whose artwork stems from her life in war-torn Bagdad. Abrams says:

“This is the piece that’s going to bind the whole concert together. As great as these perspectives are from the past, it’s our contemporary perspective on what it means now to still be in a situation where there’s conflict around the world with no end in sight”

Louisville Orchestra Education Director, Deanna Hoying, recently had a conversation with Abrams, Chang and Sora about the collaboration where Sora, the ‘war-artist from Iraq,’ said:

“A lot of the work I do deals with the concept of life and death, but also the living in between. There’s a lot of spiritual narrative in my work and Sebastian and I had a lot of conversations about that. We found that we had a lot of complimentary ideas about the subject to the point. That became the main realization for me as I was working on this project. In some of the pieces that Sebastian references in the music, I was dealing with the concept of displacement and escaping war into a more peaceful situation. You always think about that concept that you could lose your life so where would you end up? In my case I always thought about the afterlife – what would it be like – so I created these massive paintings about that concept. There’s an uncertainty of death and life, but also there’s that feeling that you could be in heaven, you could be in a paradise setting, still, there can be something very dangerous that can happen. So I wanted to focus on the dichotomy of those two concepts which fit with Sebastian’s music as well. The titles in Sebastian’s music come directly from the titles of my paintings.”

In that conversation, Hoying asked composer Sebastian Chang what he wants the audience to take away from his new work Between Heaven + Earth. He replied:

“(I would like) for people to consider the nature of their own views and the role that plays in justifying violence against people in the world. For Vian, she’s one of the people who made it out – she got lucky. She’s told me stories. All it takes is a piece of metal flying at three times the speed of sound and it hits you in the aorta and you’re gone. It’s really easy to take life with these weapons nowadays. This is not X-box 360 – this is real life.”

Read Deanna Hoying’s entire interview with Teddy Abrams, Sebastian Chang, and Vian Sora HERE.

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