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Louisville Orchestra Launches Third Annual Festival Of American Music

Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra announce the third annual Festival of American Music at The Kentucky Center, beginning with Kentucky Classics on Saturday, March 24 (8PM). This concert features music inspired by the bluegrass state and homegrown songwriters. The second program of the Festival of American Music, Play, will be performed on Friday, April 6 (11AM) and Saturday, April 7 (8PM) at The Kentucky Center and explores some of the most potent voices in contemporary American composition; Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, and Jim James.

Individual tickets range from $27 – $85 and are available by calling 502.584.7777 or by visiting

Kentucky Classics (March 24) will celebrate American roots, emphasizing Kentucky-centered music and local musicians such as singer-songwriter Joan Shelley, a Louisville native whose “crystal-clear voice meditates on the spaces between people, in arrangements that evoke Bacharach and African blues influences as much as acid-folk” (UK Independent). Another Louisville native and singer-songwriter, Tyrone Cotton, will perform in a unique style influenced by his classical guitar studies at Western Kentucky University and a period of jazz immersion in Boston. Neo-folk singer and harpist Lizzie No, “an exceptionally talented artist with a gift for making an age-old music sound fresh and relevant again” (Americana UK), will make her Louisville Orchestra debut. And Michael Cleveland, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s most awarded fiddler, returns with his band Flamekeeper after their LO debut on March 10. The program is bookended with New Piece for Orchestra by Edgar Meyer and Four Dance Episodes from Aaron Copland’s ballet Rodeo.

When putting this program together, Louisville Orchestra’s Music Director, Teddy Abrams said:

“Our 2018 Festival of American Music celebrates music that was quite literally ‘grown’ and nurtured here in our country: a kind of music from the very earth of this nation. The first program features a range of modern soloists who derive inspiration and continue traditions from Kentucky’s folk and Americana genres. Ultimately these different solo sets lead to a special performance of Copland’s Rodeo.”

The second program, Play (April 6+7), further broadens the perspective to include a wider range of contemporary American composers. Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe’s riSE and fLY will be performed with percussion soloist Gabriel Globus-Hoenich, who was also featured on Abrams’s Muhammad Ali: The Greatest this past fall. Natural History by Michael Gordon was commissioned for the 2016 National Parks Service Centennial, and premiered at the Britt Festival under Teddy Abrams’s leadership on sacred land in Oregon. Natural History explores the spiritual connection between the land and the traditions of the Klamath tribe. The Louisville performance will feature the Steiger Butte Singers and Drummers, a Native American drumming ensemble who participated in the premiere and both a new recording on the Cantaloupe label and the documentary Symphony for Nature from Owsley Brown Presents, currently airing on PBS stations across the country. Play is rounded out with music by special guest artist Jim James, founding front-man of famed Louisville alt-rock band My Morning Jacket. He joins the orchestra for the world premiere performance of a song cycle written in collaboration with Abrams.

Teddy Abrams elaborated:

“The second week of our Festival showcases some of the great creative forces in American music today. Julia Wolfe’s riSE and fLY is a percussion concerto inspired by New York street beats and the rhythm of the American work song. Michael Gordon’s Natural History is an enormous-scale composition that I commissioned at the Britt Festival to be performed with over 150 musicians on the very edge of Crater Lake National Park, and his work is intimately constructed around a group of musicians from Oregon’s Klamath Tribe – for whom Crater Lake is a sacred place. Finally, Louisville’s world-renowned Jim James and I have been co-writing a song cycle which will be premiered at this show. His music is very special to me – he combines a beautiful insight into the world around us with a great and readily apparent human spirit.”


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