Teddy Abrams and Louisville Orchestra Showcase #SingForTheCity Winners in Free Outdoor Independence Weekend Waterfront Concert (July 3)
On Independence Day 2015, when the Louisville Orchestra and its galvanizing young Music Director Teddy Abrams reinstated the orchestra’s traditional free annual Waterfront Concert, they attracted an audience of 35,000 that included “300 young people in their 20s down at the edge of the stage the whole time – like you see at a rock concert” (Arts-Louisville). Scheduled for Sunday, July 3, this year’s Waterfront Concert looks set once again to be the biggest event of an already action-packed season. Besides showcasing the winners of the orchestra’s inaugural #SingForTheCity competition, the wide-ranging program features special guest performances by garage rockers Houndmouth and incomparable gospel singer Calesta “Callie” Day; John Williams’s iconic Star Wars theme; new music by Mason Bates, Rene Orth, and the versatile Abrams himself; selected patriotic favorites; and an array of popular classics including Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which will accompany a display of Independence Weekend fireworks over the Ohio River.
An extraordinary commitment to local community has been an article of faith for the orchestra since Abrams – the “energetic young maestro” (New York Times) who at just 29 is the youngest Music Director of a major American orchestra – began his tenure there last season. It was to further their mission of giving the community a voice in the musical life of the city, while continuing to grow and engage their Louisville audience, that this past fall Abrams and the orchestra launched an international singer-songwriter competition titled #SingForTheCity. Chosen from among the 86 talented hopefuls who submitted applications on Instagram, the winners – Louisville natives Carly Johnson and Justin Paul Lewis – will perform their original songs with the orchestra, as one of the free Waterfront Concert’s many high points. Abrams explains:
“Our #SingForTheCity song contest is an initiative designed to build new relationships with musicians and audiences across the globe. We want to showcase exceptional talent from around the world by giving singers a platform in front of our orchestra and a massive audience, plus we are able to share our approach to inclusive and creative projects with musicians from any background and genre. Over the coming years we hope to grow the contest into a major event with significant worldwide participation both from audiences and musicians!”
This dedication to the diverse local community is also reflected in the orchestra’s choice of Independence Weekend guest artists. Thanks to her impassioned gospel singing and spectacular vocal range, Kentucky native Calesta “Callie” Day is something of a local legend. She joins the orchestra for two spirituals, of which Classic FM considers her renditions among “the most mind-boggling displays of vocal range, agility and virtuosity you could ever hear.” Similarly, young Louisville-based indie-folk rockers Houndmouth made their mark at the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza, where Esquire hailed them as a “must-see” band. Signed by Rough Trade Records, Houndmouth’s sophomore album release impressed Rolling Stone’s David Fricke with its blend of “earthy melancholy with a rude garage-rock streak.” The local pop scene will also be represented when the orchestra performs “One Big Holiday” – a hit for Louisville’s psychedelic alt-rockers My Morning Jacket – in an original arrangement by Abrams himself.
As demonstrated by their recent two-part Festival of American Music, Abrams and the orchestra are equally committed to foregrounding new homegrown composition. Thus, among such festive and patriotic showstoppers as Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, their Independence Weekend program showcases works by a number of contemporary American composers. Besides the theme from John Williams’s Academy Award-winning score to Star Wars, these include “Warehouse Medicine” from The B-Sides by Heinz Medal-winner Mason Bates, America’s second most-performed living orchestral composer; “Run for the Roses” from A Curtis Suite by Opera Philadelphia’s new composer-in-residence, Rene Orth; and – from the orchestra’s recent genre-bending, group-composed commission, the Louisville Concerto – “Pharmaceutical Blues,” which was composed by local singer, fiddler, and guitarist Scott Moore in collaboration with the multi-talented Abrams.
Integrating this less conventional fare with such seasonal Americana as Sousa’s marches, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “My Old Kentucky Home,” together with a wealth of classical favorites by Rossini, Mussorgsky/Ravel, Strauss, Stravinsky, and Copland, Abrams’s programming for the upcoming free Waterfront Concert is characteristically bold, challenging, and heterogeneous. As Insider Louisville observes:
“He’s won the respect of community leaders, devout orchestra attendees, and everyday citizens who can’t deny the man’s passion, talent, and intention to put the orchestra – locally, nationally, and internationally – back at the forefront of the arts scene.”
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 20th-century 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 recently 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 collection. 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.
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Louisville Orchestra: Independence Day Concert
Teddy Abrams, Music Director
Sunday, July 3 at 8:30pm
Great Lawn, Waterfront Park
“Sing for the City” set:
Justin Paul Lewis: “Go Outside”
Carly Johnson: “The Believer”
Key: The Star-Spangled Banner
Foster (arr. Brink): My Old Kentucky Home
Rene Orth: “Run for the Roses” from A Curtis Suite
Mussorgsky (arr. Ravel): “The Great Gate of Kiev” from Pictures at an Exhibition
Stravinsky: “Russian Dance” from Petrushka
Teddy Abrams / Scott Moore: “Pharmaceutical Blues” from The Louisville Concerto
My Morning Jacket (arr. Teddy Abrams): “One Big Holiday”
Strauss (arr. Teddy Abrams): Also sprach Zarathustra (opening)
Sousa: “Semper Fidelis” march
Two Spirituals TBD (with Calesta “Callie” Day, soprano)
Mason Bates: “Warehouse Medicine” from The B-Sides
Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (final section only, accompanied by fireworks)
Rossini: Finale to the William Tell Overture
Copland: “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo
John Williams: “Main Title” from Star Wars
Sousa: Stars and Stripes Forever
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