Composer Valerie Coleman

2021-2022 Louisville Orchestra Sneak Peek at Iroquois Park

A review by Annette Skaggs

Entire contents are copyright (c) 2021 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

“What a long, strange trip this has been.” This verse from the Grateful Dead song “Truckin’” popped in my head as I was seated in the Amphitheater at Iroquois Park on Friday night as our Louisville Orchestra carefully tuned their instruments to the oboe’s siren of A natural.

As conductor Teddy Abrams stepped onto the podium and asked the whole of the orchestra to rise, the applause from the audience was heartfelt and deserving. Mr. Abrams shared that the past year had certainly presented challenges and that our orchestra will always take deep appreciation for having live audiences. He further pledged that his merry band of musicians would give back as much music as is possible, that music is important to our city and community and can serve as a catalyst for healing and education.

The evening’s performance was a look at this coming season. Between you and I, we are in for a special treat. By and large, the season is focused on more positive and happier sounds and the selections of Friday night supported that feeling. 

The Louisville Orchestra is legendarily known for commissioning works over its lifetime and this coming season will be no exception to that practice. 

One such commission is from local composer Valerie Coleman who is becoming a sought-after artist within the music community. We began with a selection of her more recent composition, “Fanfare for Uncommon Times”. The composition is written as a reflection of our time, often pulsating and fancy then turning reflective and subdued. In the end, I found myself excited for the opportunity to hear even more.

We were also treated to a World Premiere of another local composer’s work, Daniel Gilliam. Mr. Gilliam has been a prolific composer for a number of years while serving as on-air talent and a program director at Classical 90.5 WUOL. This evening’s composition was “A New River”. The piece produced sounds that one might hear while out walking the Falls of the Ohio and basking in the marvel of Mother Earth and Nature around them. The piece was both comforting and reassuring.

Composer Daniel Gilliam

Other selections had a Latin American feel to it, such as Aaron Copland’s “Danzón Cubano”, Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo” from West Side Story, and the lesser-known composer Alberto Ginastera and his “Estancia, Op. 8a IV. Danza final”, to which Mr. Abrams couldn’t resist dancing a bit on the risers as he conducted. Mr. Ginastera is part of the legacy of commissioning new works as a way of nurturing emerging composers.

For a number of years the Association of the Louisville Orchestra, a fund-raising arm for the orchestra, has sponsored a Concerto Competition for young musicians, and Friday what a delight it was to hear cellist Ethan Murphy, the ALO’s most recent winner, and his solo playing Lalo’s “Cello Concerto in D minor III. Introduction: Andante-Allegro vivace”. He was poised and confident in his abilities and made his cello sing quite beautifully. I think that we can expect big things from this young artist.

Lest we forget that we have a relatively young artist in our midst in Teddy Abrams, he gave us a taste of what’s to come during his Teddy Talks series, which will feature Schubert’s Ninth Symphony. While he did not include any of that masterwork due to time constraints, we were treated to “Schuberliade” featuring Gabriel Lefkowitz and Julia Noone on solo violins. I am going to confess, I recognized the Schubertisms in the work, but I also could hear this piece being used as a background within a movie soundscape.

In the next four years, the Louisville Orchestra is embarking on playing the music of African Americans and persons of Jewish descent, and how their music intersects with each other impacts music today. This evening included selections from R. Nathaniel Dett’s “Juba: Dance from ‘In the Bottoms’”, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s theme to the movie “Captain Blood” and Ernst Toch’s “Circus Overture”, which Mr. Abrams claimed was one of the most ridiculous pieces of music that he has come across. After hearing it, I could probably write two more pages about the piece, but I’ll reserve those comments and revelations for another time. 

I mentioned movie backgrounds before so how fitting to finish with John Williams’ “Main Title” from “Star Wars”. Teddy admitted to the audience that this is perhaps one of the orchestra’s favorite pieces to play and that he has probably conducted it more than any other work. 

And as the evening ended, I felt exuberance for what is to come.

Welcome Back, Louisville Orchestra!!

Bravi Tutti!!!

Louisville Orchestra
Iroquois Amphitheatre
1080 Amphitheatre Road
Louisville, KY 40214

Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.