Louisville Orchestra Announces Ambitious and Unique 2015-2016 Season; New Logo

Teddy Abrams

The second season of Teddy Abrams’ music directorship with the Louisville Orchestra was announced tonight at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Where last season was programmed, roughly, half by Abrams and half by Music Director Emeritus Jorge Mester, 2015-2016 is mostly Abrams, with two concerts led by Mester.

There is nothing restrained or timid next season — this is not an orchestra playing it safe. In fact, one could argue that this season is full of risks, artistically and financially. Producing works that require a large orchestra, and most on next season do, can add up. But this doesn’t feel like opulence, rather what we see here is an orchestra trying to earn back a reputation for being adventurous and innovative.


Jubilant Sykes

What has typically been a glitz and glamour, concerto-focused Fanfara, complete with high-price soloist, is now called “Opening Night” and looks to be the most ambitious season opener ever by the Louisville Orchestra, and possibly among any American orchestra of similar budget or market size. If you thought “Carmina Burana” was extravagant, Abrams will unleash Leonard Bernstein’s eclectic “Mass” to open the season on September 26th at 8pm. Jubilant Sykes will sing the Celebrant, a role that garnered him a GRAMMY nomination in 2009. Bernstein’s musical theater work calls for two orchestras (one in the pit and one on stage), two soloists, two choirs, a rock band, and “street musicians,” which includes 45 singers and percussion. Composed for the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Mass juxtaposes traditional Latin Mass texts with new lyrics by with Bernstein himself, Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell,” “Wicked”) and Paul Simon.

Now the tone is set for one of the most unique seasons this city has ever seen, replete with premieres and collaborations. Abrams, the composer, has scheduled himself for two new works: a fanfare in March and a work for “Community Collaborators.” In late January the orchestra will feature a commission from students at Abrams’ alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music. A young American composer named Chase Morrin will write and perform a new piano concerto as part of a “Festival of American Music.”

Cast in two parts in March and April, the festival includes Mason Bates’ “Mothership,” for orchestra and electronica (a laptop), premiered in 2011 by the YouTube Symphony and viewed live by two million people on YouTube. Bates is paired with his fellow Californian John Adams’ “Harmonielehre” (German for “study of harmony”), a 40-minute work for large orchestra. Abrams will be the soloist in Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, and the latter’s post-war Symphony No. 3 concludes the festival.

Another collaboration takes the orchestra and Louisville Ballet relationship beyond The Nutcracker for two works in March: a choreographed Philip Glass Violin Concerto and Stravinsky’s dark burlesque “Petrouchka.”


Bela Fleck

Among this season’s soloists are pianist William Wolfram playing Rachmaninoff’s second concerto with Jorge Mester, violinist Augustin Hadelich tackling the monumental violin concerto of Brahms and Bela Fleck closing the season with his banjo concerto The Imposter, a work commissioned by the Nashville Symphony.

Bob Bernhardt’s Pops Series brings a few notable soloists, too, opening with Family Guy creator and crooner Seth MacFarlane singing American Songbook standards. MacFarlane released an album in 2011 of songs from the 40s and 50s, and viewers of Family Guy will know him as the voice of Stewie. Randy Jackson (of the band Zebra, not American Idol) will perform as Robert Plant with Brent Havens conducting, Ann Hampton Callaway will sing the Streisand Songbook, and Pink Martini, a group that includes vocalist Storm Large, joins the Louisville Orchestra on March 19th.

Returning for more to-be-announced concerts are the Family Concert Series, Music Without Borders, WOW! Series events, Magic of Music and Holiday concerts. The orchestra also unveiled new logos at Friday’s post-concert announcement.



Event: Jinjoo Cho Live

Jinjoo Cho.medium

Violinist Jinjoo Cho won first prize in the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in September, and will be in Louisville with the Gheens Great Expectations Series.

Hear Ms. Cho perform a solo recital in the Performance Studio of Classical 90.5 on Tuesday, February 3 at 2pm. The event is free and open to the public. No RSVP required.

Travel with Classical 90.5 to Italy!


Italy owns an astonishing thirty percent of the world’s cultural heritage, according to UNESCO. Fine arts, architecture and design are maybe the best known treasures, but music, food and wine have also left a great legacy.

Join Classical 90.5 host, Daniel Gilliam, on a twelve-day art, food and classical music lover’s journey to “Bella Italia.” Celebrate the lives of Verdi, Rossini, Toscanini, Puccini and Stradivarius, walk in the footsteps of great Italian masters by visiting the very places they loved, lived and worked. We’ll also enjoy in-depth, private tours highlighting the origins of painting and sculpture in central Italy. Along the way, you’ll be introduced to the culinary arts and visit the producers of fine wines, delicious olive oils and mouth-watering cheeses. This exclusive Louisville Public Media journey will also include an entertaining cooking class, outings to colorful country markets, private concerts, a backstage tour of the Bologna opera house, the towering hill towns of central Italy and fine multi-course bistro dining. Celebrate some of the best music, food and drink with Louisville Public Media! Space is limited to 28 lucky LPM guests.

Overnight flight to Italy –
3 Nights Parma/ Bologna (Italy’s premier food producing region)
2 Nights Villa in Fiesole (in the hills above Florence)
3 Nights Kingdom of the Castello di Modanella, Tuscany
2 Nights Eternal Rome, Province of Lazio

Make your reservation and learn more here!

Remembering “Culture Vulture” Jim Wilhelm

Jim Wilhelm

Jim Wilhelm passed away on Jan. 18, 2015. He ran a grassroots arts awareness organization called Louisville Culture Vulture, and was a friend and guest of Smillie’s Picks with the late Thomson Smillie on Classical 90.5. The following remembrance was written by his friend Martina Nichols

Jim Wilhelm, a Canton Ohio native was a Oklahoma University graduate. There he was invited to teach after obtaining his Master’s degree in music. He loved teaching but left to become a part of the New York City Opera company–where he played principal roles in many major productions that included some of the biggest names in Opera–including Beverly Sills, Joan Sutherland and more. From there he opted for the financial security of the corporate world developing skills in market research in New York and ultimately working in Louisville at Brown Williamson and Horizon Research International. Professionally, he made bold career changes from academe to performing arts to corporate research; but performing arts–particularly opera–remained his major passion and lifelong crusade. Throughout his adult life, he playing pied piper, leading the novice and seasoned to frequent theaters more often. He also mentored and championed a diverse range of young artists to take their place on the professional stage.

After retirement from market research, he started “the Louisville Culture Vultures”. What began as a small, eclectic group enjoying performances in Louisville but as far away as Chicago or Sante Fe, expanded to include an electronic newsletter informing the entire community of Louisville expansive cultural offerings. He had embarked upon this enterprise full steam when he met Thomson Smillie and his wife Marylyn Meredith, who not only joined his ever-growing merry band of ‘culture vultures’, but the ongoing debate : How do we open the theater doors to a broader, more diverse audience. In Smillie, Jim found another kindred spirit believing making the arts more accessible to everyone would enrich the individual and make the world a better place.

Though heart-breaking to all who knew them, the loss of these two men, exactly a year apart to the day, has galvanized what Marilyn has called the “motley crew” known as Louisville Culture Vultures. For now, they are planning a celebration of his life to occur in a few week. But they will also work together to ensure Jim’s brainchild and legacy go forward. Those interested in what will happen next should consult the ‘vulture’ website or its Facebook page.

Editor’s note: Below is an excerpt from “Smillie’s Picks,” Thomson Smillie’s arts segment that aired on Classical 90.5, featuring Jim Wilhelm and Smillie discussing the Met HD broadcasts as “the people’s opera.”

Featured Album & Giveaway: Rachel Barton Pine’s Mozart

rachel barton pine

For her latest album, Rachel Barton Pine worked with legendary conductor Sir Neville Marriner (a “hero” to her) and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields recording all of Mozart’s violin concertos and the Sinfonia Concertante, K. 364. While putting together this double-disc set of concertos was a huge undertaking, even more surprising is that Ms. Barton Pine gave a concert of all five concertos in 2011, just three weeks after giving birth to her first child! We’re featuring her album all week and giving you a chance to win a copy!