Tag Archives: Conductor

The Britt — A beautiful experience in a community atmosphere

Teddy Abrams, music director of the Britt Orchestra and a world renowned composer, pianist and clarinetist, will conduct The Britt Orchestra this season (July 25 to Aug. 11) in Jacksonville. This is the second of a two-part column. The first was published on May 26.

EH: How does music influence politics?

TA: It’s one of those questions of whether art imitates life or vice versa. You look at eras of American history and you see remarkable relationships between history and music, or politics and music — even beyond that, sociology and music. The defining characteristics of a lot of cultures are in fact their music making and their cultural output – those are binding elements.

Music is a way of conveying essential information, a way of defining identity. Especially in America, where our music comes from so many different places. We’ve often used it in ways to help us sort out our identities — and we see that over and over.

Jazz is one of the great examples of a music that is built on many different influences. But it’s this ultimately defining African-American music that could only exist (here), given the political circumstances of America. And that continues to this day.

Music is both political and apolitical. The protest songs of the Vietnam era probably had as much influence on people’s thinking about politics as anything. You had these bands and singer-songwriters with massive reach, and trust that they built, and people really listened to what they were saying, in a way that they may have ignored listening to other activists or speakers or politicians. Somebody could listen to a Bob Dylan song or Beatles song with a very specific message, but if they didn’t speak the language, they could still appreciate the music making. Continue reading The Britt — A beautiful experience in a community atmosphere

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Britt commission turns out to be about homelessness

Teddy Abrams, music director of the Britt Orchestra, has been has been conducting orchestras since he was 10. Now in his early 30s, Abrams conducts the Britt Orchestra in Jacksonville, is music director of The Louisville Orchestra, and has appeared with prominent orchestras around the world. I met with Abrams and Mark Knippel, Britt’s director of artistic operations, as they were planning their coming season.

MK: There’s been quite an exciting development. The piece that we commissioned turned out to be much longer and more intense than we thought it would be.

TA: It’s a 50-minute giant song cycle, with back-up singers, and all kinds of interesting instruments. It’s a piece about homelessness: It’s a significant issue in Southern Oregon. Gabriel Kahane’s “emergency shelter intake form” is almost musical journalism; he spent time with the homeless population. Continue reading Britt commission turns out to be about homelessness