The Louisville Orchestra will highlight the sounds and cultures of Central and South America with its Festival of Latin American Music this month.
The festival, which runs March 4 through March 26, will feature several concerts, events and “concert talk” sessions, hosted by 90.5 WUOL program director Daniel Gilliam. WUOL and WFPL are part of Louisville Public Media.
“The whole festival started with an initial idea for a commission for a new work,” said Louisville Orchestra director and conductor Teddy Abrams. “And that piece will be premiered at the first of the concerts that’s coming up next week.”
That piece is “Tentación” from MacArthur Fellow and Grammy award-winning Cuban-American composer Dafnis Prieto.
“‘Tentación’ is a love story, or better said an imaginary love story, driven by the powerful law of attraction,” Dafnis said in a statement about the work.
When Abrams commissioned Prieto for the piece, he asked for one thing.
“That’s to make the audience stand up and actually kind of lose control and want to dance during an orchestral concert, so there would be a real blending of the two cultural experiences,” Abrams said.
Abrams said Prieto’s piece satisfied that request by featuring singers, dancers, percussion, piano and jazz instruments in addition to orchestral strings.
Puerto Rican composer Angélica Negrón produced the other work specifically commissioned for the festival.
Her piece “Fractal Isles” deals with how her home of Puerto Rico is sometimes viewed as no more than a resource and tourist attraction by outside forces.
The piece combines a full orchestra with sounds taken from around Puerto Rico’s environment.
Both of the new works will premiere later this week.
During those concerts, New York-based music collective People of Earth will replace traditional soloists. They will step in to enhance the timba, a style of salsa music that is highlighted within the performance.
Abrams said in order to make the festival as accessible as possible, programs, signage and everything presented on the stage will be offered in both English and Spanish.
Beyond the concert performances, he said there will also be several community engagement events hosted around Louisville to offer more opportunities to experience the music.
People of Earth will perform throughout the city, including at Jefferson County Public Schools.
The Louisville Orchestra has also partnered with Louisville Refugee Ministries to host shows featuring Cuban music.
Abrams believes events like the Festival of Latin American Music help broaden the orchestra’s audience and perception within the local community.
“I’ve always said that the orchestra stage should reflect the community itself, and we have this wonderful, diverse community and the stage should be a place that not only welcomes folks from all backgrounds but celebrates who they all are,” Abrams said.