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In Harmony in Boyle County

Teddy Abrams Conducting The Louisville Orchestra

In Harmony in Boyle County

An ordinary Friday in Danville turned into a celebration of community, culture and collaboration when the Louisville Orchestra came to town.

The Louisville Orchestra’s (LO) visit to Danville on March 8, 2024 marked the penultimate stop on their historic “In Harmony” tour of the Commonwealth. This two-year musical journey, funded through the Kentucky legislature and which began in May 2023, brought orchestra musicians to numerous communities throughout Kentucky, performing to audiences of all ages and musical tastes.

Concluding a day packed with events, community-building and collaboration, the LO performed to a full house at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts, led by Grammy Award-winning conductor Teddy Abrams and featuring special guest Michael Cleveland, another Grammy Award-winner and one of the most awarded fiddlers in the world.

Teddy Abrams sits on the Weisiger Theatre stage. The silhouettes of audience members is visible in the foreground.

Before the orchestra took their final bows to a roaring standing ovation in Newlin Hall, the musicians spent their day engaging with the Boyle County community. Harpist Grae Roepke led a harp demonstration at the Kentucky School for the Deaf, while LO Creators Corps member and composer Tanner Porter spoke with Boyle County school students about the art of making music. Meanwhile, a musical storytelling adventure was occurring at the Boyle County Public Library with Once Upon an Orchestra. 

Centre students and faculty had the unique opportunity to participate in an open discussion with Abrams in Weisiger Theatre that morning, where they covered a variety of topics and delved into how music brings connection and commonality into our lives.

“In our world today, we are so used to perfection that we forget to marvel at amazing things – like 80 musicians performing with unity,” said Abrams during the discussion. “The orchestra is a symbol of commonality, a model for how humans of all different backgrounds can work together and create something amazing.”

Steve Hoffman, Graham Parker of the Louisville Orchestra, Danville Mayor JH Atkins, and Louisville Orchestra conductor Teddy Abrams pose with a key to Danville and a signed poster.

The day’s festivities continued with a reception at the Boyle County Community Leaders Meet and Greet, where Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra were honored with a proclamation and key to the city, symbolizing their contribution to the cultural enrichment of the community. The Meet and Greet was hosted by Centre College, the Norton Center, the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce, the Danville Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Arts Commission of Danville-Boyle County, the City of Danville and the Boyle County government. Farmer’s National Bank was the local sponsor of the Orchestra’s visit to Boyle County.  

“It is an incredible feeling to experience so many ways a single orchestra can engage with a community in just one day,” said Norton Center Executive Director Steve Hoffman. “The power of the arts should be recognized for connecting children, people with special needs, artists, musicians and the general public, in a celebration of culture and music. We saw how activities like these enhance our quality of life and transform the lives of so many people.” 

Michael Cleveland speaks to people during a roundtable forum. A sign language interpreter signs in the foreground

A few hours before the performance, the LO’s special guest Michael Cleveland sat down with local citizens for an Artists with Special Needs roundtable forum. Cleveland, who is blind and hard of hearing, spoke about the struggles and successes of his fiddling career, prompting an open dialogue about our region and how our community can make itself a more equitable, welcoming space for people of all abilities. The Roundtable was co-hosted by the Norton Center and the Arts Commission of Danville-Boyle County and was supported through a gift from Dr. Jeff Johnson and Ken Michael.

When the Norton Center doors opened for the concert that evening and excited patrons came flooding in, the Heritage Area String Program (HASP) began its pre-show performance in the lobby. HASP, a local free after-school program for 2nd through 5th-grade students, offers the opportunity for children to learn the cello, violin or viola. Under the instruction of the LO’s composer Tanner Porter, the group performed their own new composition alongside LO string musicians.

The performance in Newlin Hall was a perfect conclusion to a day spent collaborating and enriching the community culturally. Presenting a mix of classical pieces, new compositions and an orchestra-bluegrass crossover with Cleveland and Flamekeeper, the LO proved the unifying power of music in every song. The applause was nothing short of thunderous as the Orchestra and Flamekeeper took their final bows.

“Any time people can come together is so important to our society,” said Abrams. “The orchestra is a wonderful example of that.”

Fun fact: The Louisville Orchestra performed in the Norton Center’s inaugural 1973-74 season under the baton of Jorge Mester. The Orchestra has also performed at the Norton Center in 1975, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, and now, 2024.

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