Teddy Abrams discusses orchestra's new projects
Teddy Abrams, music director and conductor of the Britt Festival Orchestra, recently announced Britt’s new online presence. Now, we can stream videos of past Britt performances previewed by the artists’ comments on each piece.
A new work premieres at 3 p.m. every Friday through August on Britt’s Facebook page. Abrams and I talked on Zoom.
EH: What’s new with the Britt Orchestra?
TA: We’ve moved almost everything that Britt is doing online in a few different formats. The education side and the orchestra side are the big public-facing parts of Britt that we wanted to keep alive in a meaningful way. What we thought, for this year, is to go through our archives and choose some of our really special performances, and then to present each performance with a special introduction that would be: an interview with the guest artist, or the composer, or members of the orchestra, and myself. This is an online profile that we’ve never had.
EH: Tell us about the Crater Lake Project.
TA: There are all kinds of archival photos that we took as part of the project. The conversation that precedes the performance includes the composer, Michael Gordon, and Taylor Tupper from the Klamath Tribe. We had a very candid and fluid conversation about the bigger issues (which the piece addressed) such as place, culture and environment.
EH: What’s unique about music as an art form?
TA: There’s a universal quality to music that we need to recognize. Music is one of these things where culturally you can’t contain it.
In American culture, our music making is completely open. Especially when you think about the issues we are talking about right now: around systemic racism and injustice. Music is one of these areas where you can try and stop it, but once you hear something, if you’re inspired by it, it’s a part of you. It’s one of the reasons why Black music is honestly the generative force in American music. It’s the thing that’s inspired us; it has distinguished us; it’s made American music unique. Not to say that there aren’t so many other cultures that have contributed to what makes American music American, but it’s a great reminder of the power of music to just transcend.
It crosses all cultural lines instantaneously. That means that it has tremendous power. It’s our job to use that power to unite us, to unify us and connect us. I think that’s one of the beautiful things about it. You could be an immigrant coming to America, not speaking a word of English, but encountering American music making and being inspired by it, and feeling that you belong here.
It does have a very special power, not to mention that it also is the connecting force behind all the other genres. Dance needs music. Theater doesn’t need it, but it uses it. Film has to have it. You can’t take the soundtracks out, it’s the connective tissue there.
EH: Is there anything else you want to tell us?
TA: The highlight of so many of our years is to come to Britt. A lot of our musicians come year after year. We stay with the same hosts every season. We miss the family; we miss the town; we miss the whole region. We know how special this place is, and we can’t wait to be back to share our music with everyone.
To access the Britt streaming performances, go to Facebook, search for the Britt Music and Arts page, scroll down to videos. The Crater Lake Project premieres at 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with remarkable people, see her blog at ashlandtheater.net. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.