It’s just music to me: The Louisville Orchestra plays Mostly Mozart at the Ogle Center.

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The best spin I can attach to the term “classical music,” this being inevitable shorthand that I tend to resist, is that it capably assists in delineating a broad swath of territory until there is time to break it down more specifically.

What is classical music? by Jay Gabler (Classical MPR)

Everyday enjoyment of classical music doesn’t require you to strain your brain with such fine distinctions, but it definitely helps to understand that classical music is a living tradition that’s being defined and redefined every day. Though Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and their contemporaries will always have pride of place in the world of classical music, the long history of what we now consider classical music didn’t begin with them and certainly didn’t end with them.

The classical music tradition lives on in composers writing scores for performance by orchestras, for chamber ensembles, for solo performers — and also in unexpected places. Even if you never listen to “classical music,” you’re constantly hearing music that’s been influenced by the classical tradition, from precisely composed video-game scores to Beatles songs influenced by avant-garde composers to heavy-metal guitarists stealing chords (maybe without even knowing it) from Richard Wagner.

All I know for sure is a sense of ongoing gratitude at being exposed to this “classical” realm.

There have been a jumble of influences, ranging from children’s compilation LPs to high school choir, including instruction from mentors like Bob Youngblood and my cousin Don Barry, and coming to fruition in the early 1980s when I belatedly discovered WUOL, back then the University of Louisville’s FM radio source for “classical” music, one still going strong today as part of Louisville’s public radio partnership.

Last night we attended the first of four Louisville Orchestra performances at Indiana University Southeast’s Ogle Center as part of this season’s Neighborhood Series.

On November 11, the LO will be back at Ogle with Teddy Abrams conducting Russian Easter Overture and Scheherazade, two personal favorites by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. I’m looking forward to this as much or more than Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie at the Louisville Palace on November 5. If Kamasi Washington would play somewhere on the 8th, it would be one of the best weeks ever.

For a very long time it has been my contention that formal “classical” music is just as deserving of “vernacular” appeal as any other musical idiom. It needs to be taken to the people. What I enjoyed most about the Mostly Mozart performance at Ogle was conductor Bob Bernhardt’s educational stories between numbers, which served to humanize and contextualize music that otherwise might appear daunting.   

For the LO to perform a movement of a Mozart symphony, then to be informed that the composer wrote this piece at the age of 8, is to be drawn inside a larger conversation. It strikes me that whatever 1990s-era role I had in popularizing better beer, it derived from telling stories and educating, and giving someone other compelling reasons to care apart from the alcohol. Music and beer can be enjoyed sans background, but a little knowledge goes a very long way.

The LO really seems to be on a roll, which Bernhardt attributes to Abrams’ energy and worth ethic, and the ensemble’s enduring professionalism. It is a winning combination, indeed.

Bill Doolittle’s essay at Insider Louisville offers an overview.

Louisville Orchestra gears up for an innovative 80th season

The Louisville Orchestra is going places.

Led by its youthful music director Teddy Abrams, the symphony seems to be creating not just a sound, but also a story that’s getting out and about town — catching the ear of the city in a way it hasn’t in decades.

While there’s not exactly an Oklahoma Land Rush to the box office, tickets sales are up, attendance is up, interest is up and — maybe most important — when someone mentions Teddy and the orchestra, people listen.

A band on the move, that’s the feeling, even among folks who don’t attend concerts and never listen to classical music.

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