Oregon’s Britt Festival Orchestra returns June 15 – July 1, highlighting a film score and four outstanding guest artists
Published: February 7, 2023
The Britt Festival Orchestra (BFO) announces its 2023 season, anchoring Oregon’s Britt Music and Arts Festival with three weeks of exciting open-air programming in historic Jacksonville, Oregon. Under the inspirational leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams, the 2023 season highlights include a performance of Mark Knopfler’s score for the film The Princess Bride, plus four outstanding soloists: violinist Anne Akiko Meyers returning to Britt with the newly commissioned violin concerto by Michael Daugherty, Blue Electra, composer and pianist Timo Andres presenting his third piano concerto The Blind Banister, violinist Alexi Kenney playing Samuel Barber’s inspirational Violin Concerto, and jazz-classical crossover pianist Aaron Diehl, finishing the season with George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. The season also includes an evening of orchestral explorations including the newest composition by Ellen Reid along with a variety of compositions by composers from around the globe. The 2023 Britt Orchestra Season will fill the air with beautiful sounds on the Britt hill from June 15 to July 1.
Music Director Teddy Abrams’ creative vision continues to set Britt’s programming apart. “I’m thrilled about the breadth of music our spectacular BFO will be presenting this season. The orchestra will shine in classic works like Also Sprach Zarathustra and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, and I believe our audiences will be equally enthralled by the brilliance of living composers like Ellen Reid, Caleb Palka, Christopher Cerrone (a former Britt Composer-Conductor Fellow!), and Jonathan Bailey Holland,” says Abrams. “Our soloists are world-class, the orchestra itself is composed of some of the finest musicians from the great orchestral institutions around the US, and the Britt Hill is one of the most magical settings for performances that I’ve seen. I am tremendously excited to welcome both our orchestra and audiences to the upcoming season of the BFO!”
President & CEO Abby McKee says, “The BFO is one of the crown jewels of our Southern Oregon cultural scene, and we are looking forward to another stellar season. Teddy’s extraordinary and adventurous programming is just one of the many things that makes the BFO special – there’s nothing quite like listening to world-class orchestral music in nature. The Orchestra is one of the cornerstones of Britt Music & Arts Festival, and we are proud of bringing this incredible ensemble together for three weeks every summer.”
Concertgoers are invited to attend free pre-concert talks at the Sam & Hannelore Enfield Stage in the Performance Garden. Each talk begins at 7:00 PM and features a discussion about the performance of the evening. Come and enjoy a full Britt experience at every BFO concert.
Caleb Palka World Premiere
This season features a world premiere by the up-and-coming composer, Caleb Palka. Caleb, a Portland native, is a student at the USC Thornton School of Music and was connected to Teddy Abrams through his work at Luna Composition Labs, which provides mentorship, education & resources for young female, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming composers age 13-18. Caleb is currently writing this work, and it will be hot off the presses at its world premiere.
Guest Artists and Program Highlights
This season the BFO presents a broad range of guest artists performing new and traditional works from the orchestral canon. The opening night concert on June 15 features the return of violinist Anne Akiko Meyers to the Britt main stage, performing the newly composed violin concerto Blue Electra, a piece inspired by Amelia Earhart and written by GRAMMY-winning composer Michael Daugherty. Meyers performed the world premiere of Blue Electra in November 2022 to rave reviews. Kicking off the opening night concert will be Christopher Cerrone’s The Insects Became Magnetic, a piece for orchestra and electronics, with the composer himself on stage and at the helm of the electronic soundscapes. Finally, the opening night concert will feature Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss.
The first Saturday night concert of the season offers something new and promises fun for everyone. The BFO is presenting the film The Princess Bride in full with the orchestra performing composer Mark Knopfler’s unforgettable score arranged for symphony orchestra. Missing this cinematic concert experience would be “inconceivable”!
The second week of the series continues to mix the old and the new and opens with a BFO commission from up-an-coming composer Caleb Palka, followed by a performance featuring pianist Timo Andres performing his third piano concerto, The Blind Banister. The evening is rounded out with Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4.
The second concert of the second week keeps the energy building. The evening begins with the West Coast premiere of Send the Carriage Through, a new work by Lisa Bielawa, followed by a Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto performed by California-native violinist Alexi Kenney. The evening is crowned with one of classical music’s best-known works for orchestra: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
The final week begins June 29 with a collection of orchestral selections written by a broad range of composers and brilliantly led by BFO Music Director Teddy Abrams: Finlandia by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, Today and Today and Today and Today (etc.) by contemporary composer Ellen Reid, The Moldau by the romantic era Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, Fractal Isles by Angélica Negrón, and an orchestra lover’s classic, Rhapsodie Espagnol, by Maurice Ravel.
Finally, closing night brings the BFO season to a crescendo. The concert begins with Music Director Teddy Abrams’s own composition Overture to The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, a tribute to one of the 20th century’s most famous athletes from Teddy’s adopted hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Following Abrams’s piece, crossover classical-jazz pianist Aaron Diehl will thrill the audience with a performance of George Gershwin’s definitive Piano Concerto in F. Also included in the evening’s program, is the composition Equality by American composer Jonathan Bailey Holland. Closing out the season, the BFO will wrap up the evening with Leonard Bernstein’s lively Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
Tickets and Other Information
Tickets will go on sale beginning at 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 8 on the Britt website: BrittFest.org. There will not be a Member pre-sale for the BFO concerts. Britt recommends making sure you are using the website BrittFest.org, as there are several websites that look official while charging higher prices and inflated fees. Tickets may also be purchased at the Britt Box office, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM weekdays at 216 W. Main St, Medford, Oregon, or by calling 541-773-6077.
Following is standard pricing for the BFO concerts:
Premium Reserved: $49
Standard Reserved: $29
Lawn Seating: $27
Children & Students: $12 with valid Student ID
THE PRINCESS BRIDE (June 17):
Premium Reserved: $40
Standard Reserved: $25
Lawn Seating: $20
Children & Students: $10 with valid Student ID
This year performances occur on Thursday and Saturday evenings. All BFO evening concerts begin at 8:00 PM with gates opening at 6:00 PM (Early Entry at 5:45 PM) and no intermission, except for The Princess Bride, which will have an intermission.
Pre-concert talks will be held at 7:00 PM on the Sam & Hannelore Enfield Stage in the Performance Garden. Guest speakers will be announced at a later date.
Britt continues to present an earlier season again in 2023. The BFO season begins five weeks earlier than it has traditionally been held, with opening night on June 15. This change was made in response to many successive years of wildfire smoke brought on by climate change. Following several moves to the North Medford High School auditorium and other locations, plus concert cancelations during several BFO seasons due to unhealthy wildfire smoke, the Britt Board of Directors and BFO decided to move the orchestra season earlier in the summer, when wildfire smoke does not normally impact outdoor concerts, and after a successful 2022 season with these earlier dates, the BFO will continue to perform in June and early July of 2023. This move ensures the safety of orchestra members, staff, patrons, and volunteers.
To stay informed about Britt Festival Orchestra events and everything else Britt, sign up for the monthly Britt Buzz newsletter at Brittfest.org. You can subscribe in the “Stay in the Loop” section at the bottom of every page.
PROGRAM 1 – June 15
Also Sprach Zarathustra & Anne Akiko Meyers
Anne Akiko Meyers, Violin
Christopher Cerrone – The Insects Became Magnetic
Michael Daugherty – Blue Electra
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
Richard Strauss – Also Sprach Zarathustra
PROGRAM 2 – June 17
The Princess Bride
PROGRAM 3 – June 22
Schumann & Timo Andres
Timo Andres, Piano
Caleb Palka – World Premiere
Timo Andres – The Blind Banister
Timo Andres, piano
Robert Schumann – Symphony No. 4
PROGRAM 4 – June 24
Beethoven 5 & Alexi Kenney
Alexi Kenney, Violin
Lisa Bielawa – Send the Carriage Through, West Coast Premiere
Samuel Barber – Violin Concerto
Alexi Kenney, violin
Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony No. 5
PROGRAM 5 – June 29
Ravel, Sibelius & Reid
Jean Sibelius – Finlandia
Ellen Reid – Today and Today and Today and Today [etc.]
Bedřich Smetana – The Moldau
Conducted by David Baker, BFO Assistant Conductor
Angélica Negrón – Fractal Isles
Maurice Ravel – Rhapsodie Espagnol
PROGRAM 6 – July 1
Abrams, Bernstein, & Aaron Diehl
Aaron Diehl, Piano
Teddy Abrams – Overture to The Greatest: Muhammad Ali
George Gershwin – Piano Concerto in F
Aaron Diehl, piano
Jonathan Bailey Holland – Equality
Leonard Bernstein – Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
About the Britt Orchestra and Britt Music & Arts Festival
Founded in 1963, the Britt Orchestra brings together over 75 professional musicians from across the United States for three weeks of open-air performances each summer. Forming the heart of the annual Britt Music & Arts Festival, the Britt Orchestra Season takes place in Jacksonville, Oregon, less than half an hour’s drive from the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The festival was the brainchild of Portland conductor John Trudeau and musician Sam McKinney, who came to southern Oregon in search of the perfect location. When they discovered the superb natural acoustics and stunning views of Britt Park – the former hillside estate of Jacksonville pioneer Peter Britt, a Swiss-born photographer who became one of Oregon’s most celebrated citizens – they knew that they had found it. In 1963, with a small chamber orchestra on a makeshift stage, the first summer outdoor music festival in the Pacific Northwest was born.
Since its grassroots beginnings, the non-profit organization has grown from a two-week chamber festival to a multi-disciplinary summer-long concert series with year-round education and engagement programs. Constructed 40 years ago, the 2,200-capacity Britt Pavilion enables Britt to present world-class artists while maintaining the intimacy for which it is known.