Britt Festival Orchestra

Teddy Abrams Leads Oregon’s Britt Festival Orchestra Season

Published: January 23, 2020

January 23, 2020


Contact: Mike Gantenbein, Marketing Director, 541-690-3849,

Teddy Abrams Leads Oregon’s Britt Festival Orchestra Season, Celebrating Beethoven’s 250th Birthday with Stellar Guest Artists and a World Premiere by Caroline Shaw

Who: Teddy Abrams and the Britt Festival Orchestra

When: Tuesday, July 28 – Sunday, August 16, 2020

Where: Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., Jacksonville

Tickets: $49 premium reserved seating, $29 for standard reserved seating, $20 for lawn seating and $10 for children and students with valid ID. Special Offer: Lawn tickets to all BFO concerts $5 per show available from Friday, Jan. 24 – Saturday, February 29.

General Public: Tickets go on sale at on Friday, Jan. 24 at 10:00 AM. Tickets also will be available at the Britt box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford or 541-773-6077.

The Britt Festival Orchestra (BFO) announces its 2020 summer season, anchoring Oregon’s Britt Music and Arts Festival with three weeks of exciting open-air programming in the scenic Rogue Valley. Under the inventive leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams, the 2020 season invites audiences to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birthday the way we imagine he would celebrate: with cutting-edge compositions by living composers who personify his spirit and ethos. The great master’s Symphony No. 9 forms the heart of our tribute, and other programs explore his sphere of influence, both in terms of how he became one of the greatest artists of any era, and how his greatness ripples forward in time. The season kicks off with a special project. Hiking the Woodlands with the BFO continues our efforts to take the orchestra into unique outdoor settings, which began with the 2016 Crater Lake Project. Britt has commissioned Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw for a new experiential work that will be performed along the Jacksonville Woodland Trails above the Britt Pavilion. Returning popular music artist Jim James joins maestro Teddy Abrams and the Britt Festival Orchestra in a performance of their newly released album, The Order of Nature. Other programs on the season feature a diverse array of soloists, including pianist Conrad Tao, mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, violinist Tessa Lark, and pianist Timo Andres. The Teddy’s Discovery Tuesdays series returns this season, including Hiking the Woodlands with the BFO in addition to a Family Show featuring actor Bruce Campbell narrating Nathaniel Stookey’s The Composer is Dead, with text by Lemony Snicket. The season closes with a timely, war-themed BFO Spectacular featuring pieces by Teddy Abrams’s mentor, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mason Bates, and Handel. The 2020 Britt Festival Orchestra Season runs from July 28 to August 16.

Maestro Abrams wanted to take a more creative approach to the Beethoven celebrations that are taking over the orchestral world for 2020. As he explains, “While Beethoven’s 9th Symphony anchors our birthday tribute, the celebration is centered around the guest artists that are joining us in 2020: almost every one of these musicians is a multi-talented composer-performer, just like Beethoven! From Caroline Shaw to Timo Andres, Tessa Lark, and Conrad Tao, we are presenting musicians that continue the spirit of Beethoven’s broad approach to making music. The BFO has developed a national reputation for adventurous and dramatic programming, and this season takes this approach to a new level, balancing the greatest musical talents of today with the widest scope of orchestral music from the past centuries. We can’t wait to return to our beloved Britt Hill and share our music with the beautiful Southern Oregon community!”

Composer/Conductor Fellowship: Caroline Shaw and Ellen Reid

In 2018, Abrams created an innovative, one-of-a-kind Composer/Conductor Fellowship. This program brings established composers to our festival to learn conducting from the Maestro himself. The fellow conducts a short, standard orchestral work in performance, and the BFO performs an existing work by the fellow (conducted by Abrams). Britt then commissions the composer for a new work for the following season. The fellowship provides composers a unique hands-on opportunity to work directly with the musicians for whom they will compose.  2019’s fellow, Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, conducted Mozart’s Magic Flute Overture, and the BFO performed her work The Mountain That Loved a Bird last summer. Her commissioned work will receive its world premiere for our Hiking the Woodlands with the BFO project in 2020. This season’s new Composer/Conductor Fellow is 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winner and Grammy-nominated Ellen Reid. The BFO will perform Reid’s work, When the World as You’ve Known It Doesn’t Exist, during the July 31 concert, where she will also conduct the Festive Overture by Shostakovich. She, in turn, will be commissioned to compose a new piece for the 2021 BFO season.

Beethoven’s Ninth and Guest Artists

The central aspect of Britt’s celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday is a performance of his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, widely considered his crowning achievement as a composer. Our performance on July 31, 2020 features the Rogue Valley Symphony Chorus, and four vocal soloists: soprano Sylvia D’Eramo, who is the Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist for the 2019-2020 season; mezzo-soprano and “the Beyoncé of opera,” J’Nai Bridges; the multi-talented tenor and BFO bassist Nathan Farrington;andPortland-based baritone, composer, and actor Damien Geter. A celebration of joy, brotherhood, unity, and liberty, the Ninth has stood the test of time as a monument of music, forging new ground that fundamentally altered the course of music history.

At age 25, Conrad Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer, and has been described as a musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” by The New York Times, who also cited him as “one of five classical music faces to watch”. He has performed with many of the most prestigious orchestras in the country, and is a recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, as well as being named a Gilmore Young Artist—an honor awarded every two years highlighting the most promising American pianists of the new generation. On August 2, his composition Everything Must Go will be performed by the Britt Festival Orchestra and he will join the BFO as the soloist in our performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20

J’Nai Bridges, known for her “plush-voiced mezzo-soprano” (The New York Times), has been heralded as “a rising star” (Los Angeles Times), gracing the world’s top stages. Her 2019-2020 operatic engagements in the U.S. include her debut at The Metropolitan Opera, singing the role of Nefertiti in Philip Glass’ opera Akhnaten, and her house and role debut at Washington National Opera performing Dalila in Samson et Dalila. Bridges will sing the title role of Carmen for the first time in Europeat the Dutch National Opera and will make her debut with the Festival d’Aix-en-provence singing Margret in a new production of Wozzeck, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. In addition to appearing as the alto soloist on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on July 31, Bridges will perform Ravel’s Shéhérazade for Voice & Orchestra on August 2.

Violinist Tessa Lark is one of the most captivating artistic voices of our time. A 2020 GRAMMY nominee in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category, recipient of a 2018 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship and a 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Silver Medalist in the 9th Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, and winner of the 2012 Naumburg International Violin Competition, she has consistently been praised by critics and audiences for her astounding range of sounds, technical agility, and musical elegance. Lark has received inspirational reviews of her performances of Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major, which she will perform on August 7 with the Britt Festival Orchestra.

On August 9, composer and pianist Timo Andres joins the BFO as the soloist on Béla Bartók’s sumptuous Piano Concerto No. 3 in E Major. The program also features Andres’s composition Everything Happens So Much, which was originally written for the Boston Symphony. As a pianist, Timo Andres has appeared with the LA Philharmonic, North Carolina Symphony, the Britten Sinfonia, the Albany Symphony, New World Symphony, and in many collaborations with Andrew Cyr and Metropolis Ensemble. He has also performed solo recitals for Lincoln Center, Wigmore Hall, San Francisco Performances, the Phillips Collection, and le Poisson Rouge.

Jim James, the acclaimed genre-bending solo artist and member of the legendary rock band My Morning Jacket, co-wrote a song cycle with Teddy Abrams that has James performing with orchestral backing. In Fall 2019, they released the album The Order of Nature, originally performed and recorded with Abrams’s Louisville Orchestra. They were featured on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and will bring the piece to life with the Britt Festival Orchestra on August 14. Friends since 2014, Abrams and James committed to this project in early 2017. Within months, James had provided Abrams with unadorned acoustic demos for a new batch of thematically-linked songs. Abrams then spent months building a complex symphony in which the songs could breathe, writing music that captures both the quiet drama of walking alone through a snowy landscape and the urgency of trying to steer a disrupted society toward kindness. 

Orchestral Staples, Living Composers, and Teddy’s Discovery Tuesdays

The BFO and Abrams pride themselves on representing a broad and diverse musical palette, with works ranging from staples of the orchestral canon to new works by today’s leading composers.  Taken as a whole, our program for 2020 spans 270 years, with works such as Music for the Royal Fireworks by Handel (Aug 16) and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 (Aug 2) on one end, and the world premiere of Caroline Shaw’s new work on the other. In addition to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (July 31), other works from the standard repertoire include theepic Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor by Gustav Mahler alongside the Erich Wolfgang Korngold Violin Concerto in D Major (Aug 7), Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss (Aug 9), and Jean Sibelius’s tone poem, Tapiola (Aug 14). More recent works by living composers include Steve Reich’s Tehillim (Aug 2), Art of War by Mason Bates (Aug 16), and Michael Tilson Thomas’s From the Diary of Anne Frank (Aug 16).

Teddy’s Discovery Tuesdays kicks off the season with a special project that follows in the footsteps of the 2016 Crater Lake Project: Hiking the Woodlands with the BFO – A Musical Journey (July 28 and 29). As part of the orchestra’s efforts to expand the orchestral repertoire in ways that celebrate Oregon and advance the tradition of the orchestra as an important part of our community’s cultural life, Britt has commissioned a site-specific work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw to be performed on the Jacksonville Woodland Trail system in two free performances on July 28-29. Shaw’s new work will be an experiential piece of music in which the audience will hike through groups of musicians spread along the trail, experiencing the music as they go. More details about this project will be forthcoming as the project develops. Later in the season, the Tuesday series continues with a Family Show on August 11, which will feature actor Bruce Campbell narrating Nathaniel Stookey’s The Composer is Dead with text by Lemony Snicket. The orchestra will also perform Beethoven is Alive!, a children’s introduction to Beethoven’s life and music.

Innovation and Community Engagement 

Teddy Abrams has been Music Director of the Britt Orchestra since 2014, and recently extended his contract with the ensemble through 2023. His spirit of innovation and community engagement is evident everywhere, whether it be in a pub crawl with the orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in bars throughout the region, by programming music that addresses critical local issues like homelessness, or through outreach activities in local high schools. The irrepressibly energetic Abrams has frequented national media of late, with an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, and as a conductor for the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, which was broadcast nationally on CBS.

About the Britt Festival Orchestra and Britt Music & Arts Festival

Founded in 1963, the Britt Festival Orchestra brings together 90 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 Festival 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 too. 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.

Tickets will go on sale to the public online and at the box office Friday, January 24 at 10:00 a.m. There is not a member pre-sale for Britt Festival Orchestra concerts.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

Britt Orchestra 2020 Season

Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., Jacksonville, OR

All concerts start at 8:00pm and are conducted by Music Director Teddy Abrams except where noted.

Tuesday, July 28 (Time: TBD)

“Teddy’s Discovery Tuesdays: Hiking the Woodlands with the BFO”

Caroline Shaw: commissioned work (untitled) 

Wednesday, July 29 (Time: TBD)

“Teddy’s Discovery Tuesdays: Hiking the Woodlands with the BFO”

Caroline Shaw: commissioned work (untitled)(repeat performance)

Friday, July 31

“A Night of Beethoven”

Dmitri Shostakovich: Festive Overture 

Ellen Reid: When the World as You’ve Known It Doesn’t Exist

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Rogue Valley Symphony Chorus; Sylvia D’Eramo, soprano; J’Nai Bridges, alto; Nathan Farrington, tenor; Damien Geter, baritone)

Sunday, August 2

“Conrad Tao and J’nai Bridges”                          

Conrad Tao: Everything Must Go

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor (Conrad Tao, piano)

Maurice Ravel: Shéhérazade for Voice and Orchestra (J’Nai Bridges, voice)

Steve Reich: Tehillim

Friday, August 7

“Tessa Lark”

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin Concerto in D Major (Tessa Lark, violin)

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor          

Sunday, August 9 

“Timo Andres”

Timo Andres: Everything Happens So Much

Béla Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3 (Timo Andres, piano)

Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra

Tuesday, August 11

“Teddy’s Discovery Tuesdays: Family Show”

*concert starts at 7:30 PM

Bruce Campbell, narrator

Beethoven Is Alive:  A kid’s introduction to Beethoven’s music and life 

Nathaniel Stookey: The Composer is Dead (text by Lemony Snicket)

Friday, August 14

“Jim James and Teddy Abrams”

Jean Sibelius: Tapiola

Jim James & Teddy Abrams: The Order of Nature

Sunday, August 16

“BFO Spectacular!”

George Frideric Handel: Royal Fireworks Music

Mason Bates: Art of War

Michael Tilson Thomas: From the Diary of Anne Frank

Ticket information

Premium reserved $49; standard reserved $29; lawn $20; child/student lawn $10

Special Offer (Lawn Tickets Only): $5On sale from Friday, Jan 24 – Saturday, Feb 29 

Pricing for August 11, “Teddy’s Discovery Tuesdays: Family Show” 

Reserved $15; Lawn $5

Tickets may be purchased online at or from the Britt Box Office by calling (800) 882-7488 or visiting 216 West Main Street, Medford, OR.

Inspired by its intimate and scenic hillside venue, Britt Music & Arts Festival provides diverse live performances, an incomparable classical festival and dynamic education programs that create a sense of discovery and community. Since its grassroots beginnings in 1963, the non-profit organization has grown from a two-week chamber music festival to a summer-long series of concerts in a variety of genres, including a three-week orchestra season, and year-round education and engagement programs. For more information, visit