Young music director under attack for Jewish New Year concerts

Young music director under attack for Jewish New Year concerts


norman lebrecht

September 27, 2014

Concertgoers in Louisville have turned on their incoming music director, Teddy Abrams, for scheduling concerts of Jewish-American composers over the Jewish New Year holiday.

Abrams has responded with this statement: ‘As most probably know, I am Jewish and I have the highest respect for our traditions and holy days. Unfortunately, the Louisville Orchestra does not own its performance venues, and scheduling concerts, rehearsals and artists is an immensely complex logistical challenge. We will make every effort in the future to avoid these conflicts.’


teddy abrams


  • Aaron says:

    Brother. A concert seems like a nice way to celebrate the holiday. But if you don’t like it, don’t go!

  • mr oakmount says:

    I probably did not get the point. Does this mean the Louisville Orchestra should not have played on that day, or that they should have played non-jewish composers instead? Or that they played some people’s favourite music on a day the latter ones could not attend?

    • Henrik says:

      Apparently the “problem” was, that (some) Jews complained because they felt they could not attend these concerts, because they were scheduled on some Jewish holiday that does not allow attending concerts.
      For me the logical thing would be to question this silly religion (any religion) that forbids such a thing, not the timing of the concert.
      Religion has no place since the age of enlightenment.

      • JBBaldwin says:

        Surely you’re not suggesting this is the age of enlightenment. I suggest the opposite. (I also aver the other Age of Enlightenment wasn’t.)

        • Henrik says:

          No, of course you are right. We live in the age of the counter-enlightenment. Dogma and ideologies have a renaissance. The difference between those people who complain about this concert and those who cut heads off in the Middle East is a difference of style and manners, not a difference of their essential ideology. It’s the plague of religious intolerance.

          • Prewartreasure says:

            Well said, sir.

          • Jewelyard says:

            Henrik, it always warms my heart to see a raging anti-Semite such as yourself pad their posts with an impressive vocabulary. Comparing people who complain about the date of a concert to “people” that slice off another human being’s head pretty much labels you as a snake, pig, and rat of the lowest level.

          • Henrik says:

            Jewelyard, oy vey! Do you know that joke?
            A Jew – let’s call him John – who had a little issue with stuttering went to the local radio station to apply as a program announcer. His friend waited outside and when John was done with his interview, his friend was eager to learn how it went. Moshe answered: “I-i-i d-d-d-didn’t g-g-et the j-j-job, b-b-ut what d-d-o you e-e-expect from a b-b-bunch o-o-of a-a-a-anti-s-s-semites.”

          • M2N2K says:

            The joke does not change the fact that henrik’s equation is indefensible, because the difference is not that “of style and manners” but those of basic human decency, morality, quality of human beings etc. – in short, of their humanity.

  • Alex says:

    This is an idiotic thing to be upset about. There is nothing on the program even remotely ‘Jewish’. Overture to Oklahoma? Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo? It’s a standard American classics concert, like every orchestra in the world does at least once per season. The four composers just happen to be Jewish. Anyone who is offended by this should count themselves lucky they don’t have worse problems.

  • Kenneth Griffin says:

    Hilarious! Thank you for making me laugh, Slipped Disc!

  • David Meyer says:

    Please explain this story.Are Jewish people complaining because they are not allowed to go out on new year’s eve even to listen to Jewish music? Or is there a neo nazi movement afoot wishing to ban Jewish composers? Who is complain about what? Really not clear.Are the cowboys complaining as well?

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Maestro Abrams is one of the shining lights in the conducting world. Religion is an important part of many lives, and there are many variants within all religions. Quite often, many events need to be scheduled in performance venues which can indeed pose difficulties since many events need that venue. But if an orchestra is to survive, and a brilliant new music director starts his tenure with a wonderful program as such, feelings toward religion on any level should never allow it to interfere with the start of a new season, and new music director. Perhaps the schedule was in place before Maestro Abrams was selected. Surely the conflict of holidays and performances as such could be avoided, as Maestro Abrams states. People cannot be so quick to dismiss someone due to a scheduling conflict. During tough times of keeping music alive, keeping a positive tone to keep an orchestra strong is foremost important.

  • joshg says:

    What Alex said.

    Yes, it was bad scheduling to program the season opener on the 1st night of Rosh Hashanah and the 2nd night (which is also Shabbat).

    No, the fact that Gershwin and Copland were Jewish has nothing to do with anything. These complainers (who reinforce an unfortunately true stereotype, btw) probably aren’t even aware of the hundreds of actually Jewish-themed works, of which “Rodeo” is not one. As if these composers were remotely religious…perhaps they would be satisfied if the orchestra programmed Wagner on the High Holidays?

    Yes, the orchestra’s response on Twitter was a clumsy. But this proves why Twitter is so lame for issues like these. If you’re going to kvetch without writing a proper formal letter, don’t expect any kind of substantive and diplomatic response in only 140 characters.

  • Henrik says:

    Isn’t it a bit sad that even in a supposedly civilized a country a music director feels the pressure to issue an apology to some religious nut jobs over some totally uncontroversial issue (except for said nut jobs). I’d say we shouldn’t let (religious) intolerance win over freedom.

  • Milka says:

    How strange this all is – soon will we
    be having “Catholic composers night”
    Methodist night, highAnglican and
    low Anglican nights ?…how ridiculous
    I have yet to hear any of my musician
    friends who cover the spectrum of
    nationalities and religions say “Lets play some Jewish -American music then play Gershwin, Copland
    et al. When you strike middle “C”
    you get a sound ,it is neither Jewish
    or Gentile same goes for orchestra” A”
    or does Mr. Abrams believe a note stuck by what he calls Jewish-American composers becomes a
    Jewish note as opposed to a Catholic
    norte. I assume Mr. Abrams was born
    in the United States as were the composers..I thought that made them
    all Americans .That Mr. Abrams has the highest respect for Jewish traditions is well and good ,just don’t drag the religion into the concert
    hall .The United States not being a
    religious Jewish state orchestras can programme
    Wagner any time that suits
    without worrying about the high holidays.

  • Anonymus says:

    Categorizing composers like Copland, Gerahwin and Weill as Jewish makes as little sense, as if one would categorize composers like Wagner, Berlioz or Brahms as Christian. Their oeuvre goes way beyond any religious family heritage they might have, in some cases even against it.
    Who are these people, who must empasize on humanity dividing vague tribal differences, rather than to emphasize on the humanity unifying power of music?