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    Photo by Kaylee Arnett

    Last year, Thunder Over Louisville went orchestral when Louisville’s prodigious young orchestra conductor, Teddy Abrams, led his ensemble through recordings meant to sparkle — think violins bursting with Katy Perry’s “Firework.” This year, instead of sticking to the orchestra, Abrams put together a soundtrack of music from more than 70 different Kentucky artists: big stars to small-town bards, bluegrass to pop to hard rock. (The soundtrack is a secret but Abrams said My Morning Jacket, Cage the Elephant, country artist Chris Stapleton and the Louisville Leopard Percussionists were all being considered).

    We sat down with Abrams and longtime Thunder producer Wayne Hettinger to hear about what’s new with the show.

    TA: “Getting to know those artists was awesome, because (without this job) I would never have had an opportunity to just sit down for a couple of days and do nothing but just listen and listen and listen. And then, for the artist, I would think about a) What are their most famous songs?; and b) Of those, what would work best with a visual element? Because, a lot of them, it’s just the tempo and pacing and even the sound quality of them, you can probably think to yourself, ‘Well, that probably wouldn’t work so well with fireworks.’”

    WH: “Oh, it’s always been that way. Sometimes, you’re playing it in your head, and you go, ‘Boy, that’s a great song.’ You start thinking about programming fireworks to it and it’s like, ‘Love the song, but it’s not gonna work.’”

    TA: “Well, you guys are able to do so much interesting stuff. It’s not just an expected series of booms on the beat. I don’t think most places have the capability to design something that goes with a more lyrical piece, or something that has a slower flow to the tempo, or even like a bluegrass number with lots of moving notes without a thumping bass or backbeat to it.”

    WH: “And then everybody asks, ‘Are the fireworks going to be as big?’ Yeah. I mean, we’ve got a little over 50,000 shells to get off the ground. When we get to that finale, it’s time to pull out the kitchen sink. Anything that we haven’t ignited is going at that point.”

    This originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

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