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Thile returns to Murray with Louisville Orchestra

In+Harmony+promotional+poster+from+the+%40murraystatemusic+on+Instagram.
In Harmony promotional poster from the @murraystatemusic on Instagram.

University alum and mandolinist Chris Thile returned on Sept. 14 to play at Lovett Auditorium as part of the In Harmony Tour with the Louisville Orchestra.

The program began with Thile’s original concerto, “ATTENTION!: A narrative song cycle for extroverted mandolinist and orchestra.” The performance, featuring vocals and mandolin from Thile with orchestral accompaniment, was a theatrical retelling of Thile’s brush with Carrie Fisher in 2005.

The orchestra then performed “Home,” an original composition from Louisville Orchestra Creator Corps members Lisa Bielawa and Lindsey Branson. They also played renditions of “Hoe-Down” from Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” and Sergei Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1. Afterward, Thile rejoined the orchestra for an encore.

On the day of the performance, members of the Louisville Orchestra visited music classes to perform and teach masterclasses to brass and woodwind students.

Thile, the mandolinist for bluegrass bands Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers, has been involved in numerous other solo and collaborative projects. A recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant, he has recorded tracks with the likes of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, banjoist Béla Fleck and others. Most recently, he played on Nickel Creek’s new album, “Celebrants,” released this year. He also released a solo album, “Laysongs,” in 2021 and has hosted the radio variety show “Live from Here.”

Though he spent part of his childhood in western Kentucky, Thile first broke into the music scene as a child prodigy in southern California. He joined the newly-formed Nickel Creek at age eight and won the National Mandolin Championship at 12. The Thile family later moved to Murray when Thile’s father took a job as a musical instrument technician at the University.

Thile told WKMS it was a joy to come back to Murray.

“Having gone to school at Murray State, having been able to cut my musical teeth in the music department… there [were] just so many wonderful moments for me,” Thile said. “It means the world to me on a variety of fronts.”

Though he has previously composed music for orchestras, Thile said this concerto was the first time he felt satisfied with the finished product.

“The last time I tried to do this, it was like a mandolin player dressed up as a composer for Halloween,” Thile said. “It won’t be like jumping in an icy, icy cold pool if you’re hoping for something sort of vaguely reminiscent of Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek or whatever. It’s all baked into it.”

The performance weaved elements of classical and folk music to create an orchestral style evocative of the progressive bluegrass genre that he, Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers helped make famous.

The In Harmony Tour will continue with Thile to Madisonville, Beattyville and Henderson this month. The tour will return with fiddler Michael Cleveland in February and March. Interested parties can visit louisvilleorchestra.org to view these tour dates and others in the future.



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About the Contributor
Ava Chuppe
Ava Chuppe, Copy editor/writer
Ava Chuppe began as a Contributing Writer at The News during Fall 2021 after having served as a high school intern for The News in the Summer of 2019. Now a Senior Writer and second-year English/Literature major, Chuppe has goals to pursue a Master's Degree in English or attend law school. In her free time, she enjoys writing, working out, and playing the mandolin.

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