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Yo-Yo Ma Performs in Mammoth Cave National Park With Louisville Orchestra in April

The performance will take place on April 29.

Yo-Yo Ma Performs in Mammoth Cave National Park With Louisville Orchestra in April

One of the world's most awe-inspiring natural wonders will serve as the setting for a once-in-a-lifetime experience on April 29, when members of the Louisville Orchestra join forces with cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park, the site of more than 400 miles of interwoven limestone caves and 100 miles of above-ground trails and rivers.

Held inside the cave, the program will feature a site-specific composition by Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams that was inspired by the environment where it will be performed. Tickets for the performances, taking place at 11am and 3pm CDT, will be distributed by a lottery process through, open from Monday, January 30 until Monday, February 6. More information about Mammoth Cave can be found here.

Rafinesque Hall, the area of the cave where the performances will take place, is a natural environment, with low lighting and a temperature of around 54ºF (12ºC). There is no seating in the hall, and the performances will last approximately one hour each. The performers will use different zones of the cave and audience members will be encouraged to move around the performance spaces to experience the aural and visual contrasts as elements of the composition evolve. Audience members must walk 0.75 miles (1.2 km) round-trip to reach the performance area. The access trail includes a steep outdoor hillside to and from the cave's natural entrance, with a total of 130 stairs. Inside the cave, the trail will travel along broad walkways in some of the largest rooms inside Mammoth Cave. The trail is mostly level but includes some hilly and uneven areas.

Over the past year, Abrams has explored Mammoth Cave National Park - the longest-known cave system in the world - and immersed himself in the cave's geology and history, specifically focusing on the origins of the cave, the people who have lived and worked in it, and the stories they have told.

Abrams explains: "These performances are an homage to and celebration of this remarkable place, its history, and its people. Visitors have always been drawn to Mammoth Cave to experience its ancient stillness and expansiveness. It's no surprise that this otherworldly treasure has inspired art in all forms, some of which can still be seen in the cave. Performing music in a cave, where untold generations of people before us have created their own music, connects us in a vital way to our past."

The genesis of this project came about through a conversation between Abrams and Yo-Yo Ma, during preparations for a podcast interview that Abrams conducted with the cellist in 2020. Ma mentioned his admiration for a documentary featuring a concert conducted by Abrams at Crater Lake National Park. Ma then shared the thinking behind his national parks project: "Our Common Nature." That conversation led to the idea of a concert in Mammoth Cave. Abrams composed his work with Ma in mind, to be performed inside the cave in a large open passageway known as Rafinesque Hall.

The composer-conductor explains: "My work will position Yo-Yo Ma in the role of spiritual guide, twinned with the voice of Davóne, and using a complement of vocalists and musicians from the Louisville Orchestra to bring the interdependent natural, human and mythological stories of Mammoth Cave to life. The inspiration for this work is the interlinking of nature and humanity - the role caves play in our collective imagination and storytelling. From ancient mythology to modern fiction, caves have represented archetypical wonder and terror, symbolized the unknown, and served as the setting for our contemplation of the borders of life, death and the great beyond."

Louisville Orchestra Chief Executive Graham Parker adds: "This once-in-a-lifetime performance represents more than a collaboration between Teddy Abrams, the Louisville Orchestra and the great Yo-Yo Ma; equally important to the collaboration is the mystical splendor of one of the world's most astounding natural wonders. We are also bringing attention to Mammoth Cave as part of the broader mission of the Louisville Orchestra to serve the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky, from its vibrant cities and small towns to its glorious natural resources."

Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Barclay Trimble says: "We are thrilled to offer this amazing opportunity to experience the sounds of Yo-Yo Ma and the Louisville Orchestra inside Mammoth Cave. Music is universally loved and recognized as a way to connect and bring people together. Mammoth Cave has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years - and now, through a composition created by Teddy Abrams and a historic performance by Yo-Yo Ma, we can add another fantastic musical moment to the cave's history."

Zack Winokur will serve as director of the performances. Winokur is recognized as one of the most innovative and exciting talents working in opera today.

Winokur explains: "In the process of creating this piece I have gotten to know people with deep history in these caves and surrounding lands, connecting with their generational stories of curiosity and discovery. I have been inspired by the work of the park guides and am excited to work with the properties of the cave - the pure blackout where you're left with only your heartbeat, the cacophonous echoes of sound, the sensitivity of a pin dropping, the one light in the dark that can form a glow for us all to gather around - as we transform the stories of the cave into theater."

Tickets for the performances will be distributed via a lottery system to give all interested visitors an equal opportunity to attend these limited events. The lottery will be open from Monday, January 30 to Monday, February 6 at Only one application per email address will be accepted, but each applicant may request up to four tickets. Performances are open to all ages, although children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult aged 18 or older. All lottery applicants will be charged a $1 application fee, but there is no fee for tickets to the events.

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