Famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma takes part in historic show with Louisville Orchestra inside Mammoth Cave

By Lilli Dubler, Building Kentucky

Yo-Yo Ma joined the Louisville Orchestra for a historic performance inside Mammoth Cave on April 29.

World renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Louisville Orchestra, led by Music Director Teddy Abrams, performed inside Mammoth Cave on Saturday, April 29. The music piece entitled “Mammoth” celebrated how natural environments, like caves, can provide artistic inspiration.

The music performed during this special event was created especially for Mammoth Cave by Abrams. Having spent the past year immersing himself in the cave’s rich history and geology, Abrams explored Mammoth Cave National Park to draw inspiration from the sights, sounds, flora and fauna.

“Every time I go in there, you immediately understand you’re in a sacred space,” Abrams said. “There’s a 5,000-year human history associated with this and now we’re a part of that story. It’s the closest thing to a religious or spiritual experience you can get in nature.”

The piece is influenced by Abrams’ experience and was specifically written with Ma as the featured performer. Ma is an American cellist who has performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world. He has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to stretching the boundaries of genre and tradition to explore how music not only expresses and creates meaning, but helps us to build a stronger society and a better future.

“To watch Yo-Yo Ma, one of the world’s great artists and humanitarians, play music that you dreamed up is one of the most surreal out of body experiences ever,” Abrams said. “It’s the thing you dream of as an artist to have musicians like that play your music, and then to play it in this space.”

The musical performance took place inside Mammoth Cave in a large, open passageway known as “Bunker Hill.” Audience members walked 0.75 miles round trip to reach the performance area.

Tickets were distributed via a lottery system, which provided an equitable opportunity for all visitors who were interested in attending the limited, yet high-demand event. Over 27,000 people applied for tickets, with under 1,000 people receiving tickets.

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