On Friday, May 16, acclaimed banjo player Abigail Washburn and master guzheng player Wu Fei arrived in Louisville for two days full of community interaction and cross-cultural collaboration.
Prior to their arrival to town, The Kentucky Center, the Louisville Folk School, and Kentucky Refugee Ministries partnered to produce an event steeped in the theme of cultural exchange omnipresent in Abigail and Fei’s show as part of the Louisville Free Public Library’s How-To Festival on Saturday, May 11. The event titled “How To: Sing Global Lullabies” featured musicians from the United States, Ghana and Burma all leading festival attendees in lullaby sing-alongs from their respective countries followed by a session on how to create your own lullabies based on musical structure and themes consistent in lullabies from around the world.
The first stop on Abigail and Fei’s whirlwind itinerary was Goldsmith Elementary School. Goldsmith is a partner school in the On-Ramp to Great Learning partnership program involving JCPS, The Kentucky Center and Stage One. In the past year, On-Ramp liaisons and teaching artists have worked with Goldsmith Elementary teachers and students using storytelling to bolster Language Arts proficiency.
Abigail and Fei performed for an extremely diverse group of Goldsmith students, taking them on a musical journey around the world through the lens of Appalachian and Chinese folk music and storytelling. Following the performance, Jecorey Arthur, education manager for Louisville Public Media’s WUOL station, recorded interviews with the students and musicians to be used between shows on the air.
On Friday, May 17, Washburn and Wu performed and participated in live interviews on both WHAS Great Day Live and on Louisville Public Radio’s WFPK, followed by a magical and intimate evening performance at The Kentucky Center that weaved powerful social themes and history from their respective art forms into a modern salon concert. Following the performance, the artists led an audience question and answer session and generously remained onstage allowing audience members to try their hand at playing the banjo and guzheng.
Both artists remarked how much they enjoyed meeting and sharing with the Louisville community. Wu Fei forwarded this glowing review she received from a local fan via social media:
“This was amazing. My 13-year-old son was with us for his 1st real live concert. So glad this was it! All the things are alive here - culture, love, compassion, art and music and laughter. A recipe to spark an interest in the young gifted mind. Thank you for bringing this here for us to experience with you. Opening a world that few of us will only imagine. Revealing a past so misunderstood. I could not be more proud of his response to the show- no videos, no explosions or dance moves or costumes. He was blown away and so inspired. Thanks again.”
Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei’s residency and associated events were funded in part by the South Arts Performing Arts Touring Grant.