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  • Press Release

VA Arts Festival and VA Symphony Orchestra present Chris Thile World Premiere Mandolin Concert



Words and Images Courtesy of the Virginia Arts Festival and Virginia Symphony Orchestra


In a spectacular 2023 season that includes a number of co-commissioned premieres, Virginia Arts Festival and Virginia Symphony Orchestra have announced that they will present the world premiere of a new mandolin concerto by MacArthur Fellow and four-time Grammy® Award-winning mandolinist, singer, and composer/songwriter Chris Thile. The new concerto will be performed May 19-21, 2023, by Thile and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra with Eric Jacobsen conducting. Co-commissioners of the new work include Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Louisville Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Virginia Arts Festival, and Virginia Symphony Orchestra.


The Guardian (UK) calls Chris Thile “that rare being: an all-round musician who can settle into any style, from bluegrass to classical,” and NPR calls him a “genre-defying musical genius.” A prodigy who began playing the mandolin at age four, Thile began performing publicly as a young child, got his first Grammy nomination at age 16, and his first Grammy win at just 21.


A founding member of the critically acclaimed bands Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers, Thile has been credited with creating a distinctly American canon and a new musical aesthetic for performers and audiences alike. As part of his eclectic musical career, he served for four years as the host of the public radio show Live from Here with Chris Thile (formerly known as A Prairie Home Companion).


Thile describes his new mandolin concerto as a musical adventure: “This new piece (which I promise will have a real corker of a title by the time you hear it!) is a big ol’ narrative song cycle/mandolin concerto that tells, plays, and sings the true story of the time I attempted to impress a Starbucks executive and accidentally met Carrie Fisher as a result. It’s a DOOZY, and I’m thrilled beyond expression to perform it in collaboration with your intrepid Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Virginia Arts Festival.”


Virginia Arts Festival Perry Artistic Director Robert W. Cross hails the mandolinist’s versatile genius and beguiling stage persona: “I’ve been a big fan of Chris Thile since his days with Nickel Creek. We’re delighted to present this new work from this unique and much-loved artist, whose mandolin playing is simply incomparable, and whose stage presence draws audiences into a circle of music, discovery, and fun.” Virginia Symphony Orchestra Music Director and conductor Eric Jacobsen said of this project “I am SO looking forward to our spring concert with Chris Thile. There are very few people that transcend styles of music as naturally and as beautifully as Chris. The way he can blend between the music of Bach and Barber as deeply as when playing his own music is truly remarkable. I think you will be blown away by his talents and his storytelling, both through music with words and without, and I cannot wait for you to experience it!”


Tickets for the world premiere performances of the Chris Thile Mandolin Concerto are available online at vafest.org, by phone at 757-282-2822, or at the Festival Ticket Office, 440 Bank St, Norfolk (Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm).


Performance Schedule:



World Premiere Chris Thile, mandolin Eric Jacobsen, conductor Virginia Symphony Orchestra Three Performances Friday, May 19, 7:30 pm Ferguson Center for the Arts, Newport News


Saturday, May 20, 7:30 pm Chrysler Hall, Norfolk Sunday, May 21, 2:30 pm Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia Beach


Virginia Arts Festival’s 26th season runs April 14 – June 18, 2023. For more information, visit: vafest.org.

For more information on the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, visit: virginiasymphony.org.

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