Since moving to Charlotte nearly five years ago, I've discovered plenty of summer activities worth checking out. But though my list of "must attend" events is long, the Charlotte Symphony's Summer Pops performances remain at the top. If you're new to the experience, here are a few of my tips for making the most of it.
Schedule out-of-town visits accordingly
When my best friend from high school came to check out Charlotte for the first time, a Summer Pops show was definitely on the itinerary for her trip. It was the perfect way to break up a weekend that included plenty of eating, brewery hopping, and pool time. If you've got friends and family members who are eyeing a trip to the Queen City, plan accordingly.
Bring the whole family
The Summer Pops experience is perfect for everyone in your family, because it doesn't matter how much or how little you know about the symphony. You're hearing familiar music (selections this year will be from E.T., Star Wars, Wicked, and The Sound of Music, just to name a few) in a relaxed, comfortable setting. Kids will love running around outside at the park before the show starts, and the experience feels approachable for attendees of all experience levels.
Get there early to snag the ideal spot
Needless to say, the Summer Pops shows are popular. If you want a great sightline, get to Symphony Park early - gates open at 5 p.m., prelude acts are at 7 p.m. - so you have time to set up shop and pick the perfect spot. Bring your favorite blanket or a low-backed chair so you stay comfortable throughout the evening without blocking others' views.
Unlike other concert experiences where you're spending money on food and drinks in addition to the price of a ticket, at Summer Pops you can bring your own treats to munch on as you enjoy the show. Personally, I'd recommend something light, such as cheese and fruit. Don't forget that you can bring wine and beer too (no liquor)! Another favorite option of mine is to pop over and enjoy the patio at Reid's Fine Foods before heading to the performance. Reid's is also on site at the park, so you can purchase charcuterie, etc. without walking too far, if you didn't pack your own.
Choose the Premium Seating Club for shade and ease
When you want the easiest Summer Pops experience from start to finish, the Premium Seating Club is your best bet. A little pricier, but that's because your ticket includes VIP parking, seating under a tent, and a boxed picnic from Reid's. It's probably the most relaxing way to experience the show, if you have it in your budget.
Beat the heat
In case you haven't noticed, Charlotte summers are hot, to say the least. But if you want to enjoy the music of the Charlotte Symphony without the added dose of humidity, the Summer Pops series has an indoor experience, too! On June 22, a DeLorean will be riding down Tryon Street for Back to the Future In Concert at Belk Theater. I repeat, a DeLorean. Soak up both the music and the sweet, sweet air conditioning.
Maximize your flexibility
If you love the option of buying tickets at the gate but also are trying to be kind to your wallet, the GoPass is your best bet. Select the shows that appeal most to you, and save 25 percent versus if you bought tickets for individual shows.
Use your social media skills to your advantage
If you're social media savvy, you can use your love of hashtags and filters to your advantage! When you snap a great shot during a Summer Pops show, post it to your favorite social media channel and you may win a pair of tickets to an upcoming performance. Hashtag is #SummerPops2018
Also, before you go, be sure to consult these handy Summer Pops FAQs to find answers to all your park questions.
Which Summer Pops shows are you planning to check out this year? If you see me at a performance, make sure to say hi!
Lauren Levine is a Charlotte-based freelance writer and co-host of The Margarita Confessionals podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @lifewithlauren1. Read more
On April 20, your Charlotte Symphony presents the altsounds series finale: Rockin' with Dylan. The centerpiece of the program is a work by contemporary composer John Corigliano, inspired by Dylan's poems, featuring new music soprano Lindsay Kesselman. Read more about Kesselman below.
Hailed by Fanfare Magazine as an "artist of growing reputation for her artistry and intelligence...with a voice of goddess-like splendor," Lindsay Kesselman is a soprano who passionately advocates for contemporary music.
This season Kesselman has the honor of being the featured singer at John Corigliano's 80th birthday concert celebration at National Sawdust in NYC. Other season highlights include her debuts with the North Carolina Symphony and the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, as well as the 2017 release of Antique Violences on Blue Griffin, featuring Songs from the End of the World by John Mackey, written for Kesselman and chamber winds.
During the 2015-16 season, Kesselman made her debut with both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Dutch National Opera in a leading role of a new opera by composer Louis Andriessen entitled Theatre of the World. A live audio recording was released on Nonesuch Records in September 2017.
In 2012-2015 she sang with the Philip Glass Ensemble on an international tour of Philip Glass' opera Einstein on the Beach. Kesselman is also the resident soprano with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. Other recent and upcoming performances include her debut at Carnegie Hall singing Corigliano's Mr. Tambourine Man, premieres of new works for soprano and wind symphony by D.J. Sparr and Robert Beaser, and on Bright Angel and Atonement, recordings of American contemporary music released on the Fleur de Son Classics.
Kesselman holds degrees in voice performance from Rice University and Michigan State University. More information can be found at: www.lindsaykesselman.com
Fun Fact: Kesselman is also the wife of CSO's Assistant Conductor Christopher James Lees. Read more
On March 23 & 24, your Charlotte Symphony will performBernstein at 100: West Side Story and More.
Join us in celebrating the centennial of Bernstein's birth and expand your knowledge of this great American composer!
Learn about Lenny: 10 Interesting Facts about Leonard Bernstein
1. Leonard Bernstein was originally born Louis Bernstein at the pressing wishes of his grandmother, but his parents and friends preferred to call him Leonard ("Lenny" for short). When Bernstein was 16, his grandmother passed away, which allowed him to have his name legally changed to Leonard.
2. He was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts to Russian/Jewish immigrants, and began playing piano at young age of five.
3. Bernstein's rise to fame was rapid. He was unexpectedly named Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic with less than 24 hours' notice, when he was called upon to stand in for flu-stricken Bruno Walter. The program included works by Schumann, Miklós Rózsa, Wagner and Richard Strauss's Don Quixote with soloist Joseph Schuster, solo cellist of the orchestra. After a brilliant performance, he made the front page of The New York Times the following morning.
4. In a concert of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1, where he famously argued with the pianist Glenn Gould in rehearsal (Gould wanted a slower tempo), Bernstein made an announcement to the audience before they began: "Don't be frightened. Mr. Gould is here....in a concerto, who is the boss....the soloist or the conductor? The answer is, of course, sometimes one and sometimes the other, depending on the people involved." Ever the entertainer, who waited for the applause between each line of his address, Bernstein was later criticized for either attacking Gould or simply abdicating responsibility for the performance that was to ensue.
5. Perhaps his best-known work is the Broadway musical, West Side Story. Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the musical explored rivalries between two 1950's New York gangs (the Jets and the Sharks). What many don't know is that the musical was originally going to be about an Irish Catholic family and a Jewish family living on the lower east side of Manhattan. This idea was discarded, however, and replaced with the story we know and love today.
6. Bernstein was one of the first classical musicians to "master" TV. The Young People's Concerts existed in the US since 1924, but Leonard Bernstein brought them to a whole new audience in 1958 with the first televised concert of its type. Then, in 1962, TheYoung People's Concerts became a TV series, of which Bernstein conducted 53!
7. Bernstein was a close friend of Aaron Copland and recorded all of his orchestral works. He also played the Copland Piano Variations so regularly that they became his trademark piece.
8. He has been famously quoted saying, "I'm not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself. I want it to sound like the composer."
9. Though considered a conductor and great pianist, Bernstein oddly never performed a solo piano recital. He did, though, conduct and play in performances of Mozart piano concertos (and memorably in the Ravel Concerto in G).
10. Leonard Bernstein died only five days after retiring. His death was a result of emphysema.
Justice Crawford is making a musical name for himself.
His mother, a psychologist and one-time flutist, has played in orchestras and knew she wanted her children to be exposed to music. "I've always had an appreciation for what music can do for the mind and for a person's spirit in general," says Endora Crawford. "It's always been my plan for my kids to dabble in music."
But Justice is doing more than just dabbling. This talented 8th grader is one of the first two students from the Charlotte Symphony's Winterfield Youth Orchestra program (now part of Project Harmony), covered in The Charlotte Observer in 2014 for his successful audition and admission into Northwest School of the Arts.
Maybe music helped ground Justice. His father served as a U.S. Naval Officer for 23 years, so he was born in Japan and spent many of his younger years in Hawaii. When his parents divorced, his mother moved the boys from Hawaii to Charlotte, landing in the Winterfield neighborhood. The family then moved to south Charlotte, where he is now an 8th grader at Alexander Graham Middle School.
Justice recently took his musical next step: auditioning for the Charlotte Symphony Junior Youth Orchestra.
Of the new group, in which Justice plays viola, Ms. Crawford says, "It's good to push him." Following his little bit of fame, she adds, she noticed an increased seriousness from her son--that people were noticing him, so they would be counting on him. "For the seating auditions, we could tell he was physically nervous," she says. "But that just meant that he knows it was important, and I love that. It shows that he was really taking it to heart."
Joining JYO also has given Justice a heightened level of discipline, Ms. Crawford says. "He's learning the expectation that you're going to play your best ... and practice harder, because others are now relying on you." Like any sport, an orchestra makes you part of a team. And Justice is playing his part.
So what's next for this budding violist? Ms. Crawford says she and her son have talked about career choices and this lover of math says his top choices are to become an Intellectual Property attorney or go into cyber security. As for music, Ms. Crawford says, "The plan is to play music as long as he'd like to continue to play."
Did you know that the music of Vivaldi's Four Seasons is based on four poems written by Antonio Vivaldi? In the music, each "Season" consists of a three-movement concerto. Two quick-tempo outer movements frame a central slow-tempo movement. The sonnets included in the score provide a specific description of each movement. A prose translation of the original Italian is provided below.
La Primavera (Spring)
Opus 8, No. 1, in E Major
Festive Spring has arrived,
The birds salute it with their happy song.
And the brooks, caressed by little Zephyrs,
Flow with a sweet murmur.
The sky is covered with a black mantle,
And thunder, and lightning, announce a storm.
When they are silent, the birds
Return to sing their lovely song.
II. Largo e pianissimo sempre--
And in the meadow, rich with flowers,
To the sweet murmur of leaves and plants,
The goatherd sleeps, with his faithful dog at his side.
III. Danza pastorale. Allegro--
To the festive sound of pastoral bagpipes,
Dance nymphs and shepherds,
At Spring's brilliant appearance.
Opus 8, No. 2, in G minor
I. Allegro non molto--
Under the heat of the burning summer sun,
Languish man and flock; the pine is parched.
The cuckoo finds its voice, and suddenly,
The turtledove and goldfinch sing.
A gentle breeze blows,
But suddenly, the north wind appears.
The shepherd weeps because, overhead,
Lies the fierce storm, and his destiny.
II. Adagio; Presto--
His tired limbs are deprived of rest
By his fear of lightning and fierce thunder,
And by furious swarms of flies and hornets.
Alas, how just are his fears,
Thunder and lightening fill the Heavens, and the hail
Slices the tops of the corn and other grain.
Opus 8, No. 3, in F Major
The peasants celebrate with dance and song,
The joy of a rich harvest.
And, full of Bacchus's liquor,
They finish their celebration with sleep.
II. Adagio molto--
Each peasant ceases his dance and song.
The mild air gives pleasure,
And the season invites many
To enjoy a sweet slumber.
The hunters, at the break of dawn, go to the hunt.
With horns, guns, and dogs they are off,
The beast flees, and they follow its trail.
Already fearful and exhausted by the great noise,
Of guns and dogs, and wounded,
The exhausted beast tries to flee, but dies.
Opus 8, No. 4, in F minor
I. Allegro non molto--
Frozen and trembling in the icy snow,
In the severe blast of the horrible wind,
As we run, we constantly stamp our feet,
And our teeth chatter in the cold.
To spend happy and quiet days near the fire,
While, outside, the rain soaks hundreds.
We walk on the ice with slow steps,
And tread carefully, for fear of falling.
Symphony, If we go quickly, we slip and fall to the ground.
Again we run on the ice,
Until it cracks and opens.
We hear, from closed doors,
Sirocco, Boreas, and all the winds in battle.
This is winter, but it brings joy.
In line with the historical context of the work, your CSO musicians will be snuffing out their candles and leaving the stage at the close of Haydn's Symphony No. 45, "Farewell". So what's the story behind this tradition?
It all started with the premier in 1772. Haydn was employed as royal conductor to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy and had taken temporary residence at the Prince's castle in Hungary. After what seemed to be an extremely long season, Haydn and his musicians were long overdue to return home to their families.
To their dismay, the Prince requested they stay longer to perform a new symphony. Haydn, of course sympathetic to his musicians' plight, devised a plan to change the Prince's mind. He wrote what became known as the "Farewell" symphony to include a special ending.
During the last movement at the premier, just as the music's dynamic momentum began to bring the movement to a close, there was an unexpected pause and an Adagio began. As this new, slower section of the movement proceeded, musician after musician finished his part, snuffed his candle, and left the stage. By the time the piece was over, all but two violins remained on stage. Did the protest work? According to the historical telling of this story, the Prince bid his musicians a farewell the following day, and allowed them to return home to their families.
Hailed as "a fearsomely powerful musician" by The Toronto Star, Canadian-born violinist Aisslinn Nosky is one of the most versatile and dynamic violinists today. She is in demand internationally as a soloist and director and was appointed Concertmaster of the Handel and Haydn Society in 2011. She has performed in solo and chamber music recitals across North America, Europe and Asia. Recent appearances as soloist include La Jolla SummerFest, the Staunton Music Festival, the Thunder Bay Symphony, Holland Baroque, the Calgary Philharmonic, and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. In 2016 Aisslinn was named Principal Guest Conductor of the Niagara Symphony.
As a founding member of the Eybler quartet, Nosky explores repertoire from early quartet literature on period instruments. The Eybler Quartet's recording of Haydn's Opus 33 string quartets was released in 2012 on the Analekta label. The Globe and Mail mused "Many a great string quartet annihilates Haydn with incorrect tempos, intense legato, and a general misunderstanding of classical syntax. Here we have them as the composer might have heard them himself. In fact, maybe even better."
As Co-Artistic Director of I FURIOSI Baroque Ensemble, Aisslinn has helped bring an enthusiastic new audience to baroque music. Since 2001, I FURIOSI has presented its own flamboyant and inventive concert series in Toronto, and they have toured North America and Europe.
Aisslinn began playing violin at age three and received her early training at the Nanaimo Conservatory with Heilwig von Konigslow. At age eight, Aisslinn made her solo debut with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra. When she was 15, Nosky began studying in Toronto with Lorand Fenyves, at the Royal Conservatory of Music's Glenn Gould School. Further studies included both solo and chamber music for several summers at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and chamber music at the Steans Music Institute of the Ravinia Festival as a member of the Metro String Quartet.
Your CSO is excited to welcome Aisslinn as violinist and conductor for Vivaldi Four Seasons.
Whether, like us, it's a 20-year holiday tradition for you, or you're attending for the first time with your family, Magic of Christmas is sure to be full of memorable fun! Make it even better with these need-to-know tips to help enhance your experience.
Know the players.
Get to know the 59 full-time professional orchestra musicians you'll hear performing on stage during Magic of Christmas. For one, the man who makes the horse-clopping noises and cracks during "Sleigh Ride?" That's Principal Percussionist Brice Burton, one of six new musicians this season. Read more about our newcomers on our blog.
For these performances (excluding the Saturday morning Lollipops Magic of Christmas performance), Mark's wife Maggie and their family band join us for bluegrass-inspired renditions of favorites like "Linus and Lucy," the tune everyone knows from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Watch a backstage video of the band performing the song here.
Hear Mark and Maggie in studio with WDAV's Frank Dominguez here.
Andrea will strike the harp. YOU join the chorus!
Of course our 100-person Charlotte Symphony Chorus and the Charlotte Children's Choir of Community School of the Arts will make the event merry with selections like "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Mary's Boy Child." But we know in your heart of hearts that you want to join in the fun! The chorus will lead us in singalongs from "Deck the Halls" to "Jingle Bells."
Come early to snap family photos with Santa!
The Jolly man himself will join us on and off stage. Look for the man in red 30 minutes before the concert and during intermission in the Grand Tier lobby. Charlotte Symphony and holiday-themed backdrops will make for great holiday card shots!
And by that, we mean wear the ugliest sweater you can find. Three lucky winners at each performance will be selected to win our ugly sweater social media contest. Find a frame on each lobby level and snap a shot with your awful sweater and tag @cltsymphony using the hashtag #CSOmagic.
Prepare to be surprised!
All audience members will have the chance to enter to win a surprise at every performance.
If you have very young children, join us for our special Saturday morning Lollipops shortened version of Magic of Christmas. This performance is just an hour long and still includes the full orchestra, choruses, and Santa!
Before you see them perform at Magic of Christmas, get to know a little bit about O'Connor Band!
The O'Connor Band's very first performance took place at the legendary Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas in 2015. In 2017 less than a year and a half later they took home the GRAMMY Award for Best Bluegrass Album for their debut recording, Coming Home.
In a whirlwind 18 months, the band has also performed at the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, received standing ovations at the Grand Ole Opry, reached the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Top Bluegrass Albums chart, and partnered with powerhouse booking agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME).
The O'Connor Band is the product of Mark O'Connor's imagination one that has served him well over the course of his four-decade professional career. A former child prodigy and national champion on the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, Mark has won numerous GRAMMYs and CMA Awards, appeared on hundreds of commercial country albums, collaborated with the likes of Johnny Cash, Wynton Marsalis, Dolly Parton, and Yo-Yo Ma, and performed everything from original violin concertos to swing and jazz. But until recently, he had not worked on a project quite like this.
At Music City Roots in Franklin, TN.
"It's been one of the most surprising and rewarding experiences to perform with my family members on stage," says Mark. "It's really exciting to bend these American genres in new ways, combining accessibility with a real depth of musicianship and writing."
In addition to Mark, the band features his son Forrest, (Harvard graduate and former Tennessee State Mandolin Champion), daughter-in-law Kate (frequent performer on the CMA Awards and CMA Country Christmas shows), and wife Maggie (graduate of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University). The band is rounded out by Joe Smart (national flatpick champion on guitar) and Geoff Saunders (bassist/banjoist extraordinaire and recent graduate of the University of Miami's DMA program). All six band members possess charisma that, when combined onstage, ensnares audiences from start to finish.
Don't miss the amazing talent and charisma of Mark O'Connor and O'Connor Band, live during the Magic of Christmas! Get your tickets today!
All information comes from O'Connor Band's website. To learn more, visit www.oconnorband.com.