Sound of Charlotte Blog

Mahler Symphony No. 2: 5 Questions With...Kenney Potter

May 3, 2017

Director of Choruses Kenney Potter is busy preparing the 140 singers of the Charlotte Symphony Chorus for performances of Mahler Symphony No. 2 on May 12 and 13. We sat down with Dr. Potter to ask a few questions about the process of preparing for such a massive work.
 
CS: What moment should audiences listen for in the Charlotte Symphony's performance of Mahler Symphony No. 2?
 
KP: Wow - there are so many! I think the chorus opening would be my favorite. It is hair-raisingly quiet.

CS: What are the challenges in preparing a 140 person chorus for the Resurrection Symphony?
 
KP: Speaking of....getting them to sing so quietly at the entrance. Also, it is such a massive work, balancing the chorus and orchestra is always an exciting challenge.

CS: What percentage of the Chorus would you say has participated in it before?
 
KP: Very few 13 people out of the 140-member chorus, and I've only performed it twice.

CS: How do you connect the singers with the emotions of Mahler's work?
 
KP: It isn't that difficult to do. You play a recording one time and they are hooked - then they sing it with piano and it gets really exciting. Only when they perform it with the full ensemble do you understand why this piece is so beloved.

CS: What kind of response are you getting from the members of the Chorus about this piece? What makes Mahler 2 different for them?
 
KP: They seem to be enjoying it, other than the fact that some of them are terrified to sing from memory! The challenge is that it is so physically and musically exhausting, particularly to be such a brief portion of the overall work (roughly 15 minutes).
 

Mahler Symphony No. 2
Friday, May 12 & Saturday, May 13
8 pm, Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.
 
Tickets are available online or by phone at 704-972-2000.


Read more

8 Questions with...Oboist Gordon Hunt

March 20, 2017

Gordon HuntOboist Gordon Hunt joins us Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25 for the riveting Strauss Oboe Concerto. We asked Mr. Hunt a few questions about his friendship with Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, his relationship to the Strauss piece, and his instrument.

CS: Could you share a bit about your friendship with Christopher Warren-Green, both on and off stage?
GH: Chris and I have been friends for a very long time, going back to when he joined the Philharmonia Orchestra as concertmaster. We hit it off straight away, both musically, within the orchestra, and also out of work time, when we spent a great deal of time together.

CS: What is it like to perform with someone you know so well? Does it change the performance at all?
GH: It feels good to work with a close friend - and especially as I am a conductor too, I really appreciate having someone I trust beside me. However, I don't think it fundamentally changes the performance, as in a way the music itself is even greater than the friendship. We are both there to serve the composer and his intentions.

CS: What can listeners expect from the Strauss Oboe Concerto?
GH: The typical mastery of orchestration and understanding of instrumental balance one expects from Richard Strauss, but in this very late work, also a more classical approach than one would expect in his great tone poems.

CS:  What should they listen for specifically, if anything?
GH: The effortless way in which Strauss uses and develops the first simple four note motif, played by the cellos. In effect, he bases the whole concerto on this. Also listen for the very extended lines he weaves for the solo oboe, and the interplay between the soloist and the wind players.

CS: Do you recall the first time you performed this work? How did you feel?
GH: Yes, even though I have performed this piece well over 80 times now, I do remember the first time. I was 21 years old, in Oxford, England. I was excited to be facing this challenge (perhaps the greatest for my instrument), hoped there would be many more chances, and I felt immensely privileged to be playing such wonderful music.

CS:  What do you do just before you go on stage? Do you think any thoughts or have any rituals?
GH: I try to have a few minutes to myself, just being quiet, but I have no rituals!

CS: How would you describe this work?
GH: It is in a way nostalgic, looking to the past, and musically simpler than so much of what Strauss had written before (I have already mentioned the quite "classical" approach). In some way, Strauss is nodding towards his lifelong hero Mozart, but with the unmistakable fingerprint he himself leaves on all his works.

CS: Can you share a few fun facts about your instrument?
GH: As oboists, our lives can seem to revolve around reeds, and sometimes it seems impossible to have one that you really like. Ultimately, it is down to the player to make the instrument sing and to communicate, so I always say that 50% of success in playing the oboe is learning to make good reeds, and the other 50% is leaning to play on bad ones!

Dvorak Symphony No. 7
Friday, March 24 & Saturday, March 25
8 p.m., Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are available online or by phone at 704-972-2000. Read more

Posted in Classics.

5 Questions With … Steve Hackman, conductor and creator of Brahms v. Radiohead

January 23, 2017

Conductor and Brahms v. Radiohead creator Steve HackmanComposer, conductor, and producer Steve Hackman joins us Friday, January 27 for an exciting, one-night-only performance of his popular mash-up, Brahms v. Radiohead. Here, we chat with Mr. Hackman about how he created this interesting concept, why he chose Brahms, and what we can expect from this performance. 

CS: How and why did you think of this cool mash-up concept?
SH: I have always been passionate about both classical and popular music, equally. It doesn't matter to me if it is a Mahler symphony or a Kendrick Lamar song; if it's great, it's great. Mashing up Brahms and Radiohead is a way of illustrating this point, and even more, to show that this music is not as dissimilar as many people may think. Categorizing things and judging them based on those categories or labels is dangerous and destructive and a performance like this works against that.
 
CS: Tell us about these soloists. How did you select them?
SH: The soloists really make every performance of this show a total joy, and I know the audience is going to love them. Bill Prokopow is an old friend of mine, and one of the most talented and versatile musicians I know. He and I sung in the same a cappella group at the University of Illinois, where I went to undergrad, called The Other Guys. We have been collaborating ever since. Andrew Lipke was coming into prominence as a singer/songwriter in Philadelphia when I was in grad school there at the Curtis Institute of Music. I wanted to be like him, such an incredible songwriter and performer! We got to know each other and I learned he was a true student and lover of classical music, and again, a musician of extreme versatility. And Kérén heard about the show because of an ad I posted on Stagebill and boy did we luck out with her! She is a brilliant artist and writer.
 
CS: Why Brahms specifically? Why not, say, Mozart or Beethoven?
SH: Brahms took 20 years to write this First Symphony. You can feel all that tension and earnestness and toil and struggle in the piece (and he creates unbelievable release in the fourth movement). That balance towards tension is something this music shares with Radiohead. They also share a density and weight--each music is extremely substantial--and they can stand alongside each other. But there are specific musical reasons, too: The harmonic language is much more similar than you would think; the time signature of the first movement (6/8) allows for a mash-up with a very important song from OK Computer ("Subterranean Homesick Alien") and the overall key of C Minor was perfect for the seminal Radiohead song "Paranoid Android."
 
CS: What can concertgoers expect? Walk us through the evening.
SH: The most important thing regarding expectation is that the music of Radiohead will be presented through the lens of Brahms. I use only Brahms's orchestration. There are no electric guitars or ondes Martenot or any of the Radiohead synthesizers and keyboards. I have treated Radiohead's music with the same kind of scoring, voice leading and counterpoint that Brahms uses in his music. In that way, it is sometimes hard to distinguish if a theme came from Radiohead or Brahms! There are times when the singers are floating Radiohead melodies over the pure music of Brahms; there are many times when Brahms's melodies are superimposed over the songs of Radiohead.
 
CS: This is a really cool way to engage new symphony audiences. Do you find the attendance to skew younger/more diverse?
SH: Absolutely. Radiohead fans are the best. They are passionate about music, and they tend to be very creative, open-minded and adventurous folks. Beyond that, I think this concert is perfect for people that love music but have yet to really be introduced to classical music for whatever reason. It is such a pleasure and honor to share symphonic repertoire and the experience of seeing a symphony orchestra.

Brahms v. Radiohead
Friday, January 27, 2017
7:30 p.m., Knight Theater

For a performance preview and to purchase tickets to Brahms v. Radiohead, click here. Read more

Music Opens Doors

January 18, 2017

Brianna Davis loves playing the flute. This budding young musician, and graduate of our Winterfield Youth Orchestra after-school program, is now a thriving sixth grader, playing in the band at Northwest School of the Arts.

"I have more freedom and I can choose my electives," Brianna says about her new school. "And I get to play harder songs."

And she isn't alone. Brianna is one of seven students from our Winterfield program who have graduated from the eastside school, and been accepted by audition into Northwest, the Charlotte area's only middle and high school arts magnet.

One of our core education programs, Winterfield has engaged second through fifth grade students in free weekly music instruction for six years. Students learn to play strings, woodwinds, brass, or percussion from our own musicians and other local artists.

Three times a year, Winterfield students, teachers, parents, orchestra musicians, and the surrounding community members gather to enjoy the student performances. A community meal follows each concert. We are proud that our Winterfield Youth Orchestra helps build this community through the shared love of music-making.

Music Director Christopher Warren-Green was able to meet and congratulate young Brianna during a recent visit to Winterfield Elementary, where he was conducting the full orchestra in a free community festival.

When asked about her favorite part about band, Brianna says, "Well, there is this girl, and she has a hard time, but she is better now because I help her."

Future Charlotte Symphony flutist? You never know. Read more

In the Community: Bucket Band

July 18, 2016

The CSO recently partnered with the Arts & Science Council for Culture Blocks, a community partnership designed to bring the arts into diverse communities in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.

Every Tuesday evening until August 23, the Charlotte Symphony will offer FREE Bucket Band, a fun and interactive hands-on percussion class at Ivory/Baker Recreation Center.

For complete information, including how to register your child, click here and scroll down to see "ASC-Bucket Band."

Check out the class in action below!


5 Questions With...Albert-George Schram

June 2, 2016

This Sunday, we kick off our 2016 Summer Pops series. As preparations mount, we sat down with Conductor Albert-George Schram (he goes by George!) to ask him a few questions about his Summer Pops experience, from start to finish.

Q: So, tell us about how you program a Summer Pops concert?

A: It begins with a simple question: How can we continue to have fun? It's an organic process that starts with finding the right theme, and then plugging music into that. Sometimes I find music that I want to play and then cultivate a theme from that, but mostly it's the other way around. It starts with an idea or concept, and then it evolves, and we find the right balance of variety for our audience.

This year, there was a suggestion to play music about a lot of different places, countries, or cities. All I had to do from there was find a few more pieces of wonderful music that had been written with places in mind - from Baghdad to Chicago, New York to Paris. That idea became Oh, the Places You'll Go, which we'll present on June 26.

Q: Do you have a favorite concert on the 2016 line up?

A: If I'm not excited about it, I don't do it. I love all of the shows we've programmed, and they'll all be special.
I'm excited about Symphony Swings because of all the big band and swing music we'll get to perform. Symphony orchestras aren't big bands, so it's exciting to find a moment to rock the house down, and it's a lot of fun for our musicians especially the brass section.

And I'm always particularly proud of and excited about the Father's Day celebration. We have a gloriously testosterone-ridden evening this year with music from some of our favorite movies. We'll celebrate all the manliness that we can muster with lots of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones.

Q: Tell us about your Summer Pops rituals. What do you do to prepare for and/or unwind from the concert?

A: Right before the concert, I tend to keep a low profile. I mostly prefer being alone so I can get in the right mindset. I never eat before a gig because I get too focused and it gets in the way of my concentration.

When we've wrapped up the performance, I'm always wet with sweat from the heat and the movement during the performance, so I definitely need to shower. Then, I change clothes and by that point, I need to eat and I do so with great joy and gusto! Typically, several members of the Symphony staff join me and we get a chance to unwind from the day and enjoy each other's company.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Summer Pops?

I like how deeply we reach into the community. It's a different event all together, and there are people who come out to Summer Pops who don't come to any other concert throughout the year. To be able to connect with those people is a particular treat.

It's a wonderful, family-friendly tradition for the city and I so relish the opportunity to strut the stuff of the Symphony for the faithful audience who is there every year, and the newbies who are joining us for maybe the very first time. It's a mighty fine gang and I'm pleased to be a part of it.

Q: How does the Summer Pops atmosphere differ from a regular Pops show?

A: It's a bit more relaxed and laid back; we can simply allow ourselves to have a bit more fun. It's typically a bit more raucous, too even more so than a Pops show!

It's also accessible to a wide audience, and it's important to me that we have that. The kids don't have to be absolutely quiet and stay in one seat. People can enjoy time with their friends and family, and bring something to eat and drink and I like all of those things. We just want to play good music that people enjoy. What more could we as an orchestra want?

Posted in Summer.

What goes into a WDAV live broadcast?

May 13, 2016

We partner with WDAV, classical public radio, located in Davidson, N.C., for a live broadcast of this weekend's Classics finale performance, Carmina Burana.
 
So, what goes into setting up a live broadcast from the Belk Theater? Turns out, it's a lot. In fact, it takes the Charlotte Symphony's recorded media producer and engineer Bob Rydel (also a member of the horn section!), plus a crew of 4 to 5 people around 7 hours to set up the stage and control room. This includes 18 microphones and about 6,000 feet of cable. 

It takes another 3 to 4 microphones, over 1,000 feet of cable, and 12 hours to set up the announcer booth backstage and ready the equipment that transfers audio back to the station.

  
In all, there are 8 on-site members of WDAV staff directly involved in the broadcasts, including 2 broadcast engineers, 1 technical director, 1 or 2 hosts, 1 broadcast producer, 1 broadcast director, and 1 additional studio producer at the station.
 
What's also cool is that on days of live broadcast, the concert audio is sent back to the station as a digital, stereo signal via the Internet, using multiple IP addresses for back up in the event of disruptions.
 
WDAV's broadcast signal covers a 22-county area, extending from the North Carolina/Virginia line in the north to Lancaster and Chesterfield counties in South Carolina. The station can be heard across the country and around the world via Internet stream and the WDAV Classical Public Radio app for smartphones and tablets.
 
Can't make it in person? Tune in to WDAV 89.9 on air or online (www.wdav.org) this Friday, May 13, at 8 p.m. for a live broadcast of the Classics series finale Carmina Burana.
Read more

Thank you for 40+ years!

May 11, 2016

As we conclude our 2015-2016 Classics series, we recognize number of our musicians who have dedicated 40-plus years to the organization and the community. Thank you for your service!
 
Peyton Becton, Principal Percussionist (42 years of service)
Pete Duca, Section Double Bassist (41 years of service)
Gene Kavadlo, Principal Clarinetist (41 years of service)
Mike Mosley, Co-Principal Double Bassist (45 years of service)
Libby Pistolesi, First Violinist (41 years of service)
 

 
For more information about our musicians, visit our Musician Bios page.
Read more

Winterfield Elementary wraps up school year

May 10, 2016

The Winterfield Youth Orchestra concluded its sixth season with a concert on Tuesday, May 3rd in the school's gymnasium. Parents and friends enjoyed performances from several Winterfield student ensembles as well as selections from special guest and Charlotte Symphony Principal Bass Trombonist Scott Hartman.

This season, we saw a record number of students participating in our Winterfield program with enrollment nearing 80. 

We are excited and proud to announce that five Winterfield musicians were accepted into the band and orchestra programs at Northwest School of the Arts for the 2016-2017 school year.

Kudos to these fine young budding musicians!

For pictures from Winterfield's final 2015-2016 concert, visit our Event Photo Gallery
Read more

Posted in Education & Community.

Double your impact today!

April 19, 2016

The Charlotte Symphony has soared to new heights in the last few years.  It's because of our donors that the orchestra has reached a new level of artistic excellence and has operated within a balanced budget for the last two years.

And there's never been a better time to be a Symphony donor in light of this exciting news:  Four generous friends of the Symphony have come forward with a $100,000 challenge. For every dollar contributed between now and May 16, they will match gifts received dollar-for-dollar!  

The Charlotte Symphony board, musicians and staff would like to thank our current and future donors for their commitment to the Charlotte Symphony. 

Click here for more information on the challenge and to keep up to date with our progress! Read more

Posted in Support.

Older Posts »