Sound of Charlotte Blog

Making the Most of Magic of Christmas



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.

Brice Burton, principal percussionKnow 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.

Get to know Mark O'Connor.
Did you know that the Charlotte Symphony has an Artist-In-Residence? That's right, through the 2018-19 season, Grammy Award-winning fiddler, composer, and educator Mark O'Connor joins us for several mainstage performances, plus he contributes to our educational efforts out at Northwest School of the Arts and through Project Harmony.

Grammy-winning O'Connor Band joins us for Magic of ChristmasFor 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.

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!

Dress appropriately.
And by that, we mean wear the ugliest sweater you can find. One lucky winner 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!
One--or maybe several--theater guests will 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!

Performances:
Thursday, November 30, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, December 1, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 2, 11 a.m.
Saturday, December 2, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, December 3, 4 p.m. Read more

Spotlight On: O'Connor Band

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.
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.
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Spotlight On: Violinist Benjamin Beilman



Born in 1989, American violinist Benjamin Beilman is winning plaudits across the globe for his compelling and impassioned performances, his deep rich tone and searing lyricism and is quickly establishing himself as one of the most significant artists of his generation. The New York Times has praised his "handsome technique, burnished sound, and quiet confidence [which] showed why he has come so far so fast". Reviewing his latest recording, The Strad said "Beilman imbues every idea with a scorching expressive imperativeness... soaring aloft with ear-ringingly pure intonation... then lacerating our sensitivities with hectoring explosions of sound."

In Europe Beilman has performed with many of the major orchestras including the London Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Zurich Tonhalle and in 16/17 made his debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony orchestras and the Orchestre National de Capitole de Toulouse. In the US recent highlights have included a return San Francisco Symphony, and debuts with Dallas Symphony, Atlanta Symphony and Nashville Symphony orchestras.
Beilman performs regularly in recital and chamber music, appearing at halls such as Wigmore Hall, Stockholm Concert Hall, Louvre (Paris), Rudolfinum (Prague), Philharmonie (Berlin) and at festivals including Verbier, Aix-en-Provence Easter, Colmar, Moritzburg, Heidelberg and in 2017 he made his debut at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in the Robeco Summer Concerts in trio with Louis Schwizgebel and Narek Hakhnazaryan. In the US Beilman performs regularly at Carnegie Hall and is a frequent guest artist at festivals such as Music@Menlo, Marlboro, Seattle Chamber Music; further afield he made a ten-city recital tour of Australia in 2016 with Andrew Tyson and looks forward to recitals in SE Asia in the coming seasons.

Beilman has received several prestigious awards including a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a London Music Masters Award. In 2010 he won the First Prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, and as First Prize Winner of the 2010 Montréal International Musical Competition and winner of the People's Choice Award, Beilman recorded Prokofiev's complete sonatas for violin on the Analekta label in 2011. In 2016 he released his first disc for Warner Classics titled Spectrum, featuring works by Stravinsky, Janacek and Schubert.
Beilman studied with Almita and Roland Vamos at the Music Institute of Chicago, Ida Kavafian and Pamela Frank at the Curtis Institute of Music, and Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronberg Academy. He plays the "Engleman" Stradivarius from 1709 generously on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.
 
To learn more about Beilman, visit http://www.benjaminbeilman.com/biography/




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Posted in Classics.

Spotlight On: Composer and Pannist Andy Akiho

On November 10th, steel pannist and composer Andy Akiho joins us for a night of energetic, captivating music.
 
A steelpan, sometimes referred to as a steeldrum, is a concave, metal bowl-like instrument native to Trinidad and Tobago. Its sound is most often associated with warm, islandic regions like the Caribbean and eastern parts of South America. The instrument is unique in that its sound can be both melodic and percussive--one minute the notes are liquid, silvery, and flowing; the next, they are tinny, rasping beats.
 
Andy Akiho, who is of Trinidadian decent but grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, says it was the steelpan that led him to become a composer. Currently working on a PhD in composition at Princeton University, Akiho has found a way to unite the sunny sounds of the steelpan with contemporary classical repertory. Beneath Lighted Coffers, the piece he will perform with us on November 10, represents this union. 
 
The five-movement work was inspired by the sophisticated architecture of the Roman Pantheon. From the portico, to the oculus, and even the marbled patterns of the floors, each movement provides a representation of different parts of the ancient temple.
 
The elaborate metaphor that is Beneath Lighted Coffers pushes the limits of intellectual design. In this work, Akiho presents a rare and interesting notion: he incorporates the architecture of a building into the very architecture of a composition. Numbers derived from the structural engineering of the Pantheon are echoed in the time signatures and percussion of the piece. Perhaps this is just one reason why Akiho is so well known for breaking the mold of contemporary classical music.
 
We hope you'll join us for this unique and rare opportunity to witness Steelpan Orchestra, November 10, 7:30 p.m. at Knight Theater. Tickets start at just $19.






Learn more about Andy Akiho at www.andyakiho.com.
 
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Welcome New Musician: Hunter Gordon

Hunter Gordon
Originally from Port Angeles, Washington, Hunter Gordon is currently the Charlotte Symphony's Acting Section Bassoon. He holds a master's from Rice University's Shepherd School of Music and both a bachelor's of music and psychology from Oberlin College and Conservatory. Previously Second Bassoon/Assistant Principal of the Symphony of Southeast Texas, Gordon has also appeared with the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, Louisiana Philharmonic, and as guest principal of the Jacksonville Symphony. Summer festivals have included the Verbier Festival, Spoleto Festival USA, National Repertory Orchestra, Texas Music Festival, and Round Top Festival Institute.

Hometown: Port Angeles, Washington
 
Why did you select your instrument?
When I was in 6th grade, my band director lured me into playing bassoon by promoting the fact that no one played it in the entire school, meaning I wouldn't have to pay a rental fee. Even 11-year-old me knew that was a bargain I couldn't pass up. Turns out, it I loved it!
 
Does your instrument have a special story?
My instrument is a Heckel, built in 1954.
 
What would most surprise people about you?
I grew up with pet chickens. My sister and I named each of them and tried to train them, but that was a failure.
 
What's your funniest on-stage moment?
During a concert at a summer festival, I inhaled a bug during a quiet moment and coughed violently for a couple of minutes, causing me to miss several entrances and, in turn, much distress for the conductor.
 
Any pre-performance rituals?
I drink plenty of water.
 
Other than your instrument, what would we find in your instrument case?
Various reed-making tools; you never know when you'll need them!
 


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Meet the Performers of Cirque de la Symphonie

Before you are bedazzled by the awe-inspiring performance of Cirque Goes to the Cinema, get to know the incredible Juilliard-trained musician and former Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Brothers performers that comprise Cirque de la Symphonie!


Janice Martin is a solo violinist who brings multiple talents. A Juilliard School of Music standout, she has won competitions such as the Washington International Competition and the Lena Na International Competition and was recipient of the Amadeus Career Grant Award and the Career Award Grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. In addition to being a concert violinist, opera singer and classical pianist, Janice has become an accomplished aerialist as well. 







Vitalii Buza began his gymnastic training in the Republic of Moldova and soon competed as an elite gymnast with the Russian national team. After a move to the US, he starred in productions at Sea World, Universal Studios, and Walt Disney World. He has been featured in numerous TV ads and won a role in the Walt Disney movie Enchanted. He excels in duo hand-balancing, straps, Cyr wheel, spinning cube, Chinese pole, and Russian bar.



Alexandra "Sasha" Pivaral has performed and headlined in countless productions around the world, including famous "Cirque Du Soleil". She has won prestigious awards for competing in top International Circus such as "Monte Carlo International Circus Festival" in Monaco and considered to be one of the most talented acrobats in her field of contortion, balancing and hula hoops. It is her stage presence, originality of elements and choreography that set her far above anyone else.



Vladimir Tsarkov provides a spell-binding performance with combinations of mime and juggling feats. A favorite of the younger members of the audiences, Vladimir's Red Harlequin act features rings, balls, and batons, and he's even been known to teach the maestro a trick or two! He is a veteran of Circus Circus, Cirque Ingenieux, and various Cirque de la Symphonie performances. 




Elena Tsarkova the "Lady in White," is a graduate of the famed Moscow Circus School and first-place winner of the prestigious National Russian Circus Festival. From her Master of Sports in gymnastics, Elena developed into a unique and graceful performer with the Big Apple Circus, Switzerland's Circus Knie, and Germany's Circus Roncalli. Her combination of contortion, balance, and graceful dance moves has made her a major star.



Pavel Prikhodko is a native of Voronezh, Russia, and is a 3-time national champion of Russia, 2-time World Champion, and 2-time Champion of the World Cup in acrobatic sport. A former veteran with Cirque du Soleil's "Varekai," Pavel is a multi-talented performer on straps, Russian swing, trampoline, and acrobatics. 




Ekaterina Borzikova is a graduate of the School of Olympic Reserve in St. Petersburg, Russia. A dynamic professional circus performer, Ekaterina has been involved with all aspects of the art form as a performer and creator of unique acts. She is a 10-year veteran of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, and is an accomplished performer on the aerial platform. She was the recipient of the Jean-Louis Marsan Award as an outstanding performer. 


Vitaliy Korshunov is a native of Ukraine, where he graduated from Kiev State Circus College. He began his career with the National Circus of Ukraine, winning first place at the New Ukrainian Circus Festival. His acrobatic experience includes worldwide tours with Nikulin's Moscow Circus.



















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Welcome New Musician: Samuel Sparrow

A North Carolina native, Samuel Sparrow joined the Charlotte Symphony as Section and E-flat Clarinet in September 2017. Mr. Sparrow has performed with the New York Philharmonic, New World Symphony, and Verbier Festival Orchestra in Switzerland. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Raleigh Symphony, Garner Sinfonia, and Triangle Youth Philharmonic. Other performance highlights include a featured appearance with Sting at the Main Assembly Hall of the United Nations and the West Coast premiere of Matthew Aucoin's chamber opera, Second Nature. The recipient of the Leon Russianoff Memorial Scholarship, Mr. Sparrow earned his bachelor's in music performance from Manhattan School of Music. His primary teachers include Mark Nuccio, Anthony McGill, and Pascual Martinez. During his summers, he has attended the Brevard Music Center's Orchestral Institute and the Music Academy of the West in California. In addition to performing, Mr. Sparrow enjoys teaching and maintains a small private studio.

Hometown: Durham, North Carolina
 
Why did you select your instrument?
My parents said the drums were too loud, and my band had too many flutes already, so the clarinet seemed like the next coolest instrument.
 
What would most surprise people about you?
I love a good adrenaline rush! I'm a big rollercoaster fan, and recently rode the world's largest free-fall swing.
 
If you could meet one composer, who would it be and what would you ask him/her? Shostakovich. How did you find the courage to keep composing after falling out of favor with the Soviet government?
 
What's your funniest/most compelling on-stage moment?
I once fell off the stage during a performance. We were playing Haydn's Farewell Symphony. Every musician's part ends at a different time, so to emphasize this, we played in the dark with stand lights and walked off the stage quietly after our part ended. As I turned off my light and starting walking off stage, there was one more stair on my riser than I realized. My instrument was okay, but my pride ... not so much.
 
Any pre-performance rituals?
A light meal and breathing exercises to relax
 
Other than your instrument, what would we find in your instrument case?
Pencils, reeds, earplugs, sheet music ...the occasional grocery list
 
What do you love most about being a professional musician?
Hearing from audience members about how the music positively impacts their life. Music-making is very personally rewarding, but reaching someone else is what really makes this job meaningful.
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7 Facts You Should Know about Pablo Sáinz Villegas

Before you step into Knight Theater to hear the romantic and fiery sounds of Rodrigo Guitar Concerto, check out these facts about our guest classical guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas, otherwise kown as "the soul of the Spanish guitar."

1. Pablo was born June 16, 1977 in La Rioja, Spain.
2. Sáinz Villegas has performed numerous world premieres, including the first guitar piece to have been written by five-time Academy Award-winning composer John Williams.
3. Pablo was given the honor of performing in the presence of the Dalai Lama as well as the Royal Family of Spain. He was also chosen to serve as Cultural Ambassador to the Vivanco Foundation and its museum, considered by UNESCO as the best museum of wine culture in the world.
4. Sáinz Villegas has an extensive history of winning prestigious awards. Perhaps his most honorable was when he became the first guitarist to ever win Spain's top classical music honor, El Ojo Crítico. Pablo also won the famed Parkening International Guitar Competition, and prior to that he was already the recipient of more than 30 international awards, including the Francisco Tárrega Award and the Andrés Segovia Award at age 15.
5. Pablo has helped serve over 15,000 children, as he is the founder of "The Music Without Borders Legacy," a program that seeks to bridge communities across cultural, social, and political borders for the benefit of youth.
6. Sáinz Villegas is well known for his emotional artistry with the guitar, whether it's been in an intimate setting or before more than 85,000 people, as he did while accompanying the admired tenor Plácido Domingo, at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid.
7. In the 2015-16 season, Pablo accompanied Plácido Domingo on a floating stage in the Amazon River which was broadcast live to millions of people around the world. 





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Posted in Classics.

Welcome New Musician: Brice Burton

Originally from San Diego, CA, Brice Burton, principal percussion, has played percussion since age 8. Before joining the Charlotte Symphony, Mr. Burton received both his bachelor's and master's degrees in Percussion Performance at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he graduated summa cum laude. Mr. Burton has been a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, Music Academy of the West, National Orchestral Institute, and Round Top Festival Institute. In 2014 he won first place in the Atlanta Modern Snare Drum Competition.

He has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, and Santa Barbara Symphony, as well as New World Symphony in Miami Beach, FL. Outside of orchestral performances, Brice was also an active freelancer. He can be seen on productions such as FOX's 'Grease Live!' and SPIKE's 'Coaching Bad' and can be heard alongside actor Jack Black on one of LACMA's 'Sundays Live' radio broadcasts.

Hometown: San Diego, CA
 
Why did you select your instrument?

When I was 7 I had just quit playing piano and saw a percussionist performing with an orchestra. They looked really active and like they were having lots of fun so I begged my mom for lessons for my birthday!

Does your instrument have a special story?

My favorite snare drum I won as a prize from a snare drum competition.

What would most surprise people about you?

I've been fishing multiple times and never caught a fish - something I mean to change out here in NC!

If you could meet one composer, who would it be and what would you ask him/her?

I would like to meet Anton Bruckner. He had an incredible work ethic, but I would like to ask: what is the deal with only one cymbal crash in his 7th Symphony? (It's debated whether he really wanted it or not.)

What's your funniest/most compelling on-stage moment?

I was at a summer program in high school and was playing timpani on Elgar's Enigma Variations when the pedal on the lowest drum got stuck and the pitch would only go up. This happened right before a part where the percussionist comes over and plays on the timpani with snare drum sticks, and because it's an interesting sound people in the audience always look (it's also lightly orchestrated there). The pedal wouldn't budge with my foot so I crouched down on the floor and started pulling on it, somewhat unaware of what was going on around me. Apparently I was making a bunch of noise and the guy playing my drum had to bend over and whisper to me "just let it go". I looked back up and the whole audience was looking at me and the conductor looked furious.

Any pre-performance rituals?

I like to have a full stomach and make sure I use the bathroom before long concerts. There's nothing worse than sitting there uncomfortably during a long tacet moment with nothing else to focus on.

Other than your instrument, what would we find in your instrument case?

Earplugs, a towel, and contact lenses (in case I break my glasses).

What do you love most about being a professional musician?

Making beautiful music with my colleagues and the freedom of making my own musical decisions. I also love the opportunities that music provides - I've had some incredible experiences and met many interesting people (both musicians and classical music fans). People light up when you tell them you're a musician and I love hearing their stories.

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Welcome New Musician: Jason McNeel

Jason McNeel, section bass, began playing bass as a junior in high school. Mr. McNeel has since played with some of the best orchestras in the country, including the Cincinnati Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, and Rochester Philharmonic. As a regular performer with the Cincinnati Sympony, he was able to participate in international tours to Asia and Europe. As a student. Mr McNeel has studied at the University of Cincinnati (Bachelor of Music) with Albert Laszlo and Carnegie Mellon (Master of Music) with Micah Howard. Additionally, he has studied regularly with Solen Dikener, Jeff Turner, and Owen Lee.
 
Hometown: Winfield, WV
 
Why did you select your instrument?
The bass is very versitale instrument that can be played in several different genres of music. Early on and still I've had an interest in playing jazz, classical, and many other styles.

Does your instrument have a special story?
My first instrument was made my my father. He is a very dedicated amateur woodworker and took a year of his free time to make a bass that I still love playing to this day.
 
What would most surprise people about you?
I have spent most of my childhood summers working on the family farm in eastern West Virginia. One of my favorite chores was milking the cow.
 
If you could meet one composer, who would it be and what would you ask him/her?
Haydn, I'd ask him for another copy of the Concerto for Violone that has been lost.
 
What's your funniest/most compelling on-stage moment?
The time when I was playing an outdoor barge concert in West Virginia and a beaver ran from backstage, through the orchestra, and into the audience!
 
Any pre-performance rituals?
I have a good, light meal.

Other than your instrument, what would we find in your instrument case?
Whatever book I'm reading.
 
What do you love most about being a professional musician?
It's one of the great professions in the world. In studying music, you gain knowledge of culture, science, psychology, physical, and emotional well being, history, and the list could go on forever. I can honestly say that being interested in music has had a direct positive effect on my health and happiness.
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