Sound of Charlotte Blog

12 Days of Magic

Each day leading up to the first of 10 performances of Magic of Christmas, we'll spotlight one of the many magical elements of this year's program. Check back each day for the next installment!

 

Our stage is set, and we're ready to kick off the first of ten performances of Magic of Christmas! We can't wait to see you tonight. 





 

Some sounds of the season are quintessentially Christmas particularly in Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride. And no one knows that better than Acting Principal Trumpet Alex Wilborn, who performs the notorious horse whinny. Get a sneak peek of his rendition here.



 

Magic of Christmas includes all of your favorite holiday tunes, festive singalongs, and a brand new Christmas carol written just for Charlotte. In THREE days, we kick off the first of ten performances! Click here for a sneak peek of the program.



 

Did you know that there are 10 GUARANTEED snowfalls in Charlotte? At each Magic of Christmas, snow will fall in Knight Theater using four snow cannons positioned around the theater. 




 

Click here for a special holiday greeting from your Charlotte Symphony. We can't wait to celebrate with you as Magic of Christmas kicks off in five days.







December 9 is World Chorus Day, and there are just six more days until the Charlotte Symphony Chorus joins us for carols and singalongs at Magic of Christmas! 






Francene Marie Morris joins us in just seven days as Magic of Christmas host and narrator for the timeless 'Twas the Night Before Christmas!






Just eight days until we kick off this year's ALL NEW Magic of Christmas program! Take a look at how this year's performance stacks up.







Santa's bringing some friends to Magic of Christmas in just nine days! Don't forget to capture the memories with a photo when you join us for Charlotte's favorite holiday tradition! 






Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees will take the podium to kick off this year's Magic of Christmas in ten days! Hear a message from him here.







Whether you know him as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or Santa, don't forget to visit the jolly man himself at each Magic of Christmas performance! 






Get to know "Christmastime in Charlotte" composer Gary Fry.                

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Get to Know Composer Gary Fry


At this year's Magic of Christmas, new Charlottean and Emmy-winning composer Gary Fry has written a Christmas carol fit for the Queen City! Get to know Gary below.


Tell us briefly about how you came to be a composer.
I grew up in Iowa, and my parents were farmers. I loved music from an early age and had public school music training with wonderful teachers who encouraged me to write for high school chorus and jazz band. Following my time at the University of Miami (Florida)--where I met more great mentors in choral music and composition--I graduated with a double major in music composition and music education. I taught middle school general music in New Jersey briefly, began to write arrangements for music publishers, and in a couple of years got a staff position at a commercial music agency in Chicago. I've now written thousands of commercials and began to write arrangements for the Chicago Symphony Christmas program, which I did for 19 years. I still write a lot of music, especially for Christmas!

What's your favorite thing about writing music? Do you prefer composing Christmas music?
Three things. First, the "aha" moment when you think about a concept that really makes a piece work. Second, the moment when you hear musicians bring that concept to life for the first time; and third, when you see an audience respond to that concept the way you had hoped.

And yes, I love writing Christmas music! It's such a joyful season, filled with family and tradition and generosity and good will.

How do you gather inspiration when beginning to look at a piece like "Christmastime in Charlotte?"
Well, it's easy to be inspired when you consider all the things I just mentioned--and then, of course, there's the city of Charlotte itself and the things that make it special and the Christmas activities and traditions that make it unique.

 

You're from Chicago. What have you learned about Charlotte along this process?
It's been terrific for me as a new resident of the area to become acquainted with the city: learning the landmarks like Independence Square, and street names like Tryon and Trade, and nicknames like "The Queen City," and discovering the things that folks here commonly do at Christmastime (especially without the sometimes frigid weather I knew in Chicago). It's all been great fun, and though I definitely still feel like a newcomer, but that does give me a fresh view of just how dynamic and full of energy the city of Charlotte is.

How does this type of collaboration work?/How much input does the conductor have?
This is very much a collaboration! My first contact was with Mary Deissler, who has a wonderful vision of what the all-new Magic of Christmas concerts could be for the orchestra and for the city. And then there's Christopher James Lees--what a marvelous conductor and person, whose personality on the podium will really infuse the program with enthusiasm and joy and fun. And in seeking input from both of them, I actually wrote two songs with completely different melodies and musical frameworks, so that they could consider them both and choose the one they thought would work best for the orchestra and the program. And we're still fleshing out all the lyrics, with plenty of back-and-forth about that. They are both invaluable resources to a composer!

How many songs have you written total?
That depends on just what you consider a song! If mini-songs like commercial jingles count, that number would be well into the thousands. But if you're talking full-length, original songs with verses and refrains and so forth, it's in the hundreds. And as an arranger, I've written hundreds more arrangements of existing songs. So ... a lot!

What makes a holiday tune "catchy," so you can't get it out of your head?
With a background in commercial jingles that are supposed to do exactly that, it boils down to simplicity, sing-ability, and repetition. The trick is to do that without being boring! I think it's also the way the words marry to the melody, and hopefully a little different sort of twist that sets the tune apart and gives it real identity.

For "Christmastime in Charlotte," my hope is that by the end of the very first performance, the audience is singing along!

Hear this world premiere Christmas carol at Magic of Christmas, December 14-23 at Knight Theater.

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Magic of Christmas 2018

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A guide to Holst's The Planets

Holst's The Planets is colorful, emotional, and full of movement exactly what you'd expect from a trip through the galaxies and beyond. Written between 1914-1916, The Planets represents all the known planets and their corresponding astrological characters. Learn more about the movements from Classic FM below.

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1. Mars, the Bringer of War

Angry and ominous, Holst's first movement represents the Roman god of war, Mars. The craggy rhythms and pulsing drum beats give the music a military feel.




2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace

The cool blue Venus follows angry red Mars. The music is slower and beautifully eerie, complete with relaxing tunes played on harps and flutes, shimmering strings, and ethereal solo violin passages to call to mind the Roman goddess.



3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger

Flighty and fast, the lively Mercury is quick and powerful in equal measure. The high-pitched harp, flute, and glockenspiel tunes hop, skip, and jump throughout the suite's short duration usually just over four minutes.




4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity

As the round-faced cheery uncle of all the planets, and king of the gods, Jupiter is impressive and majestic. The swelling brass and slow waltzing strings are met with moments of poignant beauty in the glorious tune now known as 'I Vow to Thee My Country'.



5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age

A favourite movement of Holst's, Saturn is quite a shift from the positive music heard in Jupiter. The opening is slow and almost unsettling, until the music expands into a heavy march.




6. Uranus, the Magician

Starting with four brassy notes, Uranus shifts from heavy timpani blows to a boisterous gallop. The full orchestra shows the impressive power of this icy planet, represented in Greek mythology as the god of the sky.




7. Neptune, the Mystic

When Holst scored this work as a piece for piano duet, he used an organ to represent this planet the piano, he thought, couldn't portray a planet as mysterious as Neptune. Beautiful harp and string melodies slide over each other, until Holst brings out the crowning glory: a mystical choir, which gives the music an other-worldly quality.



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Meet our Guest: Sergej Krylov

Violinist Sergej Krylov joins us for Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony on November 2 & 3. 

Effervescent musicianship, intense lyricism and beguiling tonal beauty belong to the qualities that have secured Sergei Krylov's place among today's most renowned performers. The Russian-born violinist directs breath-taking virtuosity to reveal profound expressive insights into the works in his strikingly broad repertoire.
 
'Krylov articulated concisely, with humour, sometimes incisive but never defiant,' observed DiePresse.com following a recent performance of Prokofiev's First Violin Concerto. Other commentators have praised the intelligence, imagination and intuitive power of his musicianship.
 
In recent seasons Sergei Krylov has become a regular guest with several major institutions and collaborated with many of the world's leading orchestras. He has appeared with, among others, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the St Petersburg Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic orchestras, the Russian National Orchestra, the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Filarmonica della Scala and Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, DSO Berlin, the Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin, Budapest Festival Orchestra, NHK Symphony Tokyo and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
 
Among the prominent personalities with whom he has worked, Krylov's friendship with Mstislav Rostropovich stands among the most important influences on his artistic life. Over the past decade he has collaborated with many leading conductors, from Dmitri Kitayenko, Mikhail Pletnev, Valery Gergiev, Andrey Boreyko, Vasily Petrenko and Vladimir Jurowski to Fabio Luisi, Roberto Abbado, Yuri Temirkanov, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Dmitry Liss, Yuri Bashmet and Michał Nesterowicz.
 
Highlights of Sergei Krylov's 2017/18 season included Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko, Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto with the Konzerthaus Orchester Berlin and Dmitri Kitayenko, and performances with the Russian National Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony, Copenhagen Philharmonic, Turin's Rai Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Teatro San Carlo, Naples.

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Meet our Guest: Roberto Abbado

Conductor Roberto Abbado joins us for Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony on November 2 & 3. 

Roberto Abbado, awarded the prestigious "Premio Abbiati" by the Italian Music Critics Association for his "accomplished interpretative maturity, the extent and the peculiarity of a repertoire where he has offered remarkable results through an intense season", is Musical Director of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia and of Parma's Festival Verdi. He studied orchestra conducting under Franco Ferrara at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice and at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he was invited the only student in the history of the Academy to lead the Orchestra di Santa Cecilia. He made his debut in the United States in 1991 in New York conducting the St. Luke's Orchestra. Since then he has returned regularly to the US to lead the Symphonic Orchestras of the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra of which he is one of the "Artistic Partners" working with soloists like Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Nigel Kennedy, Gil Shaham, Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Vadim Repin, Sarah Chang, Yefim Bronfman, Mitsuko Uchida, Alfred Brendel, Radu Lupu, André Watts, Andras Schiff, Lang-Lang, and Katia and Marielle Labèque.

He was Musical Director of the Münchner Rundfunkorchester from 1991 to 1998, completing seven album recordings with the orchestra. He has worked with many ensembles, including Amsterdam's Concertgebouworkest, the Wiener Symphoniker, the Orchestre national de France, the Orchestre de Paris, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Gewandhausorchester (Leipzig), the NDR Sinfonieorchester (Hamburg), the Sveriges Radios Symfoniorkester (Stockholm), the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra di Santa Cecilia, the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai, the Filarmonica della Scala, the Orchestra of Teatro Comunale di Bologna, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra.

Roberto Abbado has conducted numerous world premieres and new opera productions, including Fedora and Ernani at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York; I vespri sicilianiat the Wiener Staatsoper; La GiocondaLucia di Lammermoor, La donna del lago, and the world premiere of Fabio Vacchi's Teneke at La Scala; L'amour des trois oranges, Aida, and La traviata at the Bayerische Staatsoper; Le Comte Ory, Attila, I Lombardi alla prima crociata, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Henze's Phaedra at its Italian premiere and Anna Bolena at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; Don Giovanni at the Deutsche Oper Berlin; Simon Boccanegra, and La clemenza di Tito at the Teatro Regio of Turin; La donna del lago at the Opéra Garnier in Paris; Ermione, Zelmira, and Mosè in Egitto at the Rossini Opera Festival; the Italian premiere of Marschner's Der Vampyr at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna.

A passionate interpreter of contemporary music, Abbado's repertoire includes composers like Luciano Berio, Bruno Maderna, Goffredo Petrassi, Sylvano Bussotti, Niccolò Castiglioni, Azio Corghi, Ivan Fedele, Luca Francesconi, Giorgio Battistelli, Michele dall'Ongaro, Giacomo Manzoni, Salvatore Sciarrino, Fabio Vacchi, Pascal Dusapin, Henri Dutilleux, Olivier Messiaen, Alfred Schnittke, Hans Werner Henze, Helmut Lachenmann, John Adams, Ned Rorem, Christopher Rouse, Steven Stucky, and Charles Wuorinen.
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Get to know the Broadway Singers for The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and More

         

From Broadway to Charlotte


We caught up with our three soloists for The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and More, Morgan James, Hugh Panaro, and Debbie Gravitte. Each brings his or her own special Broadway experience to the Charlotte stage. 

CSO: So, have you guys ever been to Charlotte? If not, what are you most excited for duing your visit?

MJ: I was in Charlotte last fall with my band. I always love coming through and I'm excited to make some new fans, and eat some great food!

DG: You bet! My husband was born in Goldsboro. We have family all over the area, who will be attending the show, and we vacation every year on Ocracoke. Can't wait!

HP: I don't think the airport counts so I'm pretty sure this will be my first time performing in Charlotte!  I have performed in Garner twice with my solo show. But there's nothing like singing with a Symphomy orchestra and I've already heard great things!  I'm also a HUGE  "foodie,"  so I can't wait to eat my way through Charlotte! 


CSO: How many shows were you in?

HP: Wow, I don't know!  I started acting professionally when I was 13 years old as Friedrich Von Trapp in The Sound of Music so I had already been in at least 13  productions before making my Broadway debut as Marius in Les Miserables. And here I am all these years later and I STILL get the same joy from performing! 

DG: This is a trick question for me. Whether it's the Broadway stage, a movie set, a television set, a nightclub or a Symphony Hall, it's all performance! I have been lucky to be in 8 Broadway shows and numerous other productions. 

MJ: I've been working on stage in some capacity for 20 years. I did four original companies on Broadway, and countless readings, workshops, and regional productions.


CSO: Hugh, what was it like performing in Phantom of the Opera, first as Raoul, then coming back to play Phantom years later?

HP: I loved playing both roles!  I think I was cast in the right roles at the right time. Hal Prince cast me as Raoul in my early 20's and I was kind of an impetuous "puppy" with a lot of energy and confidence. I don't think I had the "weight" or life experience to play the Phantom back then. Going back to play the Phantom many years later I had a lot more life experience to draw from so that I could fully embody a more complex character  Every experience we have hopefully helps us grow and allows us the opportunity to bring more of ourselves to a role.


CSO: Morgan, What was the stage show that has most influenced you and how has that shaped you as an artist?

MJ: I did a production of hair 10 years ago that really shaped me. It was one of my favorite leading roles out of town, right before I got my first Broadway show, and I think I really grew as an artist and became a true leader. I'm very grateful for my years of doing regional theater and learning how to be a leading lady out of town. 


CSO: Debbie, Being that you have performed with over 175 orchestras, what is your favorite aspect of performing for Symphony audiences?

DG: Every Symphony performance is different depending on the city it takes place!  


Join us at The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and More and hear Hugh, Morgan, and Debbie in person!


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Garrick Ohlsson returns to Charlotte

Joining us in the Queen City for the third time, the legendary pianist Garrick Ohlsson will perform Beethoven's innovative and virtuosic Fourth Piano Concerto at Beethoven's Fifth, October 5-7.

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Pianist Garrick Ohlsson has established himself worldwide as a musician of magisterial interpretive and technical prowess. Although long regarded as one of the world's leading exponents of the music of Chopin, Mr. Ohlsson commands an enormous repertoire ranging over the entire piano literature and he has come to be noted for his masterly performances of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the Romantic repertoire.

To date he has at his command more than 80 concertos, ranging from Haydn and Mozart to works of the 21st century.

A native of White Plains, N.Y., Garrick Ohlsson began his piano studies at the age of 8, at the Westchester Conservatory of Music; at 13 he entered The Juilliard School, in New York City. He has been awarded first prizes in the Busoni and Montreal Piano competitions, the Gold Medal at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw (1970), the Avery Fisher Prize (1994), the University Musical Society Distinguished Artist Award in Ann Arbor, MI (1998), and the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music (2014).  Read more

Get to know Broadway sensation Michael Cavanaugh

Grammy- and Tony- nominated artist Michael Cavanaugh joins us on September 28 & 29 to kick off our Pops series with The Music of Elton John and More. Get to know the Piano Man behind the music below.

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1. At age 7, Michael's parents bought their first piano and he began to play. Encouraged by family and friends, he formed his first band at age 10.

2.  In 2001 at a performance in Las Vegas, Billy Joel discovered Michael's vast talents and joined him on stage. Afterward, he invited Michael to join him in creating the Broadway musical Movin' Out.

3. Michael was nominated for Tony and Grammy Awards for his work on Movin' Out.

4. After Movin' Out closed in 2005, Michael began touring and quickly became one of the hottest artists in the private events market. He continues to perform worldwide for company and charity events, and at sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Indy 500.

5. In 2008, Michael debuted his first performance with symphony orchestras, The Songs of Billy Joel and More. He soon followed that up with the debut of The Music of Elton John and More in 2010.

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Nkeiru Okoye on Composing Charlotte Mecklenburg

Approaching a newly commissioned piece, I start by listening. I want the know everything:  What's the occasion, and what's the purpose behind it? What are the goals for the piece? What I'm doing by asking these questions is defining basic parameters: length and instrumentations the specific instruments you want to use.
 
But I'm also gathering background information that helps me to create a piece that works for the community. The more descriptive, the better. It helps me understand what's important, which helps sets up my mindset as I'm conceptualizing the piece.
 
With Charlotte Mecklenburg, my new piece for the Charlotte Symphony, a special request in this case was that all the music was to have been inspired by a residency, which meant that I wouldn't write a note or start thinking about concepts until I'd gotten acquainted with the city. 
 
During my four-day residency, I did just that. Enjoying great cuisine, visiting different neighborhoods, guided tours of exhibits at the Levine Museum of the New South, catching a panoramic view of the city through from way up in the Bank of America building. Meanwhile, the Symphony had arranged for me to meet and interview 12 people, from Hugh McColl to Dae-Lee, all of whom impacted the city in differing ways, and all provided answers to five questions that I'd created with the new piece in mind. The visit ended, with a live outdoor performance of the Charlotte Symphony.
 
After getting back, it was time to engage in two of my favorite activities, for starting new compositions brainstorming ideas and organizing them into digital scrapbooks. I compiled answers to my questionnaire and conversation notes and made a general plan of the composition based on the parameters and visit. A piece like this involved some research. By exploring Charlotte's history, cultures, and current events, I was establishing an expansive knowledge bank of ideas. 

Contributed by Nkeiru Okoye, composer.

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