Sound of Charlotte Blog

Meet "Christmastime in Charlotte" composer, Gary Fry

Emmy-winning composer Gary Fry returns this season for Magic of Christmas & The Singing Christmas Tree, Dec. 13-22 at Knight Theater. We sat down with Gary to find out if his beloved carol written for the Queen City, "Christmastime in Charlotte," will sport a new verse, when he begins listening to Christmas music every year, and more.


Do you have any holiday traditions?
I think our family traditions are pretty normal. We gather for family dinner on Christmas Eve, and my wife gives all our children (and now, grandchildren) Christmas pajamas before bedtime, and we read the Clement Moore poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. Christmas Day is a time for spending time with family and opening gifts!

Last year, you wrote a new Christmas carol for us, "Christmastime in Charlotte." Will there be any changes or additions to the carol this year?
From the beginning, the idea was to have one verse of lyrics that changed each year to reflect things that were happening currently in Charlotte, or something special related to the Magic of Christmas program that particular year. You'll just have to come to the concert to find out what the "topical lyrics" are this year!

Which part of the concert are you most excited for?
It's all exciting to me especially the fact that this year joining our wonderful Charlotte Symphony are Carolina Voices' The Singing Christmas Tree, the Charlotte Children's Choir, and Grey Seal Puppets. It will all make for a very fresh and exciting new sound and look - filled with Christmas spirit!

What's your favorite Christmas carol?
Well, I must say I especially like "O Holy Night" as a traditional carol, and the music from the movie The Polar Express is wonderful as far as newer Christmas songs go. And, hearing "Christmastime in Charlotte" is always a wonderful thrill for me as a composer.

If you were a sugar cookie, what shape would you be?
Ha! A Christmas cookie shaped like a harp or a bell-- something musical!-- would be appropriate for me.

A potentially controversial question: At what time of the year do you start listening to Christmas music?
Since I work on so much Christmas music, I listen to it literally year-round. I'm already listening to Christmas music for 2020!
Joyful. Heartwarming. Pure family fun. Make new family memories to cherish for years to come at Magic of Christmas & The Singing Christmas Tree, Dec. 13-22 at Knight Theater.

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Posted in Pops. Tagged as holidays, Magic of Christmas, Pops.

Father and daughter share the stage at Stars, Stripes and Sousa

Violinist Jenny Topilow has a special connection to our upcoming Stars, Stripes and Sousa concert on Nov. 15 & 16: her father is the guest conductor! Find out in our interview below what it's like for Jenny to see her dad on the podium, and how Carl Topilow creates his patriotic clarinet for this concert. 


Jenny, what's it like to have your father on the podium as your conductor? Have you worked together like this before?
JT: My Dad was my primary conductor when I was 18-22 years old. During that time, I wouldn't say we "worked" together as much as I was a student learning from him as a teacher, which he's great at. He did give me a B in conducting class [at the Cleveland Institute of Music], though (he was probably being generous!). 

Since becoming a member of the Charlotte Symphony, I have worked with my Dad many times. Often it's just us playing duets (with him on the clarinet), but also in [an orchestral setting] a few times, too. 

I'm very proud of my dad and his amazing career, and it is special when he is on the podium, but he's very cognizant about not treating me any differently when we are in a professional setting. Maybe he'll point out that I'm his kid and he's excited to have me in the band, but then it's down to business. As he says "I've worked with hundreds of violinists, and you're definitely one of them."

Carl and Jenny, what inspired you to choose a career in music?
CT: My love of music and my desire to pass this passion on to other people as teacher and performer was my inspiration to make this a full-time profession.

JT: I started violin at age three after seeing Itzhak Perlman on Sesame Street (a surprisingly common story!). It's been simply amazing to share the stage with him recently.

My dad being a conductor and my mom being a ballet dancer, they basically had the 16th sized violin waiting for me in the closet. I was pretty talented and practiced pretty diligently, but as a professional musician and a teacher at a conservatory, my dad knows just how hard it is to have a successful career in music, and never pushed me to go into it. He didn't exactly stand in my way, but he made sure I knew how competitive it is. 

When I won my job with the CSO, he was the first person I called and he was the one person who cried happy tears with me, because he really understands how rare it is to win a job and how hard musicians work to prepare for auditions.

Is anyone else in your family musical?
CT: My brother, Arthur, is an excellent jazz pianist. He's also a much-respected hematologist/oncologist.  My younger daughter Emily enjoyed performing as violinist with her college orchestra for 4 years and is now playing with a community orchestra in Cleveland. I recently appeared as guest conductor with that orchestra, and it was very rewarding to perform together!

JT: Like my dad said, my Uncle is a fantastic jazz pianist and my little sister plays the violin. My mom was a ballet dancer with Joffrey and the Metropolitan Opera in NYC before I was born and is a great lover of classical music (especially opera), and my stepmom, Shirley, is a professional tap dancer and also started the Cleveland Pops.

Carl, this kind of patriotic concert is one of your specialties. How did that come to be?
CT: These concerts do so much to instill a sense of pride and privilege to be living in the United States. There are many portions of the concert that are very moving, but I strive to create a balance of solemn and upbeat selections. It's always great to observe the reaction of the audience when they are touched by particular piece.

We hear you have a very patriotic clarinet... What's the story behind that?
CT: I have red, white, blue, and green clarinets, and can assemble parts of each to come up with multicolored clarinets. I always play the piccolo obbligato to the Stars and Stripes along with the orchestra piccolo players on a red, white, and blue clarinet.
See Jenny and Carl on stage together at Stars, Stripes and Sousa, November 15 & 16 at Knight Theater. Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as Pops.

Rodgers & Hammerstein: A to Z

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II ushered in the golden age of Broadway with their revolutionary partnership. In this special A to Z guide, read how their legendary careers impacted musical theatre on both stage and screen. 

Enjoy more than 20 songs from their musical catalog performed live on March 22 & 23, 7:30 p.m. at Knight Theater. Click here for concert information.

 

A

Away We Go! was the original title of Oklahoma! After the addition of the show-stopping song "Oklahoma" during out-of-town tryouts, the decision was made to retitle the musical after that number.

B

Russian-born actor Yul Brynner gave one of the most iconic performances in Broadway history as King Mongkut of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. For the role, he won two Tony Awards and an Academy Award for the film version.

C

Carousel (1945) is the second collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein. The story is about carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, who marries naive millworker, Julie Jordan. After he dies during an ill-conceived robbery attempt to provide money for his wife and unborn child, he is allowed to return to earth for one day to set things straight. Carousel features classics such as "If I Loved You", "June is Bustin' Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone".

D

Doylestown, Pennsylvania is where the farmhouse stands that Oscar Hammerstein lived in from 1940 until his death in 1960. This is where he wrote his famous lyrics to the shows with Richard Rodgers and where he mentored his young neighbor, Stephen Sondheim, on the art of writing musicals.  

E

"Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music is a song sung by Captain von Trapp as a statement of his Austrian patriotism in the face of Nazi Germany. Named after the edelweiss, a white flower found high in the Alps, many have incorrectly believed that it is an actual Austrian folk song. It is also the last song that Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote together as Hammerstein would die from cancer shortly after The Sound of Music opened on Broadway.

F

The 46th Street Theatre is a Broadway house built in 1925. In 1990, it was renamed The Richard Rodgers Theatre in honor of the composer. Ironically, it has never presented a show by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it was the venue for the 1965 musical Do I Hear A Waltz? written by Rodgers with (Hammerstein protégé) Stephen Sondheim. It is the current home of the smash hit Hamilton

G

Green Grow the Lilacs a 1931 play by Lynn Riggs about settlers in the Oklahoma territory that Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted into their first musical collaboration, Oklahoma!

H

Lorenz Hart was a famous lyricist who was Richard Rodgers' first writing partner. Rodgers and Hart collaborated on shows such as Pal Joey, Boys from Syracuse, and Babes in Arms, and on many popular songs like "Blue Moon", "The Lady is a Tramp", and "My Funny Valentine".

I

"It Might as Well Be Spring" is a song from Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1945 film musical State Fair. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year. Cinderella, which was written for television, and State Fair are the only musicals by the pair not written for the stage. However, both musicals have since been adapted into stage versions.

J

Julie Andrews has become synonymous with Rodgers and Hammerstein due to her iconic performance in the movie version of The Sound of Music. Prior to that, she originally auditioned for R&H's 1956 musical Pipe Dream but Rodgers advised her to take the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady instead. The following year she starred in R&H's television musical Cinderella which was viewed by more than 100 million people.

K

Jerome Kern was a prolific songwriter and composer of musicals in the 1920s and 30s who Hammerstein worked with prior to his relationship with Rodgers. Their most famous collaboration was on the 1927 musical Show Boat. They also wrote notable songs such as "All The Things You Are" from Very Warm for May and "The Last Time I Saw Paris" which won the 1941 Academy Award for Best Song.

L

Liliom a 1909 play by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár about a Carousel barker who falls in love with a maid named Julie. Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted the story, transporting the action from Budapest to Maine, for their second collaboration Carousel.

M

Mary Martin is one of the legendary performers in Broadway history and a three time Tony Award winner. A favorite of Rodgers and Hammerstein, she originated the leading roles of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific and Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music.

N

Nine the number of musicals Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for Broadway. These include the "Big 5" of Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959). Their other shows include the minor hit Flower Drum Song (1958), as well as the less successful Allegro (1947), Me and Juliet (1953) and Pipe Dream (1955). (Cinderella and State Fair were written for television and film respectively).

O

Oklahoma! (1943) was the first collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein. It revolutionized the American musical by fully integrating songs, dialogue, and choreography into the story.

P

Paul Robeson, the son of a former slave, was a celebrated American baritone stage and film actor and activist. He is the actor most identified with the role of Joe and song "Ol' Man River" from Show Boat. The song with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Hammerstein. Hammerstein's wife Dorothy, however, remarked that "Jerome Kern wrote 'dum, dum, dum-dum.' My husband wrote 'Ol' Man River'."

Q

Queens, New York: Richard Rodgers was born into a prosperous German Jewish family in Arverne, Queens. Rodgers' father was a prominent physician who had changed the family name to Rodgers from Abrahams.

R

Richard Rodgers is the first person awarded the esteemed "EGOT" or Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. He also was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for South Pacific.

S

"Some Enchanted Evening" tells the love story of the sophisticated Emile Debec, a rich Frenchman who falls for US Army nurse Nellie Forbush in Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific.

T

"There Is Nothing Like a Dame" from South Pacific is a comic song sung by the Navy Seabees, led by the wily Luther Billis, who lament their lack of female companionship while at war.

U

Underwear no seriously! In the early '20s, Richard Rodgers was struggling to make ends meet as a composer. He seriously considered quitting show business altogether to become an underwear salesman. Luckily, he and Hart broke through in 1925 with the hit song "Manhattan" that launched their careers.

V

The Von Trapp Family Singers were the basis for The Sound of Music, the final collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein, debuting on Broadway on November 18, 1955. The musical was an immediate hit, and the show's cast recording, recorded just a week after the debut, went on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide.

W

"The Carousel Waltz" is a symphonic piece by Richard Rodgers that opens the musical Carousel. At the time, it was customary for shows to open with an orchestral overture, however, "The Carousel Waltz" was revolutionary as the music instead underscored a pantomimed opening scene staged by the great Agnes DeMille.

X

Rodgers and Hammerstein took a stand against Xenophobia in their show South Pacific; especially through the lyrics of "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught". Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song speaks of how racism is not born in people, but they are taught to hate. Defending their stance and inclusion of the song, R&H remarked that "[its message] represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in."

Y

"You'll Never Walk Alone" is the hopeful anthem that concludes the first act of Carousel. In addition to being a Broadway standard it also the anthem of Liverpool Football Club and is sung at soccer games around the world.

Z

Impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, known primarily for his legendary Zeigfeld Follies, produced the original production of Show Boat in his theatre. Jerome Kern composed the score, with Oscar Hammerstein II providing the book, lyrics, and staging.

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Posted in Pops.

Meet China Forbes of Pink Martini

China Forbes (vocals) was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she graduated cum laude from Harvard and was awarded the Jonathan Levy Prize for acting. She appeared in New York regional theatre and off-off Broadway productions, earning her Equity card alongside future stars of stage and screen such as Norm Lewis, Peter Jacobson and Rainn Wilson.

Soon after college China formed and sang with her first band. They regularly performed at NYC clubs CBGB's Gallery, Mercury Lounge and Brownies. Her first solo album Love Handle was released in 1995 and she was chosen to sing "Ordinary Girl," the theme song to the TV show Clueless.

In 1995, she was plucked from New York City by Harvard classmate Thomas Lauderdale to sing with Pink Martini, and has since written many of Pink Martini's most beloved songs with Lauderdale, including "Sympathique," "Lilly," "Clementine," "Let's Never Stop Falling in Love," "Over the Valley" and "A Snowglobe Christmas," which can be heard on Pink Martini's holiday album Joy to the World. Her original song "Hey Eugene" is the title track of Pink Martini's third album and many of her songs can also be heard on television and film. She sang "Qué Será Será" over the opening and closing credits of Jane Campion's film In the Cut and her original song "The Northern Line" appears at the end of sister Maya Forbes' directorial debut Infinitely Polar Bear, which was released in 2015 by Sony Pictures Classics.

With Pink Martini, Forbes has appeared on The Late Show with David LettermanLate Night with Conan O'BrienThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Later with Jools Holland. She has performed songs in over twenty languages and has sung duets with Michael Feinstein, Jimmy Scott, Georges Moustaki, Henri Salvador, Saori Yuki, Faith Prince, Carol Channing and Rufus Wainwright among others. She has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall to Red Rocks, the Sydney Opera House to the Grand Rex in Paris. She released her second solo album '78 on Heinz Records in 2008, a collection of autobiographical folk-rock songs.

 
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Posted in Pops.

Homecoming for Midshipman Adam Thomas

When the 70-member U.S. Naval Academy Men's Glee Club drops anchor in Charlotte over Veteran's Day weekend, November 13-14, one of its singers will feel right at home.

Midshipman 4th Class Adam Thomas is a June 2015 graduate of South Mecklenburg High School and says he's ecstatic about the opportunity to continue his music education at the Naval Academy. "I have many fond memories of performing in the Charlotte area, and I am looking forward to performing with the Symphony," says Thomas. "Even more important, I am excited to bring some of my new friends at the Academy home to Charlotte and let them enjoy some true southern hospitality!"

A Salute to America's Heroes promises a patriotic program honoring all who have served and are serving our country. This talented group of midshipmen perform a wide range of sacred music and American spirituals, plus the famous "Naval Hymn," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Ave Maria," and more! 

Conductor Albert-George Schram has collaborated with the Men's Glee Club on three previous occasions in Charlotte, Columbus, and Nashville and is excited once again to be working with one of America's premier men's choral ensembles.

"I am deeply proud and honored to be able to bring these highly talented young men to Charlotte and introduce them to our Symphony and our audience," says Schram. "This Glee Club is extraordinary, and together with our Symphony, they will provide attendees with an evening of music they will long remember."

For more information, click here.

Posted in Pops.

5 Questions With: John Goberman

John Goberman is a legendary name in performing arts circles. Probably best known as the creator of Live From Lincoln Center, Goberman developed the audio-video technology for telecasting live arts performances without audience or performer disruption and has earned tons of accolades (including Emmy and Peabody Awards) for his work in the arts.

Goberman also created a series of film-and-concert presentations called Symphonic Night at the Movies with many orchestras, including the Charlotte Symphony.

We kick off our 2015-2016 Pops series with a presentation of Singin' in the Rain September 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. in Belk Theater. 

We caught up with Mr. Goberman before he joins us in Charlotte for Singin' in the Rain next weekend.

Charlotte Symphony: So how did the idea of Symphonic Night at the Movies come to you?
John Goberman: It all started with Alexander Nevsky, the great Prokofiev/Eisenstein cowboys-and-Indians Hollywood western, which they converted into a Russians-and-Germans non-esoteric thrilling picture with the best film score ever written. It turned out to be the worst film score recording ever, which is why I thought it would be great to have a real orchestra play it--live--and figured out ways to do that, which we premiered in Los Angeles with Andre Previn.

CS: Why was that important to implement when you did?
JG: Because there was a period of Hollywood filmmaking that used symphonic music, I thought there might be some other films where the live presence and sound of a symphony orchestra would fill (at least the composer's) concept of the music. The Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain, Psycho, Casablanca--they're all films in which the music is extremely important to the experience. The presence of an orchestra turns the event into a performance of a film, instead of just a screening of a film.

CS: Seems complicated. How exactly will Conductor Albert-George Schram coordinate all of this?   
JG: I like to think that this experience for the conductor and orchestra is very much like playing an opera--when there's give and take between the performers and orchestra--except here there is no give. The conductor will be accompanying the singers on the screen just as he would in an opera. And while there is no "adjusting" coming from the screen singers--you can be sure they will do it the same every time! Same with the dancers.

CS: So, does the orchestra rehearse with the movie on? How do they prepare?
JG: Yes. The orchestra and conductor can prepare completely in advance by studying a DVD prepared for them. The study DVD contains all the visual elements of the performance, plus the dialog, vocal and sound effect tracks, without the music (as it will be in the performance) and also the original tracks with the music so he knows he is correct. There is also a clock, an analog clock with a sweep hand, which he uses as a guide so that the music is accompanying the picture correctly (a certain time at a certain point marked in the score).

CS: How did you get into the field of music production? Did you study music? 
JG: I used to be a cellist, and then I started the Live from Lincoln Center television series, which I produced until recently. But I have always had an affection for my live orchestra presentations of film. It is an audience experience and a musical experience that allows the work of some great composers to be heard fully, in context.

Click here to watch a Singin' in the Rain with live orchestra video. 

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.








Post written by Virginia Brown

Posted in Pops.

Albert-George Schram's Two Lives

Albert-George Schram is known at the Charlotte Symphony as the joyful white-haired conductor that makes seeing the orchestra play Pops concerts, ranging from Christmas music and Broadway to Motown, exciting. Elsewhere around the country, he's known for conducting Classical music. In a recent article in Charlotte Observer, Larry Toppman covers this in "Charlotte Symphony's Albert-George Schram leads two lives."

Within the article, we learn 5 interesting facts about George:


1. He got bad early reviews from his piano teacher: "As a boy, my first instrument was tuba. I played cornet, euphonium, other wind instruments. And I'd ride my bike up to an old lady's house and sit among these big dark curtains to study piano. She told my father, 'You are really wasting your time.' "

2. He was a 20-year-old 12th-grader in Canada: "I was living in Alberta, and they wouldn't accept my Dutch high school degree. So I finished school while working on a farm with 12,000 chickens, collecting eggs and hammering fence posts into the ground."

3. After getting a bachelor's in music from the University of Calgary, he became music director of Stratusfaction, a 25-piece Canadian jazz ensemble that peaked with gigs in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He played trombone and trumpet, sang, arranged and wrote musical charts.

4. Languages come quickly to him. He improved his English after settling in Canada by watching TV. His favorite program: "Stampede Wrestling," where Archie "The Stomper" Gouldie battled Abdullah the Butcher. Much later, he spent a month at a Spanish-language institute, so he could conduct in Bolivia and Argentina.

5. He watches the Grammy Awards. "I do it because I want to know what's happening now," he said. "If I don't think any of the music played today is good music, and millions of people take to it, then I have to start opening my ears wider."

 
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Posted in Pops. Tagged as conductors, summer pops.

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