Sound of Charlotte Blog

Sneak peek: 'Off the Rails' with Kari Giles and Kirsten Swanson

We're trying something a little different this season. On October 15, a quartet of CSO musicians are going "Off the Rails" with a performance of contemporary music at Snug Harbor in Plaza Midwood. We caught up with two members of the quartet, Assistant Concertmaster Kari Giles and Acting Assistant Principal violist Kirsten Swanson, to get a sneak peek of the program.


Assistant Concertmaster Kari Giles
Have you ever played a concert like CSO Off the Rails before? 
KG: I've never been fortunate to play a concert quite like Off the Rails! I have always been passionate about new music and putting together creative programs. It is so fun to search and discover new composers, bring their works to life, and then share them with an audience for the first time. [So] having the freedom to create a program and literally being told to "get wild" and "out there" was thrilling. I knew immediately that I wanted to partner with Jenny Topilow and Kirsten Swanson. On top of being amazing musicians, they are dear friends, and we have a long history of playing chamber music together. Jeremy Lamb has also been involved in many local new music collaborations and is a composer himself, so I knew he would be perfect addition

KS: I have been very fortunate to have spent a lot of my career playing contemporary music, and I absolutely love the creativity of 20th and 21st Century string quartet writing. I did a similarly programmed concert last year, but what I especially love about these pieces is that the composers play around with the Western musical tradition of a steady, toe-tappable, rhythm and sends the listener's inward pulse "off the rails."

What kind of music is on the program? How was it selected?
KG: The concert will open with John Adams' "John's Book of Alleged Dances." When it was suggested by my husband Mark Lewis, who is also a composer, I instantly loved it and knew we had to program it. Next on the program is "Carrot Revolution" by young and upcoming composer Gabriella Smith. The words "Rock Out" are literally marked into all of our parts in the opening, and the piece is filled with fiddle, blues, and rock riffs. Listen closely to hear her homage to The Who! A friend recommended I check out our third featured composer, Pamela Z. As an artist and composer, Pamela Z creates eclectic works using voice, live electronic processing and sampled sound. I don't want to give too much away, so I will just say that this work is dreamy and super cool. We have a few more surprises as well, so I hope everyone will come out ready to hear some new music they've never heard before!
Acting Assistant Principal violist Kirsten Swanson


KS: The works on the program toy with our sense of pulse and rhythm, one of the most essential elements of music. In the Adams work, he has the quartet playing with a pre-recorded track played on a player piano. The track is sort of our metronome, except it's not quite steady (or is it?), which is a trip for us as players and for the audience! Adams is making such fun of the idea of what makes a dance a dance and how we each frame our sense of pulse. I'll be so curious to hear what the audience feels throughout these.

Which do you think is the coolest or most fun piece on the program?
KG: The part of the program that is most personal to me is a movement of the Adams work called "Judah to Ocean." Adams is from San Francisco, and this movement is a musical picture of the N Judah train. It also happens to be one of the trains I took quite frequently when I was a student at the San Francisco Conservatory! Lots of good memories there.

KS: Carrot Revolution is totally the most fun! Anything that says "Rock Out" is going to be my favorite piece! 

What kind of music do you listen to for fun?
KG: Currently my go-to musical companions are Prince, Rhianna, Tori Amos, and The Cure. I am also really going through a traditional Irish phase, and Dervish is just magical. My all-time favorite band, though, is Jump Little Children, who I went to school with when I was at NCSA.

KS: Oh man. My playlist is embarrassing. Last week I listened to Lizzo (butchered the lyrics); Raffi because he has a beautiful voice and the lyrics still get me as an adult (I mean! Robin in the rain/what a saucy fellow); Anderson .Paak because he's just amazing; and the oldies...because my parents did, and it's the music I listened to growing up.

What do you think people need to know about the concert before they show up?
KG: Just put on your coolest (or uncoolest) outfit, grab a drink at the bar, and have fun!
CSO Off the Rails will rock Snug Harbor on October 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online in advance or at the door.
 

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