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Sound of Charlotte Blog

The Story Behind Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony

In line with the historical context of the work, your CSO musicians will snuff out their candles and leaving the stage at the close of Haydn's Symphony No. 45, "Farewell" (Jan. 19 & 20, 2018 at Knight Theater). So, what's the story behind this tradition?

It all started with the premier in 1772. Haydn was employed as royal conductor to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy and had taken temporary residence at the Prince's castle in Hungary. After what seemed to be an extremely long season, Haydn and his musicians were long overdue to return home to their families. 

To their dismay, the Prince requested they stay longer to perform a new symphony.
Haydn, of course sympathetic to his musicians' plight, devised a plan to change the Prince's mind. He wrote what became known as the "Farewell" Symphony to include a special ending.

During the last movement at the premier, just as the music's dynamic momentum began to bring the movement to a close, there was an unexpected pause and an Adagio began. As this new, slower section of the movement proceeded, musician after musician finished his part, snuffed his candle, and left the stage. By the time the piece was over, all but two violins remained on stage. Did the protest work? According to the historical telling of this story, the Prince bid his musicians a farewell the following day, and allowed them to return home to their families.  Read more

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, Haydn.


Leading up to the 2013-2014 Classics Season Announcement, we gave clues on Facebook and Twitter about details of the new season. Did you follow us? Check out the questions we asked below and test your classical music (and Charlotte Symphony) knowledge!


  1. What composer would be 100 this year? We'll perform works by this composer several times in our next Classics season.
  2. What piano concerto will make its Charlotte Symphony Premiere at our first Classics concert next season? (Hint this work is more than double our 'age')
  3. What 'out of this world' movement will we perform next Classics season that will have our Oratorio Singers of Charlotte Women's chorus singing offstage?
  4. In our second Classics program of next season we'll perform this violin concerto that the composer dedicated to a fellow composer who played the solo part at the premiere.
  5. Next fall we'll welcome this Irish Musician who's on a three-year plan to perform all of the Mozart piano concertos.  Who is this gentleman?
  6. What oratorio is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music? This is part of next season's Classics Series!
  7. When we feature our Principal harpist next classics season, you might just leave the concert 'dancing'... What piece will be on the program?
  8. Name a composer from Charlotte. Name a conductor who lives (full-time!) in North Charlotte. They're both part of next year's Classics season!
  9. What pianist who shares the same homeland with our music director Christopher Warren-Green, will return to the Belk Theatre stage next season?


  1. Benjamin Britten. Featured in Classics 1 (Listen), Classics 6 (Listen), and Classics 8 (arrangement) (Listen)
  2. Lizst Piano Concerto No. 2 (Listen)
  3. Holst's The Planets (Listen)
  4. Saint-Saëns's Violin Concerto No. 3 which he dedicated to Pablo de Sarasate (Listen)
  5. Finghin Collins
  6. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (Listen)
  7. Debussy's Dances Sacree et Profane (Listen)
  8. (Composer) Dan Locklair is from Charlotte and is Composer-in-Residence and Professor of Music at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. (Conductor) Robert Moody is Music Director for the Winston-Salem Symphony (NC) and has lived in Lake Norman.
  9. Stephen Hough last performed with us in May 2011.
Read more

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Christopher Warren-Green, Classical, CSO Musicians, Haydn, History, Oratorio, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Sarasate.

Singing worlds into being. A view from an Oratorio Singer

Originally Posted: July 2010

My mother is a church organist, accompanist and piano teacher; my father a retired choir director and vocal soloist.  So I grew up in a home filled with music. Dad, raised in a home where singing was not smiled upon, except perhaps in church but certainly not during a meal, encouraged his children to sing early and often. And so we did. Especially at the dinner table. We would often sing the blessing. We would frequently launch into a tune if someone uttered a phrase that reminded us of a song or inadvertently spoke a few actual words from a song. And we would sometimes create impromptu operas based on the conversation or what happened to be sitting on the dinner table. ("The Seasonings," based on a salad dressing bottle, had a particularly successful run.) It was often silly, and perhaps we didn't sing particularly well, but we sang.

I joined the Oratorio Singers last year, and I am glad beyond words to be singing the great works of music with such a wonderful group of like-minded people who are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. And to making great music. This November, for example, I am pretty sure that we won't be singing about salad dressing. Alongside the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, however, we will be singing Franz Joseph Haydn's oratorio, Die Schöpfung (The Creation), considered by many to be Haydn's (known as the "Father of the Symphony") masterpiece.

Someone asked me the other day, "Why do you sing?" My response, of course, was that I sing because I cannot play an instrument. But the question got me thinking. Why do we sing? The human race has created music and sung songs for over 3,000 years. We know from archeological discoveries that music was a vital part of virtually all known ancient cultures, from Greece to Persia to Egypt to India to China to Africa and beyond. Australia's indigenous Aborigines believe that the world was sung into creation, and they can still navigate vast distances across the land via ancient paths known as songlines. It's a beautifully poetic notion that C.S. Lewis employed in his fictional work, The Magician's Nephew, as Aslan the lion's powerful singing calls the world of Narnia into existence.

I have come up with three reasons why we sing (well, four, if you count the inability to play an instrument). Alas, none of them include the possibility of appearing on American Idol.

We sing because making music is an intrinsic and essential part of the human spirit. It's part of what we do, and of who and what we are. We sing not because we can, but because we must. Sure, let's not get too carried away. After all, the ability to sing doesn't separate us from the animals. (That's what opposable thumbs, and instruments, are for.) But music is part of the human DNA. We aren't human because we sing; we sing because we are human.

We also sing because there are songs that need to be sung. The Oratorio Singers have performed a remarkable repertoire of the great music of our time. If you cannot be moved by the musical genius and the soaring optimism of the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, or by the depth of emotion and rich tapestry of folk and liturgical harmonies in Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, then you cannot be moved.

Finally, we sing because someone is listening. Sure, you can sing along with the radio in the car without an audience (and may even be glad for the lack of one!). Singing for an audience, though, is a rich and rewarding experience for both the singer and the listener. It's a form of communication. I used to enjoy the applause at the end of a performance because I thought of it primarily as a reward for a collective job well done. Standing on the stage of the Blumenthal PAC at the conclusion of Beethoven's Ninth this past April, I realized that I had got it somewhat wrong. The enthusiastic applause at the end of a performance is indeed thrilling to hear. But not so much for what it says about the performers or the performance. It's thrilling to hear for what it says about you, the listener. And what it says is that the impact of the live performance of a great musical work has moved you to respond. In a way that no other art form (and no CD or radio or MP3 file) can, a live performance has elevated your spirit, and maybe even raised your body out of its seat. You have participated in a shared, uniquely human experience and absorbed the beauty and emotional power of live music into your very being. You have fed your soul.
Music affords us the opportunity to celebrate the most essential form of human expression and the highest reach of the human spirit.

That's a good reason to sing.

Born and raised in Aurora, Illinois, Tim Parolini grew up listening to a wide range of music, but mostly classical, jazz and blues. A graduate of Aurora University, he studied voice with Mr. Sten Halfvarson and performed with the Fine Arts Chorale under the direction of Dr. Elwood Smith. His fond memories of attending concerts as a youth include many Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances under the direction of the late, great Sir Georg Solti. Tim runs a brand marketing and design business that specializes in helping niche-oriented businesses and nonprofit organizations identify and effectively communicate their brand value. He is excited to be participating with the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte and currently serves on its board.
Read more

Tagged as Beethoven, Beethoven's Ninth, Haydn, History, Live Performance, Oratorio, Rachmaninoff, Sing, The Creation.

Preparing for The Creation

Originally Posted: October 2010

"Be a pixel."

That is tonight's instruction from our director, Scott Allen Jarrett, as he prepares the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte to perform Franz Joseph Haydn's The Creation(Die Schöpfung) with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra on November 19-20.

With just a little more than three weeks until the performances, tonight's rehearsal is a physical and mental workout. A successful performance, as with most things in life, lies in the details. That takes work, and even more so with the classical style of Haydn.

Just the other day, I was reading through one of the classical music discussion forums on amazon.com that questioned why Haydn doesn't engender the same kind of passion from classical music lovers that the Romantic era composers seem to.

One contributor surmised that Haydn's music, while beautiful, engaging, and at times profound, rarely touches the sublime. His theory was that to our post-Romantic ears, the classical style doesn't deliver the dramatic tension and release that we crave and typically get from the music of the Romantic era composers. In other words, we love our emotionally-fraught Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, but Haydn is just too...organized. It's nice to listen to, but it never really soars.

Apparently, that contributor has never listened to The Creation. Considered to be Hadyn's masterpiece, The Creation is beautiful, profound, and yes, sublime. The oratorio consists of thee parts. Part I unveils the creation of light, the earth, the heavenly bodies, water, weather, and plant life. Part II unfolds the creation of sea creatures, birds, animals, and lastly, man. Part III celebrates the happy first days of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The oratorio kicks things off with an overture representing chaos. Its initial notes are devoid of perceptible melody. Gradually one instrument after another attempts to extract itself from the chaos, and a sense of order emerges. As the discordance settles, the music gently illuminates the spirit of God moving over the waters. Then, God commands that there to be light, and in response the orchestra and chorus burst forth with the joyous reply, "und es ward Licht!" -- and there was Light! Brilliant. And that's just the overture.

Haydn began composing The Creation in 1796 at the age of 65, after a highly successful tour in England. While in London, he attended several performances of George Frideric Handel's oratorios. These large scale works inspired Haydn, and The Creation became his most personal composition. A deeply religious man, Haydn no doubt reveled in the opportunity to compose something that would enable people to enjoy a musical representation of God. He would later remark, "I was never so devout as when I was at work on The Creation. I fell on my knees each day and asked God to give me the strength to finish the work." Haydn appended the words "Praise to God" at the end of each completed section.

He completed The Creation in 1798. It was the longest time he had spent on any of his 750+ compositions. When urged to bring it to a conclusion more quickly, Haydn replied, "I spend so much time over it, because I intend it to last a long time." In fact, he worked on the project to the point of exhaustion and collapsed into a period of illness after conducting its highly successful premier performance in Vienna.

"Picture an old television set. If you get close enough to the screen, you can see the individual pixels. Step back, though, and you see the whole picture."

The Oratorio Singers and the Charlotte community are extremely fortunate to have Scott Allen Jarrett. His musical taste is impeccable, but he also has the unique ability to convey both the necessary specific musical instruction and the insight into the larger context of the music -- the pixels and the picture if you will. That he does so engagingly and without a trace of personal ego is probably even rarer. (If I had his talent, I'm pretty sure I would have the ego to go with it.)

"...Men, you have to stop the tone at the dot. If you sing into the 16th note, you can't articulate the note and the whole passage gets bogged down...."
"...Women, you need to be sturdier, less dainty here. Make the quarter notes shorter."

Details. Pixels. The classical style of Haydn demands it. The actual notes may not be as hard to sing or to play as those of other composers, but the precision required to perform them successfully is probably more difficult to achieve.

The Oratorio Singers of Charlotte is composed of professional singers, musicians, music educators, music students, and amateur singers like myself who have had musical training but don't make our living in music. It's Scott's job to bring us together as a cohesive ensemble.

He makes a point of apologizing to the chorus for the TV/pixel metaphor, but as with all his illustrations, it's spot on. As he says, it's very difficult for an individual to extract the kind of skill required to honor what is in the score -- to execute the details that unleash the sublime. It's even more challenging to produce that as an ensemble. So our rehearsals are spent developing the focus, the agility, the cohesiveness, and the attention to detail that are required to deliver all the subtleties and all the glory of this music. Individually, we are charged with the responsibility to sing accurately -- in tone, rhythm, diction, dynamics, and emotion -- and to be available to the music and to the director.

To be a pixel. Singularly precise, but part of a bigger picture.

Like I said, it's physically demanding. At the end of rehearsal, my feeling is that of one who has just had a good workout at the gym. Spent, but also fully engaged and energized in body and spirit. And what a thrilling experience it is when you get a glimpse of the big picture. When all the individual voices work together to create a glorious musical portrait of nothing less than the creation of the world. No, not thrilling. Sublime.

My only regret is that I won't be in the audience to hear the whole "picture." But you can, and you should. If you think the music of Haydn doesn't have a place in your life, come and let The Creation change your mind. It will, and you will be forever glad that it did.

Born and raised in Aurora, Illinois, Tim Parolini grew up listening to a wide range of music, but mostly classical, jazz and blues. A graduate of Aurora University, he studied voice with Mr. Sten Halfvarson and performed with the Fine Arts Chorale under the direction of Dr. Elwood Smith. His fond memories of attending concerts as a youth include many Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances under the direction of the late, great Sir Georg Solti. Tim runs a brand marketing and design business that specializes in helping niche-oriented businesses and nonprofit organizations identify and effectively communicate their brand value. He is excited to be participating with the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte and currently serves on its board.
Read more

Tagged as Haydn, Oratorio, pixels, romantic, scott allen jarrett, The Creation.