Sound of Charlotte Blog
A multi-talented musician, composer, actress, conductor, and singer, Nia Imani Franklin was born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her journey in music began at a young age, taking classical voice lessons and composing her first piece at just six years old. Franklin continued her music education earning a master's degree in Music Composition from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Franklin moved to New York after being selected for the 2017 William R. Kenan Fellowship with the Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts education division. She immediately began working with Success Academy Charter Schools and founded a music club for the students. She also served as a cultural partner for Sing for Hope, a NYC-based non-profit organization. In June 2018, Franklin was crowned Miss New York and earned the title of Miss America the following year.
Franklin's compositions have been performed by orchestras throughout the United States, with notable works like Chrysalis Extended garnering millions of views on TikTok.
The Charlotte Symphony performing Franklin's Chrysalis Extended at Queens University of Charlotte
In 2019, Franklin founded Compose Her -- an initiative aimed at empowering women in music. Through Compose Her, she provides support, mentorship, and opportunities for female musicians, advocating for gender equality in a field historically dominated by men.
Hear the Charlotte Symphony perform Franklin's When I Consider Your Heavens conducted by Christopher James Lees on March 19 at On Tap @ Town Brewing Company. Read more
In 18th century France, Joseph Bologne was an unrivaled superstar -- in modern times, he would easily be a household name. Not only a composer, conductor, and a virtuosic violinist who outshone Mozart in Paris, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges earned renown as the greatest swordsman in Europe, a Colonel in the French Revolution, and leader in the abolitionist movement. Until recently, however, Bologne's incredible talent and achievements had faded to near-obscurity.
Bologne was born to an enslaved African-Guadeloupean mother and a French plantation owner father in 1745 on the island of Guadeloupe. The family moved to France when Joseph was a young child, and his father placed him in an elite private school in Paris. Notwithstanding the racist "Code Noir" that even prevented him from taking his father's suffix, "de Saint-Georges," Bologne studied alongside young aristocracy. Prominent teachers included the renowned master of arms, La Boëssière. The young swordsman excelled in fencing; at 17, receiving knighthood from Louis XV -- becoming Chevalier de Saint-Georges.
Though the Chevalier distinguished himself in many pursuits, his musical career rose to extraordinary heights, including the Palace of Versailles. Little is known about his musical training, though he likely learned from composer François-Joseph Gossec. Bologne publicly debuted two violin concertos (Op. 2) as the soloist with Gossec's Concert des Amateurs in 1772, later succeeding Gossec as the orchestra's musical director. He later founded the Concert de la Loge Olympique, which survived through the beginning of the Revolution, and after which, Bologne briefly led the Cercle de l'Harmonie.
His compositions spanned from violin concertos to operas, instrumental forms written between 1771 and 1779 comprising his oeuvre. Bologne contributed to the emerging Classical period with inventive styles. Bologne's symphonie concertantes, a blend of the Baroque concerto grosso and the Classical concerto, were some of the first in France to establish the genre. He wrote three sets of six works for string quartet, Six Quatours concertans. Bologne's three sonatas for keyboard and violin broke from the still-popular basso continuo Baroque style, and he looked ahead to the forming Classical period with textures and harmonies.
Bologne's intricate violin pieces gained the admiration of Mozart, who quite likely copied the Chevalier's work. A passage from Mozart's Symphonie Concertante in E-flat (K. 364) closely follows Bologne's violin concerto (Op. 7, No. 1), written the previous year. At the height of his illustrious career, Bologne often performed for Queen Marie Antoinette, and across the Atlantic, President John Adams acknowledged him as "the most accomplished man in Europe in riding, shooting, fencing, dancing and music."
But even exceptional talent and a high society upbringing did not protect the Chevalier from experiencing racism throughout his life. When he was considered a favorite to direct the Académie Royal de Musique, the foremost musical position in France, three of the Opera's prima donnas refused to be led by a person of mixed race. Their petition crushed Bologne's candidacy.
Charlotte-based creative Rosalia Torres-Weiner and the Charlotte Symphony are set to make beautiful music (and art!) together. Rosalia, Chief Executive Artist of Red Calaca Studio, was selected from an incredible field of talented, local applicants to design a wrap for the Symphony's brand-new mobile stage, CSO Roadshow.
Launching this April, CSO Roadshow will deliver free "walk up" concerts to streets, parks, and plazas for all to enjoy, with each unique program created in partnership with the local community. Our mission is to bring the power of live music right to the heart of Charlotte's neighborhoods. An additional highlight? The 40-foot trailer will be adorned with original artwork by Rosalia, bringing the mission to life in a vibrant way.
This collaboration is more than just a project for Rosalia, it's a heartfelt journey. "I feel a deep connection to the world of music, as my grandfather was a Military Band conductor in Mexico. His passion for music left a lasting impact on our family," she shared. "As a child, I was part of a junior orchestra and learned various instruments. Though my path diverged, music's influence remains a constant in my life."
Rosalia and the Symphony are now putting the finishing touches on this unique design. Stay tuned, as we'll be giving you exclusive sneak peeks of her work before CSO Roadshow sets off on its inaugural tour through our city's neighborhoods this spring.
This innovative project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the City of Charlotte; the Arts & Science Council; the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources; the Philip L. Van Every Foundation; and the Mariam & Robert Hayes Charitable Trust.
About RosaliaRosalia Torres-Weiner is an artist, activist and community leader in Charlotte, NC. Her art captures the themes, colors, and rich symbolism of her native home of Mexico. In 2010, Rosalia shifted the focus of her work from commercial art to art activism, after witnessing the repeated injustices and dysfunction of our immigration system. Her work is featured in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum and has been exhibited in venues including the McColl Center for Arts and Innovation, Levine Museum of the New South, Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, the Leyland Gallery at Georgia College, UNCC's Projective Eye Gallery, the City of Raleigh Museum, the Latin American Center for Arts Gallery, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the Mexican Cultural Institute at the Mexican Embassy in Washington D.C. Her public murals celebrate the rich history as well as the changing demographics of the South. She also uses her art to document social conditions and to raise awareness about issues that are affecting immigrant communities such as family separation, access to public education, racism, and moving beyond common stereotypes.
Her story "The Magic Kite" was adapted by The Children's Theatre of Charlotte, and is also performed as part of her "Suitcase Stories" one-woman show, which was featured at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. She has been a featured speaker for the North Carolina ASC, Johnson & Wales University, George Washington University, the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, and the Southern Foodways Alliance. Through her Red Calaca Mobile Art Studio, a 24-foot "Art Truck" she takes the arts directly to people in underserved areas in Charlotte.
We are thrilled to announce that Kwamé Ryan, hailed as a "dynamic conductor" by The Baltimore Sun, will assume the role of your Charlotte Symphony's 12th Music Director, beginning in 2024-25, ushering in a new era for the Orchestra's 93rd season.
"On my very first visit to Charlotte, I felt instantly connected with the dynamic energy of the city and then profoundly inspired by the wonderful musicians of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra ... I very much look forward to discovering how this exciting new partnership can enrich the orchestra's legacy and the cultural fabric of Charlotte." ~ Music Director Designate Kwamé Ryan
Born in Canada and raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, Kwamé Ryan discovered his passion for conducting at the age of nine. He studied Musicology at Cambridge University and trained in conducting under the guidance of renowned composer/conductor Peter Eötvös. An active guest conductor, Ryan has led orchestras across the United States, UK, and Germany. In the fall of 2023, Ryan conducted the world premiere of Jake Heggie's Intelligence at Houston Grand Opera, and in 2024, he makes his debut with Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the New York Philharmonic.
When not on the podium, Ryan dedicates his time to educational and community engagement initiatives. He has previously served as Musical Director of the National Youth Orchestra of France and as Director of the Academy for the Performing Arts at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally, Ryan is the host of "8 Minute Idea," a podcast in which he offers insights, tools, and life hacks.
"As a dynamic leader who understands the full potential of the relationship between an orchestra and its community," said President and CEO David Fisk, 'Kwamé will undoubtedly deepen the Charlotte Symphony's service to Charlotte and the region, and, with his passion for music education, bring extraordinary, powerful music-making to a wider audience of all ages."
Ryan's selection was unanimous by the Music Director Search Committee, comprised of Charlotte Symphony musicians, staff, and members of the Board of Directors.
"From the outset, there was an incredible chemistry between Kwamé Ryan and the musicians which created an atmosphere of collaboration and inspiration," said Bassist Jeffrey Ferdon and Principal Violist Benjamin Geller, who served as co-leaders on the Music Director Search Committee. "Kwamé's dynamic performances, as well as his ability to connect with audiences in a meaningful way, truly distinguished him. We are thrilled to welcome this exceptional conductor to Charlotte!"
Looking BackRyan made his Charlotte Symphony debut in January 2023 leading the Orchestra in Copland's Symphony No. 3, John Adams's Short Ride in a Fast Machine, and Korngold's Violin Concerto featuring Bella Hristova as soloist. For Music City Review, critic Joseph Morgan described the performance as, "...exciting, optimistic, and almost manically utopian. When it ended, I realized I had been holding my breath!"
Returning in November 2023, Ryan conducted Verdi's Requiem, earning acclaim from WDAV critic Lawrence Toppman who noted, "He's cheerfully animated on the podium, attentive to details, unlikely to linger in places where other conductors might do so ... yet unafraid to use silences to make emotional points. He can hold the orchestra in check carefully or let it roar, and it made a monumental sound Saturday."
Looking AheadKwamé Ryan will return to Charlotte this spring to conduct the Orchestra in two performances of Wang Jie's Symphonic Overture "America, the Beautiful," Brahms's Symphony No. 1, and Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, April 5-6.
"On behalf of the Board of Directors, it is with great enthusiasm that we welcome Kwamé Ryan as our next Music Director," said Chair of the Board of Directors Linda McFarland Farthing. "His incredible talent and passion promises an exciting future for our orchestra and the greater community."
On Wednesday, September 20, the Charlotte Symphony held its Annual Gala, kicking off the 2023-24 season with a celebratory evening. The Symphony welcomed superstar soprano Renée Fleming to the stage, alongside Conductor Laureate Christopher Warren-Green, to perform beloved works like Strauss's Four Last Songs, "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," and a touching rendition of "Hallelujah."
The concert was the centerpiece of the Gala evening which honored Christopher Warren-Green for his remarkable contributions to the Charlotte Symphony during his twelve years as Music Director. Guests of the Gala enjoyed a pre-concert cocktail reception and an elegant post-concert dinner at Urban Garden.
The following day, Renée Fleming hosted "Music and Mind," a conversation on the intersection of music, neuroscience, and healthcare presented in partnership with Atrium Health and Queens University of Charlotte. Check out the photos in the slideshow above. Read more
September 20 | Belk Theater
Anticipation is building as we get closer to the start of our 2023-24 season! With such an incredible lineup of concerts, choosing where to begin might seem overwhelming. But don't worry, we're here to help! Here are five concerts that deserve a special spot on your calendar:
Lovingly referred to as "the people's diva," Renée Fleming is one of the most beloved and celebrated singers of our time -- and she's returning to Charlotte for the first time in nearly 20 years! In this one-night-only event, led by Conductor Laureate Christopher Warren-Green, Ms. Fleming performs favorites from La Bohème and The Sound of Music alongside Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs, which she hails as "the greatest piece written for soprano and orchestra."
This group puts the "hot" in hot jazz! Think Harlem Renaissance cabarets and New Orleans speakeasies with a touch of cigar smoke and Parisian "je ne sais quoi." The Hot Sardines offer a mix of standards and modern-day hits, brought to life with brassy horn arrangements, rollicking piano, and incredible vocals by Miz Elizabeth.
The raw power of Verdi's Requiem -- with more than 70 musicians and a choir of over 100 -- will blow you right back in your seat when Kwamé Ryan joins the Charlotte Symphony and Charlotte Master Chorale to conduct this musical tour de force. Verdi's Requiem is full of contrasts, from the sublime lyricism of the opening movement to the sheer terror of its infamous "Dies irae."
Relive the enchantment of Belle and the Beast's timeless journey and share the magic of this Disney classic with your little ones! Alan Menken's Academy Award-winning score, including "Tale as Old as Time" and "Be Our Guest," will come to life when performed by the Charlotte Symphony in sync with the full-length film. Get there a few minutes early to grab some popcorn and enjoy the show!
This all-American program takes us from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to the open ranges of the Old American West with Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain Suite and Aaron Copland's Billy the Kid Suite. Violinist Jennifer Koh, known for her intense and commanding performances, brings her dazzling virtuosity to Missy Mazzoli's Violin Concerto, Procession, which will lead you on a music journey through five healing spells based on the healing rituals of the Middle Ages.
Summer is just around the corner, and that means it's time for one of Charlotte's most anticipated events of the year: the Charlotte Symphony's Summer Pops series! Whether you're buying single tickets or reserving a pod for all four concerts, we've got some pro tips to make you feel like a Summer Pops expert and prepare you for the ultimate experience.
Buy your tickets today, and plan to arrive earlyPsst...did you know early bird pricing is available for Summer Pops? Prices increase when you purchase at the gate, so make sure you buy your tickets before June rolls around! The Summer Pops series is a popular event every year, so you won't risk missing out on a great concert that sells out or having to wait in the purchase line.
With your tickets bought, plan to arrive early to enjoy the evening at the park. Summer Pops brings a large crowd of enthusiastic concert-goers each week, so the best spots on the lawn get snatched up when the gates open at 5 pm. Make sure to arrive early and claim your spot. Then, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy dinner and the preshow at 7!
Reserve your lawn space for the VIP experienceWant to avoid the rush altogether? Reserve your lawn space and arrive whenever you want! New this year, subscribe to all four Summer Pops concerts and your own pod-style space will be waiting for you each week. A subscriber check-in station will allow you to skip the general admission lines. Available in 2-person, 4-person, 6-person, and 8-person pods, you'll enjoy a premium location front and center on the lawn. Get your family or friends together, because the larger the pod, the less you'll pay per person! You'll want to claim your space early -- pods are selling quickly, and only available until June 2 or until premium spaces sell out. Learn more about pods here.
Dine like a proThe seasoned Summer Pops fan knows food is an essential part of the Summer Pops experience. At Symphony Park, you've got great options for dinner! Reid's Fine Foods inside SouthPark Mall offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, and gourmet entrees until 8 pm on Sundays, and you'll find street food staples like hot dogs and ice cream at food trucks in the parking lot just outside Symphony Park! Whatever you choose to grab or bring to eat, a blanket or low-backed lawn chairs and a cooler are key to dining comfortably in the park. Beer and wine are allowed, too, so you're welcome to sip your favorite drink as you enjoy music under the stars.
Don't forget water, sunscreen, and bug sprayIf you've experienced summer in Charlotte, you know having fun in the sun means planning to bring the trio of essentials: water, sunscreen, and bug spray. The Symphony Park lawn is uncovered and open to the elements, so don't forget to pack your bag and cooler accordingly!
Carpool or use rideshareSeveral lots at SouthPark Mall and around Symphony Park offer free parking, but spaces fill up fast. When practical, carpooling and ridesharing are encouraged for easy access to and from the park. So catch a ride with friends or grab a Lyft or Uber right to the check-in tent.
Ready to enjoy Summer Pops? Buy your tickets or pod now (you Summer Pops pro, you!), and for any other lingering questions, check out the Summer Pops FAQs. We can't wait to see you at Symphony Park!
Last week, the young students from Charlotte Bilingual Preschool held their final music concert -- a performance three years in the making! The partnership between the Charlotte Symphony and Charlotte Bilingual Preschool began just five weeks before the pandemic forced students to go remote. The CSO quickly pivoted, integrating music education into the school's literacy objectives via online instruction. Despite the challenges, the program was a success! Teachers observed the students improve their connection between language and music education and expand their musical skills, including instrument position, rhythm, and intonation.
At their final -- and first in-person -- performance of the year, these young musicians played variations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on box violins while Charlotte Symphony musicians assisted. We're so proud of all of their hard work and look forward to helping more future musicians learn and grow.
Photos by Mical Hutson Read more
Jessica Cottis returns to the Charlotte Symphony on March 24 & 25 to lead the Orchestra and Charlotte Master Chorale in Mendelssohn's Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), A Symphony-Cantata. The work premiered in 1840 as the culmination of a festival in Leipzig celebrating the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg's printing press. Robert Schumann attended the premiere and reported on the similarities between Lobgesang and Beethoven's Ninth, "save for the distinguishing difference that the three orchestral movements proceed without any pause between them -- an innovation in the symphonic form. No better form could have been selected for this special purpose."
Here, Charlotte Master Chorale Artistic Director Kenney Potter shares some insight on this incredible work and how the Chorale is preparing.
|For those who are unfamiliar with this work, what should they expect?
Triumphant music that expresses the text of Psalm 150 beautifully. The listener will hear first the trombones state the main theme of the work, which is sung with the text of Psalm 150 ("Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord.") What I find interesting is that the trombone is the horn of choice for many German speakers vs. trumpets. A good example is in the Mozart Requiem, where the Tuba Mirum "final days" theme is played by the trombone (this is due to Luther's translation that the trombone signaled the last days). I think it was a purposeful decision to utilize the trombones.
What do you make of the comparisons between Mendelssohn's Lobgesang to Beethoven's Symphony No. 9?
There are obvious similarities, since the listener will hear three orchestra movements (labeled in traditional format) followed by a choral movement. The difference is that Mendelssohn himself labeled this work as a "symphony-cantata on words of the Holy Bible for soloists, choir, and orchestra."
What does it take to prepare the Charlotte Master Chorale for a work of this scope?
Compared to Beethoven 9, there is more material to prepare. Also, Mendelssohn was more understanding of the voices and their ranges and capabilities. Beethoven is extremely challenging for vocalists due to the extreme ranges, particularly for the sopranos.
What are your favorite moments in the work?
The opening chorus, the utilization and treatment of the "Now Thank We All Our God" tune in the eighth movement, and the final fugue.
What are you looking forward to most about this performance?
It is always a joy to collaborate with the Charlotte Symphony, especially on works that our Charlotte audience needs to hear!
The Charlotte Symphony and Charlotte Master Chorale perform Mendelssohn Hymn of Praise on March 24 & 25 at Belk Theater -- Get tickets today!
In February 1950, The Charlotte Observer reported that a new Charlotte Symphony Women's Association would soon be incorporated with the aim of building and developing cultural activities in the Charlotte area through music. Mrs. Joseph A. Elliott Jr., who was temporary chairman of the association, called for "housewives, civic workers, businesswomen, and representatives from all facets of the city's population to join and help build a love of music."
Seventy-three years later, the renamed Symphony Guild of Charlotte is continuing that mission. With over 100 active members, The Guild has provided substantial financial and volunteer support over the years with an emphasis on supporting the CSO's Youth Orchestra and Education programs.
At a recent get-together over coffee, some of The Guild's longest-serving members -- many of them past Presidents -- shared fond memories of how they came to be involved with The Guild, and the many members they met who soon became friends. Much of the conversation, and laughter, centered on The Guild's most successful -- and laborious -- fundraising venture: The Designer Show House.
Started in 1972 to raise funds for the Symphony's school concerts and Youth Orchestra, the first Designer Show House took place in a stately home on Park Road, now part of Forest Hill Church. Members of the Guild partnered with the Carolinas Chapter of the American Institute of Interior Designers to refurbish the home and make it available to the public for 3 weeks. Music was provided by Charlotte Symphony musicians and a shuttle bus took visitors to the house from SouthPark. The Charlotte Observer reported that it was the first fundraiser of its kind in Charlotte, but it took a toll on the members, who had to fill 650 volunteer slots, working as hostesses and staffing the basement tearoom. However, the venture was a success, raising $16,000 for the Symphony -- enough to keep the fundraiser going for 38 years before undergoing a facelift and becoming today's Heart of the Home Tour, which features tours of multiple homes in the Charlotte area.
Heart of the Home Tour 2019
It's obvious how proud the members are of their contributions as they reminisce over "their houses" -- the ones that were designed under their leadership. Recalling details of the rooms, designers' names, and how large the crowds were. It's even more obvious the fondness that the members have for each other.
Past President Linda Weisbruch remembers feeling a bit at sea after moving to Charlotte from Los Angeles in 1987. She decided to volunteer at the Designer House down the block from her home. She recalled that by the end of that first evening, she was in the back room counting the money. "They just said 'come on in, join us!' It was such a great organization and welcoming. So many of my friends come from being in The Guild, and I've had so many opportunities to do things I've never done before, being chair of a Designer House, being President of The Guild, and President of the Volunteer Council at the League of American Orchestras. None of that would have happened without me being bold enough to go down the street and ask to volunteer. I've gained a lot of very deeply loved friends."
Now, after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Heart of the Home Tour is returning March 31-April 1. The two-day tour will include six beautiful homes featuring their kitchens and outdoor entertaining spaces which showcase trends for kitchen makeovers, bold design, and sustainable materials, along with fresh inspiration for entertaining indoors or out. Tour-goers will enjoy tastings from local chefs, sample signature beverages, and explore flower and jewelry options from local artisans while visiting six spectacular homes.
Proceeds allow The Symphony Guild to support the Charlotte Symphony, its youth orchestras, and The Guild's award-winning youth music education initiatives.
"I think it's vitally important that a community our size has a volunteer organization to support our Symphony," Woolf McCrory points out. "Because our symphony is so vital to the arts in our community, and a lot of people don't quite understand the impact they have. The symphony is an incredible gem to the arts in Charlotte."
Heart of the Home Details:
Taste of the Tour Party & Silent Auction
Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at 5:30-8:30 pm
Ferguson's South End Showroom (129 West Summit Avenue)
Tickets are available for purchase online for $50 per person with a special rate of $40 for guests under 40.
Heart of the Home Tour
Friday, March 31, 5-8:30 pm and Saturday, April 1, 10 am-4 pm
Tickets are available for purchase online for $35 per person
Learn more about The Symphony Guild of Charlotte, including how to become a member, at symphonyguildcharlotte.org.
|Older Posts »
- Composer Spotlight: Nia Imani Franklin
- More Famous Than Mozart: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
- Art in Motion: Rosalia Torres-Weiner Chosen to Design CSO Roadshow
- Announcing Kwamé Ryan as the Charlotte Symphony’s Next Music Director
- Photos: Charlotte Symphony Annual Gala and Concert
- Five Must-See Concerts of the 2023-24 Season
- 5 Pro Tips for the Best Summer Pops Experience
- A Preschool Performance Three Years in the Making
- Kenney Potter on Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang
- A Tradition Returns to Charlotte: The Symphony Guild of Charlotte’s Heart of the Home Tour