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Sound of Charlotte Blog

Rondo from Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp

Principal Flutist, Elizabeth Landon and Principal Harpist, Andrea Mumm perform the Rondo from Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp during the performances of "A Little Knight Music" on March 28.  The piece is one of only two true double concertos that the composer wrote. The full concerto contains three movements: Allegro, Andantino and Rondo Allegro.
Charlotte Symphony has only played the full concerto once, back in March of 1965. Since this a somewhat rare piece for the orchestra to perform, we asked Elizabeth and Andrea their thoughts.
Andrea "I'm excited to play this Mozart concerto since it is the only piece of music he ever composed for harp!  This piece was a commission by a Parisian duke for himself (a flutist) and his eldest daughter who was a harpist.  At the time, the combination of flute and harp was not common, and even considered an odd pairing since the harp wasn't an orchestral instrument and wasn't highly regarded by Mozart.  Thanks to this concerto and many other pieces since, the combination of flute and harp is now standard in literature (good for me and Liz!)."
Elizabeth "The sound and color combination of the flute and harp is very special. What a treat to perform this work in the intimate Knight Theater which has been fashioned to resemble a palatial living room. Our patrons will feel like royalty!"

Apparently, after hearing the Mozart 'Concerto for Flute and Harp,' Viennese composer Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf remarked, "I have never yet met a composer who had such an amazing wealth of ideas: I could almost wish he were not so lavish in using them. He leaves his hearer out of breath; for hardly has he grasped one beautiful thought when one of greater fascination dispels the first, and this goes on throughout." [1]  We look forward to grasping many beautiful thoughts with Andrea, Elizabeth and Charlotte Symphony when they perform this piece Friday evening.  
Learn more about Andrea Mumm
Learn more about Elizabeth Landon

A Little Knight Music, with Lunch

Photo by Logan Cyrus
It's not music or lunch, it's music and lunch (or music and cocktails if you attend the evening concert)! With the Brown Bag Matinees and KnightSounds, Charlotte Symphony Music Director Christopher Warren-Green says "it's all about making classical music accessible to as many people as possible."

Maestro Warren-Green and the Charlotte Symphony will perform A Little Knight Music at noon and again at 7:30 pm on Friday, March 28 in Knight Theater at the Levine Center for the Performing Arts.
Starry pieces Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music) and two movements from Serenata Notturna, as well as the rondo from Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp featuring Principal Flute Elizabeth Landon and Principal Harp Andrea Mumm, comprise the mostly-Mozart program. The concerts will aptly close with Joseph Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony, complete with the ceremonial disappearance of the musicians, true to Haydn's original intent (that's a whole other story!).

If you've never been to the symphony, you might be concerned about what to wear or when to clap. If you're a regular concertgoer, you might dread the thought of stifling a cough, especially if you forget to--gasp--unwrap your throat lozenges before the music starts!

Forget all that.

Now try to imagine a maestro welcoming your peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich in the concert hall...
Starting at noon and lasting just under an hour, the Brown Bag Matinee is a perfect mid-day break. And yes, you can actually eat in the theater while the Symphony plays.

The Charlotte Symphony is dedicated to enriching the community through live orchestral music. To that end, Warren-Green wanted to relieve barriers of budget, time and comfort with the matinees.
For only $12, the short, noon-time concerts compete less with lunch, work and weekend schedules and do not require a late-night outing. Such a package is a win for many music lovers, including uptown professionals, savvy spenders, senior citizens, symphony newcomers, families with pre-school aged children and student groups.
The Symphony had a successful soft launch of the Brown Bag Matinees this past October; the March 28
matinee is the second, and the next corresponds with the May 9, 2014 Carnivale KnightSounds.
Like all KnightSounds programs, $29 general admission to the 7:30 pm performance includes a free drink
and pre-and-post-concert happenings. Discovery Place, Charlotte's science and technology museum, is
cohosting the evening event and will provide activities and demonstrations related to luminescence.

Tagged as Christopher Warren-Green, KnightSounds.

Volunteer Spotlight – Charles Craig

Volunteer Spotlight - Charles Craig
Hometown Born in Chicago, raised in Rock Hill
Describe your Role with the CSO Education Intern.
(CSO Staff Note: Charles has been involved with numerous projects thus far in his internship but the largest has been designing and building the Teachers Guide for our Education concerts on April 2, 2014. This is the first time the Guide has been entirely online (thanks to our newly designed website!) and we couldn't be more pleased with the results of Charles' hard work. The response from the Teachers has been overwhelmingly positive!)
Where are you studying? I'm a senior at Winthrop University, majoring in Music Composition with a Business minor. I will graduate in May 2014.
What are your plans after graduation? Apply to NYU Steinhardt's Masters program in Film music at the end of 2014. In the meantime, work on projects already lined up around the Charlotte area and at Winthrop University.  
What would you eventually like to do? Work with interactive media, perhaps as a Music Producer or in the Film Industry as a Film Composer.
What instruments do/have you played? Several Bass, Piano and Trumpet. I played trumpet in marching band in High School.
What's your favorite part of volunteering with the CSO? Engaging with musicians and regularly attending the concerts. It was really enjoyable to meet composer Dan Locklair and join the Recital Seminar students at Northwest School of the Arts in meeting him as well. 

Posted in Education & Community. Tagged as volunteers.

The practice of practising

The following article appears on Stephen Hough's blog for The Telegraph and in the November/December issue of International Piano magazine.


Concert pianists spend much more of their lifetimes practising than they do playing concerts. It's not just that pieces need to be kept in the memory (muscle and mind), but the very act of playing the piano is physical and athletic. It involves reflex and endurance. It may be true that you never forget how to ride a bicycle, but if you and it are rusty there's not much hope of winning or even completing the Tour de France.

So we need to practise. But the key is how we make our time offstage best serve our briefer time onstage. A pianist who plays many concerts has little time to spare so it's important that those spare hours, even minutes, are used well.

My teacher, Gordon Green, used to say, "in practise a perfectionist, in performance a realist". In other words, prepare assiduously, tirelessly at home, but when onstage accept the situation at hand without wishing the piano were more in tune, the audience were more appreciative (or larger), you hadn't made a mess of that octave passage and so on.

But being a "realist" sounds rather prosaic when faced with bringing to poetic, passionate life the masterworks of master composers. I might put it differently from Gordon: in practice an engineer, in performance a pilot. Nuts and bolts in a plane are incomparably important, but when you sit at the cockpit of a Steinway concert grand your eyes need to look ahead not underneath.

The purpose of practising is so that we (offstage as engineers) make sure that we (onstage as pilots) are completely free to fly to the destination of our choice. That destination is one involving imagination and creativity and spirituality and danger and ecstasy of course, not merely the A to B of playing the notes, but without the nuts and bolts in place we will never be airborne. The greatest interpretative vision of the final pages of the final sonata of Beethoven will nosedive to oblivion if we can't play an even trill.


So, moving inside the hangar, spanner at the ready, how do we practise? There are as many answers to that question as pieces in our repertoire, but maybe some signposts can help:

Relish the task, whether beginning to learn a piece or whether revising one long familiar. Examine the score like a rabbi poring over a rare parchment. Decode the message behind the notation. Map out the journey. Look for the obstacles. Know the (good) tradition of historical evidence; distrust the (bad) tradition of 'its always done like this'. You may be Brahms's secretary in the practice room, but on stage you are his mouthpiece. And a composer's message is always more than words: it's a drama in which you and Brahms are as one character.

When starting to learn a piece I always write in fingerings. It aids memory, it emphasises the act of study, it discourages a sloppy "sight-read till ready" attitude, it forestalls nerves in a performance, it personalises the score. In the early years of a career we can be asked to step in at the last moment for a colleague who has cancelled. I remember an occasion when I was in my early 20s getting a call to play Bartok's 3rd concerto with the Chicago Symphony and Esa-Pekka Salonen. There was about a day's notice and I hadn't played the piece for a couple of years. I could accept the date because the nasty, twisting passage towards the end of the third movement was fingered and thus still in my motor memory. It saved me a couple of hours work when I only had 24 hours to pack my bags and fly across the Atlantic.

We need to know what might go wrong in a performance and why. There is no such thing as a difficult piece. There are merely moments in pieces which are problematic. The notorious coda of the 2nd movement of Schumann's Fantasie op. 17 is a good example:

A is easy for the left-hand, moderately tricky for the right; B is hard for both hands; C is a little easier for both because the 5th fingers land on black notes; D is easy for both. To face this passage like a rabbit looking into the headlights of an approaching car is totally counter-productive. We do not face a steamroller. There are four wheels (or two which are parallel) and if the rabbit is not in the line of these it can scamper off into the forest unscathed.

Slow practice can be a complete waste of time if the mind is not working quickly. Simply to trawl through passages like a contented tortoise is a waste of the felt on your piano's hammers. Good slow practice is more like a hare pausing to survey the scene sharp in analysis, watching through the blades of grass, calculating the next sprint. My favourite kind of slow practice is the half and half variety. For example in a semiquaver passage I will play four notes at performance tempo then four notes exactly half the speed then reverse the groups. It can sometimes be useful to do this with eight-note groups. It stops any tortoisian ambling and it focuses the mind quickly from one reflex to another. It is a hare with alert eyes.

There are two dangers to avoid in practising, firstly not to play as if you're onstage, filling the hours crashing through pieces without improvement. This is a common occurrence in conservatories Rachmaninov concertos pounded with adolescent passion and coarse, crude effects. But the second, more subtle danger is not to get stuck in a practising mode. This is related to mindless slow practice. All the focus when in the practice studio should be how we will play when in the concert hall. If something comes apart, don't stop immediately. Guide the skidding wheels around the crashing corner for another meter or two, despite the sparks and screeches. A common student scenario: music flying along; train wreck; a second of silence; start at point of accident; continue. The point where things broke down is the fragile spot, the dodgy seam. It needs sufficient overlap of material to be strong. Go back before the mistake and practise beyond the mistake then the mistake itself will be more safely repaired. Otherwise the very stopping and starting becomes a reflex an ingrained repetition of breakdown.

As important as it is to have strong fingers muscles, tendons, joints loose and lithe we need a strong mind too. Strong in concentration, on and off stage; ever striving for improvement, but relaxed when none seems to take place; aiming the dart tirelessly at every bullseye, but gentle and kind when it clatters to the floor. Muscles are effective when they are able to tense and relax at will, not just when they bulge in a ripple of aggression. This is true for the physical side of playing as well as for the mental challenges. The mind's clear vision is not a stare: it needs to be able to focus near and far with flexibility and wisdom.


There is a well-worn saying: practice makes perfect. I don't believe this, at least in reference to playing the piano: abstract "perfection" is rarely what we seek; but good practising makes it more likely that we will give a good performance. Its attention, its concentration, its tightening of the screws enable the concert experience to take wing in freedom.

Stephen Hough performed Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor with Charlotte Symphony on March 14 & 15, 2014. We were delighted for this artist's seventh appearance with us.

Posted in Classics. Tagged as guest artists.

Middle-school musicians get tips from a pro

  It might have otherwise been a normal day for six eighth-graders at Harris Road Middle School, but on Thursday, they walked into a classroom and played their horns with a Charlotte Symphony player. It was not the first time this has happened, though.

Horn player Andrew Fierova and the students had their fifth coaching session on Thursday, thanks to a grant band teacher Laura Shepherd received from Cabarrus County Education Foundation.

"I was looking for somebody who could come in and work with the French horn players," Shepherd said. "The symphony has French horn. I had exhausted all of my resources because all of my friends who could do it are teachers, too."

She said she wanted someone to work with those students because their instrument is tougher to master and play.

"If you've got someone who is an absolutely professional...they would explain things better than I would," Shepherd said.

She emailed Chris Stonnell, director of education for the Charlotte Symphony, and applied for a grant through Cabarrus County Education Foundation's classroom mini grant program.

"We encourage all Cabarrus County public school teachers to submit an application for a grant for a project they have in mind," said Rachel Wilkes, executive director for the foundation. "It's something that can't be covered in the school system itself."

This past year, the foundation awarded 31 grants at a total of almost $14,000, she said.

Shepherd said she had originally just wanted her students to play their music stronger and have better technique, but she said the students have gotten even more out of it.

"He has taught them more of what it's like to be a true musician," Shepherd said.

At their fifth session on Thursday, Fierova told the students that they were "light years ahead" of when he showed up at the first session.

Fierova added later that, on the first session, the students did not have an oral framework.

"I couldn't get the kids to sing the same note, and if they can't hear anything, they can't recreate it on the horn. ... Everything between now and then has been trying to get them to that point, to have the tools to use," Fierova said.

One of the first things Fierova said he did was to introduce an exercise that is like the game "telephone." The student on one end begins to play, the person next to them joins in and matches their note, and so on.

"Right off the bat, they realized they have to learn together," Fierova said.

He said he believed eighth-grader McKayla Blackwelder then said that, if one person does not play the right tune, everyone is wrong.

"One of them said, 'We have to start doing things together,'" Fierova said.

So far, the students have learned the basics, and he plans to focus on dealing with the pressures of performing and the students' future in music for the last sessions.

Fierova said he can relate to the students well because he is the second youngest member of the Charlotte Symphony and has a background in education. He is originally from Spartanburg, S.C., and received his bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina and a master's degree from the Juilliard School.

Eighth-grader Brycen Columbus said he felt like Fierova did a good job of working with the students.

"He has high expectations for us," Columbus said. "He makes us feel we can play and exceed and do great this with this instrument." "He gives us hope," said eighth-grader Clifford Maske.

While Charlotte Symphony regularly has coaching sessions in Mecklenburg County, this was the first time it has occurred in Cabarrus County, Stonnell said. The staff hopes to expand its coaching sessions to Cabarrus and Union counties, he added.

"We want to be more of a regional orchestra," Stonnell said.

Several of the Harris Road students said they have enjoyed receiving more individualized instruction to help develop their skills. They have been playing the horn for about a year and a half.

Blackwelder said the hardest part is having everyone work together as one, but she said she and her peers have gotten to know each other better and improved.

She, Columbus and Maske said they have not only improved their musical skills, but they have also learned life skills.

Blackwelder said she has learned better social skills, while Columbus said they have learned to work as a team.

"I feel like it teaches you to put your best foot forward," Maske said.

Shepherd said seeing the students gain additional skills makes the experience even more worth it.

"They have seen how their relationship with one another affects their playing, and to me, that was an incredible breakthrough," Shepherd said. "And if they can relate that to a job in the future or going to college, then we're really doing something good."

This article originally appeared on http://www.independenttribune.com, written by Jessica Groover Pacek jgroover@independenttribune.com

Posted in Education & Community.