Sound of Charlotte Blog

SLIDESHOW: Celebrating America

The Charlotte Symphony welcomed over 4,000 fans to Truist Field to Celebrate America with an evening of patriotic favorites and fireworks. Concertgoers enjoyed the North Carolina premiere of Fanfare for Democracy, a work performed at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration; works by Aaron Copland, John Williams, and more; an appearance by Charlotte Knights' mascot Homer the Dragon; and a spectacular fireworks finale. (Photos by Laura Wolff for the Charlotte Knights)

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It's a beautiful day to Celebrate America in Uptown Charlotte as CSO musicians take their places on the field and begin their warm-up.
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Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees and the Charlotte Symphony kick off the concert with a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
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Jim Stephenson's Fanfare for Democracy receives its North Carolina premiere in front of an audience more than 4,000 strong. The work was commissioned for the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris in January 2021.
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The audience cheers as the CSO performs Morton Gould's American Salute performed tonight in tribute to the bravery of America's frontline and essential workers.
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Christopher James Lees came to play, showing off the Charlotte Knights jersey he stealthily hid under his white jacket before launching into works by Aaron Copland and Leroy Anderson.
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A night at the ballpark is never complete without the 7th inning stretch! Tonight, Homer the Dragon leads the crowd in a boisterous performance of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
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Christopher James Lees takes back the baton to lead the Orchestra in Grainger's "Molly On the Shore," "A Chorus Line" by Marvin Hamlisch, and Duke Ellington's "A Medley for Orchestra."
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Not to be outdone, Homer the Dragon returns to the field to conduct one of Sousa's most well-known marches, "The Thunderer," while an enthusiastic crowd clapped along.
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Christopher James Lees brings the concert to a close by acknowledging three retiring musicians, each of whom has been a member of the CSO for over 40 years!
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Violinist Judith Ledbetter, a member for 42 years.
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Cellist Janis Nilsen, a member for 41 years.
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Bassoonist Lori Tibero, a member for 44 years.
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A fireworks finale lights up the night sky in Uptown Charlotte.
 
 
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Posted in Community, Summer. Tagged as community.

Celebrate America with Your Charlotte Symphony


The Charlotte Symphony takes the field on June 25 to Celebrate America with an evening of patriotic favorites and memorable anthems and marches. Truist Field, home of the Charlotte Knights, will be rocking with an all-star lineup of works by Aaron Copland, John Williams, Duke Ellington, and more. And what better way to cap off a celebration of America than with a spectacular fireworks display in the home of America's favorite pastime!
Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees will kick off the concert by leading the CSO in Jim Stephenson's Fanfare for Democracy, a work premiered at the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris in January 2021.

World Premiere of Jim Stephenson's Fanfare for Democracy at the 59th Presidential Inauguration, Jan. 20, 2021.

The concert continues with Morton Gould's American Salute, a tribute to the bravery of America's frontline and essential workers.

The United States Air Force Symphony Orchestra performs Morton Gould's American Salute.

Christopher James Lees and the CSO will dedicate John Williams's "With Malice Toward None" to the memory of those who have lost their lives during the pandemic. This piece comes from the critically acclaimed film Lincoln and the title refers to a line from the second inaugural speech of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. John Williams chose to set a trumpet solo for this scene -- which will be performed by Principal Trumpet Alex Wilborn -- to remind listeners of its evocations of bugle calls, trumpet annunciations, and the death call of Taps. 

"The President's Own" United States Marine Band Performs Williams's With Malice Toward None from Lincoln.

The evening will also include popular works by power hitters Leroy Anderson, Aaron Copland, Percy Grainger, Marvin Hamlisch, and Duke Ellington. And we'll keep an eye out for pinch-hitter and Charlotte Knights mascot Homer the Dragon.  


In the bottom of the ninth, the CSO will serve up a grand slam of marches by John Philip Sousa, including Stars and Stripes Forever, followed by a spectacular fireworks display that will light up the Uptown sky. 

We hope you and your families will join us for a fantastic evening of music and fireworks under the stars!
Celebrate America is presented in partnership with

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Posted in Community, Summer. Tagged as community.

What I have learned (and am learning) as a professional musician


By Violinist Jenny Topilow

As an orchestral player and violinist, like all musicians, I have a long list of compositions that I turn to time and time again for emotional and aesthetic fulfillment on a personal level; works that are particularly beautiful and/or satisfying to me. These pieces include the late Beethoven Quartets, Stravinsky's "Petrushka," Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," Shostakovich Symphony No. 10, the Bartok Quartets, Debussy's "La Mer," Caroline Shaw's "Partita for Eight Voices," and Andy Akiho's "21," to name a few. 

It's funny to think, however, that the most memorable and important moments that I have had as a member of the Charlotte Symphony really have nothing to do with my list of favorite works. The most poignant experiences of my tenure as a musician are exactly that, experiences; experiences that have deeply moved me, changed my perception, taught me, connected me to those around me, and have brought me closer to my community.

Major side note: I'm not a huge fan of the term "classical music" as I feel that "classical" is simply a descriptor of a specific era in Western music (i.e. Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms). I would never discount the absolute brilliance of those composers, yet the breadth of what is coined as "classical music" encompasses so much more than what the antiquated term has to offer. Maybe "orchestral music" and "art music," etc., could serve our purposes better.

But, I digress, because even if I personally believe it's outdated, I still call myself a "classical musician," since the label itself is the most recognized tag for what I do -- interpret and play music written by other people. In that sense, we are more like actors; we are not creators, we are not artists (in my opinion), but we have devoted ourselves to creators and artists. So at its core, even though it is vast, every orchestra on the planet plays music from a finite pool of works. That being said, what I have learned is that it is not the music (alone) that makes an orchestra, but the community that it is part of. The Charlotte Symphony belongs to all of Charlotte; every member of the community should feel ownership of the organization and all arts organizations throughout the city. It's this sense of ownership that builds commitment, connection, and those beautiful, profound experiences through music that are transcendent, beyond the notes on the page. All art for all people.

It would be remiss of me to not give personal examples of music plus circumstance making for meaningful experience. Here are two:
  1. The CSO accompanied the Morehouse College Glee Club in a performance of Atlanta based composer Joel Thompson's "Seven Last Words of the Unarmed," a work that uses the liturgical format of Haydn's "Seven Last Words of Christ" to honor and humanize black men unjustly murdered, namely Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Kenneth Chamberlain, Amadou Diallo, and John Crawford. It is a sobering piece that reminds us of how powerful art can be when inspired by, and dedicated to, relevant and pertinent issues. The experience of the performance connected everyone in the room through a shared understanding of the necessity of the message and the emotion of that message being delivered through song by those directly affected by the theme of the work.

  2. Last season the CSO started a series called CSO Off the Rails, where smaller ensembles curate programs to be played at Snug Harbor, a local club/bar/music venue and Charlotte staple. Essentially standing room only with a small stage about three feet off the ground, these shows are really an immersive and interactive experience, bringing what we do to an audience that wouldn't necessarily seek out music at a concert hall. The success of the series, the energy surrounding it, and the electric atmosphere in the room during performances has solidified in my mind that "classical music" is completely accessible to everyone when we remove the formality and actively engage with the community.
These are just a few examples of many, and I feel unendingly grateful to be in a field where these experiences are not only possible, but essential. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

Playing for the Panthers

We got a kick out of opening this Sunday's Carolina Panthers game with a rousing rendition of The National Anthem. The game may have been a loss for the Panthers, but it was a win for Byron Johns (French horn), Alex Wilborn, Jonathan Kaplan (trumpet), Thomas Burge (trombone), and Scott Hartman (bass trombone), who didn't fumble a single note. Go team!

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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

The path to playing professionally, by CSO Violist Viara Stefanova


Making music isn't like listening to music. It isn't like anything else in life. It is something very special for all musicians. It's our life, our call, and our love. Experiencing the power of playing on stage is unlike any other experience or feeling. There is so much meaning in the melodies and harmonies we play; it's a world of constant discoveries of the human's state of mind, heart, and soul. Once we've been on stage, we can never forget it, and we keep doing it no matter how many challenges we might face.

It all starts in our childhood. At first we're curious and excited about the instrument we pick. We learn a couple of songs and then some harder songs, and it's all good and still exciting. Later on, when we are ready to play not just songs, but some classical repertoire, the real challenge appears. Sometimes practicing seems tedious, tiring, and frustrating. Many times it felt like we would never get it right, no matter how hard we tried. Day after day, after hours of practicing, we would find out how much perseverance, patience, and determination we would need to achieve a higher level of understanding and perform the music we love. The more we played though, the more difficult it got and the more we knew that our love for music would take us to an unimaginable beauty. Before we learned any piece of music, we would have to study the different styles, forms, and structure of the music.

Once we were in college we continued to learn how to practice efficiently and wisely; what to do to avoid the sore muscles and physical pains from over practicing. We would continue with even more patience and would keep pressing on, since the professional auditions are tough. We had to compete with hundreds of fellow musicians for one spot in the orchestra. We had to stay healthy emotionally after we failed an audition and learn how to deal with it.

"The more we played though, the more difficult it got and the more we knew that our love for music would take us to an unimaginable beauty."

The more challenging it got, the more fascinated we were, and the better we understood the incredible genius of the composers. Every chord, every harmony is there for a purpose. The complicated works by composers like Brahms, Mahler, or Tchaikovsky are difficult not only technically but also musically. A performer needs to be experienced and mature to understand the music and perform it the way it's meant to be performed. The simple melodies of the classical composers like Mozart or Beethoven are even harder to perform because it takes a world to achieve the lightness and simplicity of their music. Every note is so exposed, every slip of the finger can be heard. It all takes a practice-until-perfection approach. And even though we can't be perfect, we continuously aim for it. There is no other way to play an exceptional work of art.

So, we do whatever it takes to bring to life the amazing music that influences people's lives; because we understand what a great privilege it is to perform works written by some of the most extraordinary minds born on this earth. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians.

Celebrating the Power of Women in Art

A special collaboration between the Charlotte Symphony and The Mint Museum



In celebration of The Mint Museum's new installation, Foragers, the Charlotte Symphony and The Mint partnered with Wells Fargo to create a short film that unites the visual and performing arts. 

The artistic collaboration features Charlotte Symphony violinist Jenny Topilow, violist Alaina Rea, cellist Sarah Markle, and harpist Andrea Mumm Trammell performing works by Arvo Pärt and Caroline Shaw in front of Summer Wheat's contemporary work of art in the Mint's Robert Haywood Morrison Atrium.

We welcome you to experience the power of women in art presented at the intersection of art, architecture, and music.

This special presentation is brought to you by Wells Fargo, The Private Bank.
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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

CLTSymphony X Beatties Ford Strong



This fall, CSO musicians and the Beatties Ford Strong Project came together to create a video project that was inspired by and features the music of Brooklyn-based violinist and composer Jessica Montgomery, and showcases the Beatties Ford Strong Project, violinist/composer Lady Jess, musicians of the Charlotte Symphony, and Charlotte-based artists. 

Below, we hear from CSO violinist Jenny Topilow, educator/artist/social activist Ricky Singh, and Charlotte-based artists on how the collaboration was conceived, their reactions, and what comes next.


"We have been referring to the project as CLTSymphony X Beatties Ford Strong" Ricky says. "The X is intentional, for we feel that a title that is purposefully not combined respects each entity as having its own identity, and also allows for either side of the equation to be replaced or modified as the project evolves to encourage further community engagement."



"I've always been enamored with public art," Jenny shares, "murals and such that everyone can enjoy by simply being a member of the community; beautiful pieces by talented artists that become interwoven throughout the landscape and make a place more vibrant and colorful."

In February of this year, a quartet of CSO musicians played Jessie Montgomery's Strum for a CSO Off the Rails concert at Snug Harbor. According to Jenny:

We completely fell in love with the piece. We were slated to play it again, but when the pandemic hit, that performance was of course canceled. So, it occurred to me that it would be a lovely marriage to record 'Strum,' during this new virtual age, in front of public art in Charlotte, specifically works created by people of color.

Excited about the idea, I reached out to a muralist friend of mine, who got me in touch with Ricky Singh. Ricky is an artist, educator, community leader/activist, and one of the founders of the Beatties Ford Strong/Historic West End Project, an initiative to beautify neglected areas of the city through public art paired with community ownership, brought about as a reaction to the June 19, 2020 massacre on Beatties Ford Road, where four people were killed and several others injured.

My introduction to Ricky was the catalyst for the project to really take flight through intentional collaboration. We communicate well and ended up making a good team; we are mutually intent on the vision and are invested in being proactive and bringing the best of what we know to the table. All that being said, there is no way for me to truly express how grateful I am to Ricky. He is a beacon within the Charlotte community, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have formed a partnership with him.

There are so many artistic circles throughout Charlotte that are too often separated by class and race. The purpose of this project is to bring some of those circles together; not for one to overshadow another, not for one to do the other a favor, not for one to mold to the other, but for local creatives to do what they love all within the same space. We are committed to having more multi-faceted performances throughout Charlotte, through the lens of all art being accessible to all people, and with the ultimate objective of limitless circles overlapping to create a more connected city.


"My experience with the project was nothing like I ever experienced before," Artist Michael Grant shares. "This project captured both classical art and visual arts simultaneously. As an artist this project made me feel valuable and appreciated. It was such an honor to be a part of this moment of history and to collaborate with great artists as well." 

Artist Makayla Binter also shares that "[the project] was just so pure and enjoyable because of the connection between artistic forms, and just the positive energy that creating makes. It was a great experience to live paint and also meet some very talented artists in music that I had never met before."


Ricky and Jenny plan to unveil the finished video at an event on a large screen, where they would also auction off the pieces of art created during filming. It is not finalized, but they are hoping to utilize a space like Camp Northend, where people can come to a beautiful outdoor area and celebrate in a Covid-safe way. All proceeds would go to provide local youth programming tied to the arts. 

Credits:


Organized by Ricky Singh and Jenny Topilow

Featured Artists:
Michael Grant (@infamous_kiddo)
Makayla Binter (
@mkay_15)
Ricky Singh (
@mrrickysingh)
DJ Pauly Guwop (
@djpaulyguwop)
Lord Phly (
@lordphly)
Lute West (
@lute_west9)
Dancer: Jessica Thompson (
@babyhairprincess)
Spoken Word: Hannah Hasan (
@iamhannahhasan)
CSO Musicians: Jenny Topilow, violin; Lenora Leggatt, violin; Ben Geller, viola; and Sarah Markle, cello

Videographer/video & sound editor:

Bob Rydel
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Posted in Community. Tagged as community, CSO Musicians.

How to Access CSO Virtual Concerts


A Purchaser's/Subscriber's Guide to Accessing CSO Virtual Concerts

We are thrilled to offer you the best seat in YOUR house to our new virtual concert series this season. If you're tuning in for the first time or coming back to watch again, keep reading for more information on how to enjoy the concert from the comfort of your own home.

How to Access CSO Virtual Concerts

 
Step 1:
A few days prior to the concert release date, you will receive an email from your Charlotte Symphony that includes a link to a password protected page on the CSO website. Simply click or tap the link to open the page.



Step 2:
After clicking the access link, enter the username and password provided in the email. Important: The username and password are case sensitive. Copy and paste when possible to avoid mistakes.



Step 3:
You're in! After successfully entering the login credentials, you will be able to view the concert on our website. Press the play button and enjoy! Important: The concert video will appear exactly at the stated start time. You may need to refresh the page (This icon  next to your address bar) for the video to appear.



Your access to each concert lasts for seven days, so feel free to watch again and again!
For more information about how to access the virtual concert from a variety of devices, including your computer, phone, or smart TV, please click here.

If you have any issues accessing the stream, please contact Patron Services at 704.972.2000 or ticketoffice@charlottesymphony.org. Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as community, Virtual Concerts.

SLIDESHOW: A Home Run at Truist Field

Your Charlotte Symphony hit a home run at Truist Field on Saturday! Concert-goers were greeted by Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and enjoyed a beautiful program celebrating Charlotte with special appearances by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Wiggins, Charlotte Symphony Brass, and Charlotte Knight's mascot Homer the Dragon before enjoying a big fireworks finale. (Photos by Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights unless otherwise noted.)

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It's a beautiful day in Uptown Charlotte as staff and musicians get ready for the concert on the infield.
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Workers from Atrium Health check temperatures before concertgoers head into Truist Field to find their seats.
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Charlotte Symphony President & CEO David Fisk meets with TV crews for interviews in the press box. (photo courtesy of the Charlotte Symphony)
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Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles welcomes the crowd under a skyline lit in CSO teal for the occasion.
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The night's soloist, Jennifer Wiggins opens the concert with a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
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Music Director Christopher Warren-Green conducts the CSO in Nkeiru Okoye's Charlotte Mecklenburg, a piece commissioned by the Symphony on the occasion of Charlotte's 250th anniversary.
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Ms. Wiggins performs Che faro senza Euridice from Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice.
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The Orchestra receives a standing ovation after a moving performance of Barber's Adagio for Strings.
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Uh-oh... General Manager John Clapp has paused the concert for a conference on the mound with Warren-Green and Concertmaster Calin Lupanu.
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In the meantime, Charlotte Knights mascot Homer the Dragon leads the crowd in an enthusiastic chorus of "Take me out to the ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch.
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After hitting it out of the part, Christopher Warren-Green takes one more swing for the fences before passing the proverbial baton to the Charlotte Symphony Brass.
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Trumpet players Alex Wilborn and Jon Kaplan, French horn player Andrew Fierova, trombonist Tom Burge, and bass trombone player Scott Hartman came on in relief to finish the show.
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After performing works by The Beatles, Leonard Bernstein, and Duke Ellington, the Charlotte Symphony Brass Players waved to a roaring crowd.
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Fireworks light up the sky in Uptown Charlotte.
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Socially-distanced fans enjoy a noisy and illuminating grand finale before heading home.
 
 

Find out how you can experience your Charlotte Symphony in-person or from the comfort of your own home! Explore our Reimagined Fall Season hereRead more

Posted in Community. Tagged as community.

A Home Run for Charlotte



The Charlotte Symphony will be sliding into a new home base on October 24 when we perform "A Concert for Charlotte" a special live event presented in partnership with the Charlotte Knights at Truist Field. The event is designed to celebrate Charlotte and bring our community back together safely through the power of music.

Under the baton of Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, "A Concert for Charlotte" will open with the Star Spangled Banner, sung by Charlotte-based opera singer Jennifer Wiggins. Wiggins will also step up to the plate to perform Che faro senza Euridice from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice. She had this to say about being part of this special event: 

"This performance at Truist Field will not only be my debut with CSO, but also will be the first time I've performed for a live audience since February. I'm excited for the opportunity to share my voice with Charlotte and to collaborate with an amazing group of world class musicians. I hope that the piece that I perform will allow people to find closure from any heartbreak they might be experiencing and help them realize it's okay to mourn the ones you've loved and lost."
Jennifer Wiggins
The concert will continue its celebration of Charlotte with Nkeiru Okoye's Charlotte Mecklenburg -- a piece commissioned by the Charlotte Symphony on the occasion of Charlotte's 250th anniversary which reflects the rich and diverse history of the city -- Rossini's Overture to L'Italiana in Algeri, Jessie Montgomery's Starburst, Barber's Adagio for Strings, John Williams's Air and Simple Gifts, and the final movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

Finish the night with some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and enjoy a brilliant fireworks display that will light up the Uptown sky. 

Music Director Christopher Warren-Green said, "My hope is that everyone will join us at A Concert for Charlotte so that we can come together again through the power of music." Read more

Posted in Community. Tagged as community.

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