Sound of Charlotte Blog
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But, I digress, because even if I personally believe it's outdated, I still call myself a "classical musician," since the label itself is the most recognized tag for what I do -- interpret and play music written by other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:
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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 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.
"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."
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
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.
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:
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.
Organized by Ricky Singh and Jenny Topilow
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:
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more
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.)
Find out how you can experience your Charlotte Symphony in-person or from the comfort of your own home! Explore our Reimagined Fall Season here. Read more
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."||
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
By Gene Kavadlo, former principal clarinetist of the Charlotte Symphony
As the orchestra was rehearsing, the loud sound of a vacuum cleaner in the lobby was becoming increasingly annoying. Finally, the conductor asked his assistant, a rather diminutive fellow, to see if he could do something about it. Jordan went to the lobby. Suddenly there was a THWAP! and the annoying sound stopped abruptly. Without missing a beat, Jim said "Oh no, now we're going to have to get Jordan out of the bag." Anyone who knew Jim knew that he was the sharpest wit in the room. My children, now in their 40's, always referred to him as "our Jim." Our Jim succumbed to a 17 year battle with cancer on August 11, 2020.
I first met Jim in our student days at Indiana University during the 1960's. After college Jim served four years in the military as a member of the US Marine Band and White House Orchestra, and I went on to become the Principal Clarinetist of the Charlotte Symphony in N.C. One day I got a call that started with "You probably don't remember me..." It was Jim, and of course I knew exactly who he was. He had taken an audition with the Charlotte Symphony and won the job - beginning a fabulous eight year relationship as colleagues in the same Orchestra. It was in the Charlotte Symphony that Jim started playing the bass clarinet. There had been an older gentleman playing, but his skills were declining. One day the instrument fell over as it was resting in its stand, and Jim declared that it had committed suicide.
When Jim won a job at the MET I had very mixed feelings. I didn't want to lose my dear colleague, but he certainly couldn't pass up a career move like that. Before leaving Charlotte Jim found out that one of his first assignments would be to play the basset horn obligato from Mozart's Clemenza di Tito. Jim had never played the basset horn, nor heard Clemenza di Tito. We listened to a recording in my living room (before YouTube days), and Jim burst out laughing. When I asked him what was so funny, he said "I'm so glad I get to play this at the MET before I play it someplace really important." Naturally, his performance several weeks later was superb. Thus began his 33 year tenure as Principal Bass Clarinetist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Jim's playing can be heard on numerous Grammy award winning Metropolitan Orchestra recordings, including Wagner's Ring Cycle on Deutsche Gramophone. He was also a member of the All-Star Orchestra made up of leading players from major American Orchestras. He served many summers in the Spoleto, Grand Teton, Bard, Napa Valley and Verbier festivals, and was an instructor at Julliard.
Former Principal Oboist of the MET, John Ferrillo, visited Jim a few days before he passed and played some beautiful oboe music for him. This is a story from John: "When Jim was stationed with the Marine Band in DC, he was dating an oboist. On a number of occasions he would make the 3 hour drive to Philly to bring her to her lesson with John deLancie, first oboist for the Philadelphia Orchestra. On one of those drives he needed to use the bathroom; when he asked permission, Mr. deLanci told him no.
"Years later, Mr. and Madame deLancie came to the MET. They were ardent opera fans. At the end of one of the performances, they met me at the gift shop. Before we parted company, he asked me who was playing the basset horn in Clemenza di Tito two broadcasts ago. I was delighted - 'funny you should mention him; that was my close friend, Jim Ognibene.' 'Well...let me tell you - that was some of the finest woodwind playing I have ever heard!' 'Why, Mr. deLancie, that's Jim coming through the doors right there.' Mr. deLancie insisted on taking Jim aside and spoke avidly to him for a number of minutes. For Jim it was one of the greatest accolades he'd ever received."
Later that night, I called Jim. Of course, I knew the line was coming. "I thought the time was right for me to ask if I could use his bathroom now."
Now you can enjoy your Charlotte Symphony from the best seat in the house your favorite living room chair!
We understand that not everyone will feel comfortable attending concerts in person at this time, but we're committed to bringing music to you, wherever you are! If technology feels like a barrier, we want to help. Check out our tips below and you'll be able to live stream the CSO right to your preferred device.
Watch on your phone, tablet, or computerWhen you purchase tickets to a CSO live stream or recorded performance, you will be provided a link CSO (sent via email up to 2 days prior to the concert date) and login information to a CSO website page. Simply click or tap on the link in your email, login in using credentials provided in the email, and enjoy the performance.
Watch on your TV
Android TV / Amazon Fire TV
Connect your device to the same Wi-Fi network as your TV, access the video using your phone, tablet, or computer (using the directions above), tap on the Cast icon on the video (Note: You may have to first tap on the YouTube logo on the video, opening the video in YouTube, for the Cast icon to appear), and select the name of your TV. When Cast changes color, you have successfully connected.
Connect your device to the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV or AirPlay 2-compatible smart TV, access the video using your phone, tablet, or computer (using the directions above), tap the Cast icon on the video, and then choose your Apple TV or AirPlay 2-compatible smart TV to connect.
If you have a Chromecast connected to your TV, simply connect your phone, tablet, or computer to the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast, download the Google Home app on your device (not necessary for computers), access the video on your phone, tablet, or computer (using the directions above), tap on the Cast icon on the video (Note: You may have to first tap on the YouTube logo on the video, opening the video in YouTube, for the Cast icon to appear), and select your Chromecast or TV name.
Smart TV Internet App
To watch on your smart TV, locate the internet or preferred search engine app (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, Samsung TV Web Browser, etc.) on your TV's home screen and enter in the link URL provided by your CSO (sent via email up to 2 days prior to the concert date). From there, enter in the login information to access the page, and then click the full screen icon on the video.
Music Director Christopher Warren-Green has some of his own advice for how to enjoy our virtual concerts: "Get dressed, go into your living room, have a glass of wine, sit down and make sure no one interrupts you. Do that and watch our virtual concerts, and you'll get something extraordinary from it."
|Older Posts »|
- Youth Orchestras Get Back to In-Person Rehearsals
- How Atrium Health Helped Keep the Music Playing
- Welcome Back to the Symphony!
- Spotlight: Branford Marsalis
- A Composer to Know: Jessica Meyer
- Behind-the-Scenes at a Virtual Performance
- Representing Project Harmony
- A Composer to Know: Jessie Montgomery
- Time Traveling with A Little Night Music
- Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld’s Top 10 Orchestral Bass Clarinet Solos