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.
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!
If you're headed out to Symphony Park to Celebrate America on July 3, don't miss these top 4 insider tips--from getting the best spot on the lawn to parking, and more.
1) Arrive and buy your tickets early
We're expecting a large crowd, and the best spots always get snatched up right when the gates open at 5 p.m. If you haven't purchased your tickets in advance, ticket prices will increase by $2 day of show. Tickets will be available online until noon and then you can purchase them at the gates beginning at 4 p.m.
There are 3 gates at Symphony Park: one by the DoubleTree, the main gate in the SouthPark Mall parking lot near Dick's Sporting Goods and Reid's Fine Foods, and one off of Barclay Downs Road. Pro tip: People begin lining up at the gates as early as 3 p.m.!
2) Bring lots of water, sunscreen, and bug spray
We'll have vendors selling beverages on-site, but it's going to be very hot and crowded. Wine and beer are allowed, but we ask that you please drink responsibly. Some of our vendors include King of Pops and Sunset Slush. You may bring umbrellas, but you will be asked to take them down right before the orchestra starts playing.
3) Carpool or use rideshare to get to the park
Parking is limited to the SouthPark Mall parking lot, which means close parking to the main gate gets claimed very early in the day. For your convenience, we have a guest drop off area right by the main gate.
4) Bring low-back chairs or blankets
As a courtesy to others, especially those sitting on blankets, please bring low-back chairs, such as one you might bring to the beach. We ask that if you do bring a high-back chair to please sit around the perimeter of the lawn and the park.
Most importantly, be respectful to others around you, and just have fun!
What exactly are they planning on doing on stage with a full orchestra behind them? These clever dancers are going to use their skills to show you just how poweful and beautiful a fusion of street dance and classical music can be.
So you think you know Hip Hop? Classical music? Think again.
Meet the crew:
Jorge Casco, Executive Director
Jorge Casco's love for music began at age four as a drummer and street dancer in Houston, Texas. Winning underground dance battles and making a name for himself in the underground B-Boy circuit, however, wasn't enough for him. He saw Fly Dance Company (FLY) perform at his school, and after a year as an understudy, Jorge became a principal dancer with FLY and toured internationally. Jorge performed in 110 school shows, and 65 dance concerts, reaching over 30,000 kids in a single season.
With a natural comedic side, Jorge's humor adds fun to every FLY engagement. Another particular strength is his ability to relate to and interact with his students--adults and kids alike.
Jorge works daily on his dream of growing FLY grow into a nationally recognized company with several chapters across the country.
Chris Cortez, Director
Chris Cortez is the product of one of the first in-school hip-hop dance programs that took place at Spring Woods Middle School in Houston, TX. The program provided three hours a week where he learned choreography, performance skills and new dance skills guided by his instructor Kathy Wood, who was also the Director of Fly Dance Company at the time.
Shortly thereafter, Chris joined FLY and had the chance to educate over 100,000 students about the positive impact of hip-hop on the youth. This was the beginning of the hip-hop culture leading Chris's life into a quest of providing hope and health to the youth that once was him.
Chris has traveled worldwide since 1998, performing, competing, instructing, and educating the youth about the art of B-Boying and hip-hop, as well as their positive impact. He has also been a part of the world-famous Houston Rockets Launch Crew for nine consecutive years. Chris had the opportunity to travel with the Rockets organization to the China games in Beijing & Guangzhou, the All-Star Game in 2011, and, most recently, the games in Taiwan and the Philippines.
Chadwick Franklin, Principal Dancer
Chadwick started his journey into dance at Westside High School after being inspired by his friends and classmates. After graduating he continued his experience by working at John Marshall Middle School under Lori Amare-Bujung as a Dance Instructor. Through instructing youth and creating choreograph, his love for the arts grew. He also performed with Theresa Chapman at Ronald McDonald's Boo Ball in 2014. He soon joined Sonkiss'd Dance Theater and briefly worked as a Principal Dancer for their Urbanity show, Urban Ballet, and toured with them in 2017 in Pennsylvania. After parting ways with the company, he found himself joining Fly Dance Company, of which he has been a member since the third quarter of 2018.
Jesse Magana, Principal Dancer
Jesse started performing at age 10, working with Kathy Wood's FLY Kids group. By the age of 15, he was performing, teaching, competing, and inspiring professionally. Jesse is a college graduate with an Associates Degree in business and marketing, and is pursuing his Bachelors Degree in advertising. His dream is to become an entrepreneur with his own entertainment company.
Timothy Pena, Principal Dancer
An artist with aspirations of making it big in the fashion, music and dance industry, "Lil Moe", as his friends call him, was named after the father he never knew. Raised by his great-grandparents, they eventually adopted him. He is currently working at Caught in Customs manufacturing Boutique, teaches hip-hop to young children at various Houston schools for after school programs, dances for the Houston Rockets Launch Crew, and dances with Fly Dance Company. FLY is proud of Timothy's achievements, given his tough and emotional up ringing, and they're excited to see what the future holds for him.
Sidney Pritchett, Principal Dancer
Sidney Pritchett developed his dance background at Westside High School in Houston, TX, where he danced all four years for the school's Inertia Dance Company. His performance experience includes, but is not limited to, working with the Houston Symphony at the Wortham Center for "The Twelve Days of Christmas", H-E-B's Thanksgiving Day Parade with singer/song writer Naturi Naughten, in China at the Eight Chinese Folk Art Festival in Beijing, Suzhou, and Shanghai, The Orange Bowl for Bowl Games of America in Miami, FL, and "The Thriller Dance" with Tony Smith. He has attended Mandy Moore, Pilobolus and Bollywood workshops. Last year, Sidney was featured in singer/song writer Beyoncé's new video, "Blow."
Adam Quiroz, Principal Dancer
Adam Quiroz first got into dance mostly being inspired by hip-hop and B-Boying. Known for bringing creative new ideas to B-Boying, it enabled him the privilege to attend events all over the US, Mexico, Canada, France, and Holland for competitions and judging. In 2005, Adam decided to branch out from San Antonio to Houston to be a part of Youth Advocates (Y.A.), working with at-risk youth. Shortly after, he joined the Houston Rockets Launch Crew, an NBA entertainment group and had the opportunity to perform at the NBA All Star Games from 2010-2013.
Adam has also worked and performed with various other dance groups most notably performing in Doha, Qatar for the Emir (known as the general/prince). Performing and teaching students about the positive aspects of Hip-Hop has been Adam's main goal over the last few years. Currently a member of Fly Dance Company he is most excited about building the new legacy of FLY for years to come.
Mrince Williams, Principal Dancer
Mrince Williams is a natural performer, named after both Michael Jackson and Prince. So you can imagine his dynamic performing ability! The youngest member of the group, he has been dancing since a young age, educating himself in all hip-hop and Latin styles of dance. Read moreCharlotte SymphonyCharlotte Symphony
Since moving to Charlotte nearly five years ago, I've discovered plenty of summer activities worth checking out. But though my list of "must attend" events is long, the Charlotte Symphony's Summer Pops performances remain at the top. If you're new to the experience, here are a few of my tips for making the most of it.
Schedule out-of-town visits accordingly
When my best friend from high school came to check out Charlotte for the first time, a Summer Pops show was definitely on the itinerary for her trip. It was the perfect way to break up a weekend that included plenty of eating, brewery hopping, and pool time. If you've got friends and family members who are eyeing a trip to the Queen City, plan accordingly.
Bring the whole family
The Summer Pops experience is perfect for everyone in your family, because it doesn't matter how much or how little you know about the symphony. You're hearing familiar music (selections this year will be from E.T., Star Wars, Wicked, and The Sound of Music, just to name a few) in a relaxed, comfortable setting. Kids will love running around outside at the park before the show starts, and the experience feels approachable for attendees of all experience levels.
Get there early to snag the ideal spot
Needless to say, the Summer Pops shows are popular. If you want a great sightline, get to Symphony Park early - gates open at 5 p.m., prelude acts are at 7 p.m. - so you have time to set up shop and pick the perfect spot. Bring your favorite blanket or a low-backed chair so you stay comfortable throughout the evening without blocking others' views.
Unlike other concert experiences where you're spending money on food and drinks in addition to the price of a ticket, at Summer Pops you can bring your own treats to munch on as you enjoy the show. Personally, I'd recommend something light, such as cheese and fruit. Don't forget that you can bring wine and beer too (no liquor)! Another favorite option of mine is to pop over and enjoy the patio at Reid's Fine Foods before heading to the performance. Reid's is also on site at the park, so you can purchase charcuterie, etc. without walking too far, if you didn't pack your own.
Choose the Premium Seating Club for shade and ease
When you want the easiest Summer Pops experience from start to finish, the Premium Seating Club is your best bet. A little pricier, but that's because your ticket includes VIP parking, seating under a tent, and a boxed picnic from Reid's. It's probably the most relaxing way to experience the show, if you have it in your budget.
Beat the heat
In case you haven't noticed, Charlotte summers are hot, to say the least. But if you want to enjoy the music of the Charlotte Symphony without the added dose of humidity, the Summer Pops series has an indoor experience, too! On June 22, a DeLorean will be riding down Tryon Street for Back to the Future In Concert at Belk Theater. I repeat, a DeLorean. Soak up both the music and the sweet, sweet air conditioning.
Maximize your flexibility
If you love the option of buying tickets at the gate but also are trying to be kind to your wallet, the GoPass is your best bet. Select the shows that appeal most to you, and save 25 percent versus if you bought tickets for individual shows.
Use your social media skills to your advantage
If you're social media savvy, you can use your love of hashtags and filters to your advantage! When you snap a great shot during a Summer Pops show, post it to your favorite social media channel and you may win a pair of tickets to an upcoming performance. Hashtag is #SummerPops2018
Also, before you go, be sure to consult these handy Summer Pops FAQs to find answers to all your park questions.
Which Summer Pops shows are you planning to check out this year? If you see me at a performance, make sure to say hi!
By Lauren Levine, guest blogger
Lauren Levine is a Charlotte-based freelance writer and co-host of The Margarita Confessionals podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @lifewithlauren1. Read moreCharlotte SymphonyCharlotte Symphony
This Sunday, we kick off our 2016 Summer Pops series. As preparations mount, we sat down with Conductor Albert-George Schram (he goes by George!) to ask him a few questions about his Summer Pops experience, from start to finish.
So, tell us about how you program a Summer Pops concert?
It begins with a simple question: How can we continue to have fun? It's an organic process that starts with finding the right theme, and then plugging music into that. Sometimes I find music that I want to play and then cultivate a theme from that, but mostly it's the other way around. It starts with an idea or concept, and then it evolves, and we find the right balance of variety for our audience.
This year, there was a suggestion to play music about a lot of different places, countries, or cities. All I had to do from there was find a few more pieces of wonderful music that had been written with places in mind - from Baghdad to Chicago, New York to Paris. That idea became Oh, the Places You'll Go, which we'll present on June 26.
Do you have a favorite concert on the 2016 line up?
If I'm not excited about it, I don't do it. I love all of the shows we've programmed, and they'll all be special.
I'm excited about Symphony Swings because of all the big band and swing music we'll get to perform. Symphony orchestras aren't big bands, so it's exciting to find a moment to rock the house down, and it's a lot of fun for our musicians especially the brass section.
And I'm always particularly proud of and excited about the Father's Day celebration. We have a gloriously testosterone-ridden evening this year with music from some of our favorite movies. We'll celebrate all the manliness that we can muster with lots of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones.
Tell us about your Summer Pops rituals. What do you do to prepare for and/or unwind from the concert?
Right before the concert, I tend to keep a low profile. I mostly prefer being alone so I can get in the right mindset. I never eat before a gig because I get too focused and it gets in the way of my concentration.
When we've wrapped up the performance, I'm always wet with sweat from the heat and the movement during the performance, so I definitely need to shower. Then, I change clothes and by that point, I need to eat and I do so with great joy and gusto! Typically, several members of the Symphony staff join me and we get a chance to unwind from the day and enjoy each other's company.
What is your favorite thing about Summer Pops?
I like how deeply we reach into the community. It's a different event all together, and there are people who come out to Summer Pops who don't come to any other concert throughout the year. To be able to connect with those people is a particular treat.
It's a wonderful, family-friendly tradition for the city and I so relish the opportunity to strut the stuff of the Symphony for the faithful audience who is there every year, and the newbies who are joining us for maybe the very first time. It's a mighty fine gang and I'm pleased to be a part of it.
How does the Summer Pops atmosphere differ from a regular Pops show?
It's a bit more relaxed and laid back; we can simply allow ourselves to have a bit more fun. It's typically a bit more raucous, too even more so than a Pops show!
It's also accessible to a wide audience, and it's important to me that we have that. The kids don't have to be absolutely quiet and stay in one seat. People can enjoy time with their friends and family, and bring something to eat and drink and I like all of those things. We just want to play good music that people enjoy. What more could we as an orchestra want?
As soon as the Charlotte Symphony's Summer Pops series ends on July 3, many of the CSO's musicians head out of Charlotte for exciting and highly sought-after gigs elsewhere in the U.S. Keep tabs on where these talented musicians are headed!
For the first time, Benjamin Geller will be performing at Greensboro's Eastern Music Festival for six weeks, from June 27 through August 1. For more information on the Triad's annual festival, visit easternmusicfestival.org.
From mid-July through early August, Aubrey Foard will serve for the second year as an artist faculty member at Brevard Music Center in Brevard, NC. He then heads out west to perform as principal tubist at Britt Festival in Jacksonville, Oregon.
Jon Lewis will be performing principal cello for Central City Opera for 6 weeks from July 1 to August 9. Central City Opera is the fifth oldest opera company in the country, located in Central City, Colorado.
Husband-and-wife Calin Lupanu and Monica Boboc will again join the Colorado Music Festival as violinists in the orchestra in Boulder, Colorado. Lupanu serves as concertmaster and Chamber Music Coordinator.
Tim Hudson, acting second trumpet
Tim Hudson will spend part of his summer as artist/faculty for the Grand Valley International Trumpet Seminar in Michigan.
For the last 25 years, Cynthia Frank has spent her summers at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, playing with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, which she refers to as her "second family." The nearly 200-year-old institution is a learning center with courses in art, music, dance, theatre, writing, and more.