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Sound of Charlotte Blog

Meet the women taking the classical world (and your CSO) by storm

This season, we're thrilled to have two outstanding women conductors lead the orchestra in concerts featuring masterworks by Beethoven and Bach. Find out how these women broke the "Glass Podium" and became trailblazers in the industry. 

JoAnn Falletta: Classical Woman of the Year

JoAnn Falletta is the Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center and Music Advisor to the Hawaii Symphony. This year, she was named by Performance Today Classical Women of the Year. Falletta joins us April 3-5, 2020 to guest conduct Beethoven's Pastoral at Knight Theater.

Here's how Falletta is making waves in the industry:
  1. Upon her appointment as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, she became the first woman to lead a major American ensemble. She has since been credited with bringing the Philharmonic to a new level of national and international prominence. 

  2. In 2018, she made history as the first American woman conductor to lead an orchestra at the prestigious Beethoven Easter Festival. 

  3. She has a discography of 115 titles, 2 of which won GRAMMY® Awards and 10 received nominations. 

  4. She is acclaimed by The Washington Post as having "Toscanini's tight control over ensemble, Walter's affectionate balancing of inner voices, Stokowski's gutsy showmanship, and a controlled frenzy worthy of Bernstein."

  5. She has guest conducted over a 100 orchestras in North America, and many of the most prominent orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. 

  6. She has introduced over 500 works by American composers, including well over 100 world premieres.

Jeannette Sorrell brings fire to Baroque 

GRAMMY®-winning conductor and harpsichordist Jeannette Sorrell is recognized internationally as one of today's most compelling interpreters of Baroque and Classical repertoire. She joins us April 17-18, 2020 to guest conduct Bach Brandenburg Concertos at Knight Theater. 

What makes Sorrell extraordinary? 
  1. She is the founder and artistic director of the renowned period ensemble APOLLO'S FIRE, with which has one of the largest audiences of any baroque orchestra in North America and sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall, London's BBC Proms, Madrid's Royal Theatre, the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), and more.

  2. She, with APOLLO'S FIRE, has achieved 8 bestsellers on the Billboard classical chart and a 2019 GRAMMY®-winner.

  3. She studied conducting under Leonard Bernstein and Roger Norrington; and studied harpsichord with pioneer and pillar of the early music movement Gustav Leonhardt.

  4. She won both First Prize and the Audience Choice Award in the Spivey International Harpsichord Competition, competing against over 70 harpsichordists from Europe, Israel, the U.S., and the Soviet Union. 

  5. She has attracted national attention and awards for her creative programming, which has brought many new listeners to early music.

  6. In demand with topnotch symphony orchestras and period groups alike, Sorrell has led the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Handel & Haydn Society, and more.  

See these women in action at Knight Theater on April 3-5, 2020 for Beethoven's Pastoral and April 17-18, 2020 for Bach Brandenburg Concertos. Read more

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Bach, Beethoven, conductors.


WDAV, 89.9 FM is live broadcasting our performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on Friday, May 10, 2013. As you can imagine it takes a bit of work to do this. Here's just an idea of what the checklist and plan for the WDAV staff looks like

1. Order high tech phone lines, called ISDN lines. The letters stand for Integrated Service Digital Network and it's the precursor to high speed Internet. They use these lines to get the stereo signal of the concert performance back to the WDAV studios for broadcast to radios and Internet and smart phone streams.

Live bcast behind the scenes 1

2. Secure Extra engineering Help Audio engineers set up microphones and sound boards, mix the music and monitor the sound. Broadcast engineers establish a connection and monitor the signal back to the studios.


3. A staff person directs the activities of the hosts and serves as liaison to the broadcast studios.


4. An executive producer plans the outline of the broadcast, acquires and produces interviews and writes a script for the hosts to follow.

Just a few other things WDAV Staff  does -

1. Spread the word about the broadcast and archive it, before and during, via social media and other digital platforms.
2. Help with logistics, such as having dinner delivered.

3. Coordinate activities with the Symphony and Performing Arts Center staff so that details such as when the concert actually starts and whether there will be any intermissions or encores, are all anticipated and planned for.

Thanks to WDAV's Frank Dominguez for these notes. In his words "it's a huge team effort, but one we feel is well worth it because of the ability it gives us to share a live concert performance with listeners who may not have the opportunity to attend."


"Tune in at 8pm tonight for a live broadcast of the CSO performing Beethoven's 9th. WDAV thanks OrthoCarolina for sponsoring the broadcast."
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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Beethoven, Christopher Warren-Green, Classical.


Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor

The first performance of the Ninth Symphony took place at the Kärnthnerthor Theater in Vienna on May 7, 1824, with Ignaz Umlauf conducting.

The first performance of this work by the Charlotte Symphony took place on October 4, 1955 with James Christian Pfohl conducting at Ovens Auditorium. The twelfth and most recent performance set took place April 22-24, 2010 with Stefan Sanderling conducting in the Belk Theater of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center.

Beethoven's final Symphony, the Ninth ("Choral"), represents--on a number of levels--a fitting culmination and apotheosis of the immortal composer's artistic life.  The Ninth is by far the most epic of Beethoven's Symphonies, both in terms of length and performing forces.  The revolutionary introduction of vocal soloists and chorus in the finale was a bold masterstroke that forever expanded the potential of symphonic expression.

The text of the Symphony's finale, based upon the 1785 Ode "To Joy" by the great German writer, Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), held a lifelong attraction for the composer.  Beethoven first became acquainted with Schiller's Ode "To Joy" ("An die Freude") when the composer was a student in his native Bonn

The beloved melodic setting of Schiller's text in the Finale of Beethoven's Ninth was also the product of an extended genesis.  A version of the melody first appears in a song Beethoven composed in the mid-1790s, entitled "Gegenliebe" ("Mutual Love"), based upon a text by Gottfried August Bürger.  An even more striking premonition of the Ninth Symphony may be found in Beethoven's 1808Fantasia in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Opus 80.  In that work, the melody--in this case, a setting of a text by Christian Kuffner--receives a treatment quite similar in many ways to that found in the "Choral" Symphony.

The premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony took place at the Vienna Kärnthnerthor Theater on May 7, 1824.  By this stage of Beethoven's life, the composer's hearing had deteriorated to such an extent that conducting the performance was out of the question.  Instead, Ignaz Umlauf led the premiere.  All the while, however, Beethoven was at Umlauf's side, attempting to direct the tempos for the various movements.

At the conclusion of the performance, the audience erupted with a spirited ovation.  Karoline Unger was the alto soloist at the premiere of the Beethoven Ninth.  More than four decades later, she met with the British music writer, Sir George Grove.  During that meeting, Unger described what happened at the May 7, 1824 concert:

The master, though placed in the midst of this confluence of music, heard nothing of it at all and was not even sensible of the applause of the audience at the end of his great work, but continued standing with his back to the audience, and beating the time, till Fräulein Unger, who had sung the contralto part, turned him, or induced him to turn round and face the people, who were still clapping their hands, and giving way to the greatest demonstrations of pleasure.  His turning round, and the sudden conviction thereby forced upon everybody that he had not done so before, because he could not hear what was going on, acted like an electric shock on all present, and a volcanic explosion of sympathy and admiration followed, which was repeated again and again, and seemed as if it would never end.

Program notes by Ken Meltzer.
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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Beethoven, Christopher Warren-Green, Classical, History.

A Concert to Remember

Originally Posted: October 2010
By Mary Catherine Rendleman Edwards

I will never forget the first time I heard a Charlotte Symphony concert.  My parents had Charlotte Symphony season tickets, and on this particular evening my mother was ill.

 I was a fifth grade violin student in the Eastover Elementary string class taught by Dominco Scappucci.  There was a guest violinist slated to play, so my Daddy took me to the concert.  I felt very special all dressed up and was introduced to grownups as we took our seats.

I remember that I was feeling sleepy towards the end of the first selection, but then Sidney Harth walked out on stage with his violin.  He played the Beethoven Violin Concerto. His long bow strokes producing silky sounds were mesmerizing.  I was engaged not just for the moment, but for the rest of my life. 
No longer was being the first chair in the Eastover Elementary String Orchestra enough.  It was just the beginning.  There was music to learn and places to go.  I went on to be a Charlotte Symphony Young Artist Winner in 1968 and joined the youth orchestra as a violinist while in ninth grade, going on to play in the Charlotte Symphony my senior year.  Being a violinist was a ticket for me to see the world.  I have played under conductors Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, James Levine, Leonard Slatkin, George Solti, Daniel Barenboim, and many more.

That night many years ago I was lucky enough to have parents who loved music, a violin given to me to play, and opportunities provided to me by the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Charlotte Symphony.  I sure hope they keep up the good work!  I am now back in the Charlotte area teaching orchestra at Eastway and McClintock Middle Schools, hoping like the musicians of the Charlotte Symphony to pass on the wonderful lifelong gift of music.

Mary Catherine Rendleman Edwards has enjoyed a carreer as a professional violinist for over forty years. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Boston University and a Master of Music from University of Michigan/Ann Arbor.  A Salisbury resident, she drives to Charlotte daily to teach orchestra at Eastway and McClintock Middle Schools.
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Tagged as Beethoven, CSO Musicians, CSYO, Education.

Singing worlds into being. A view from an Oratorio Singer

Originally Posted: July 2010

My mother is a church organist, accompanist and piano teacher; my father a retired choir director and vocal soloist.  So I grew up in a home filled with music. Dad, raised in a home where singing was not smiled upon, except perhaps in church but certainly not during a meal, encouraged his children to sing early and often. And so we did. Especially at the dinner table. We would often sing the blessing. We would frequently launch into a tune if someone uttered a phrase that reminded us of a song or inadvertently spoke a few actual words from a song. And we would sometimes create impromptu operas based on the conversation or what happened to be sitting on the dinner table. ("The Seasonings," based on a salad dressing bottle, had a particularly successful run.) It was often silly, and perhaps we didn't sing particularly well, but we sang.

I joined the Oratorio Singers last year, and I am glad beyond words to be singing the great works of music with such a wonderful group of like-minded people who are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. And to making great music. This November, for example, I am pretty sure that we won't be singing about salad dressing. Alongside the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, however, we will be singing Franz Joseph Haydn's oratorio, Die Schöpfung (The Creation), considered by many to be Haydn's (known as the "Father of the Symphony") masterpiece.

Someone asked me the other day, "Why do you sing?" My response, of course, was that I sing because I cannot play an instrument. But the question got me thinking. Why do we sing? The human race has created music and sung songs for over 3,000 years. We know from archeological discoveries that music was a vital part of virtually all known ancient cultures, from Greece to Persia to Egypt to India to China to Africa and beyond. Australia's indigenous Aborigines believe that the world was sung into creation, and they can still navigate vast distances across the land via ancient paths known as songlines. It's a beautifully poetic notion that C.S. Lewis employed in his fictional work, The Magician's Nephew, as Aslan the lion's powerful singing calls the world of Narnia into existence.

I have come up with three reasons why we sing (well, four, if you count the inability to play an instrument). Alas, none of them include the possibility of appearing on American Idol.

We sing because making music is an intrinsic and essential part of the human spirit. It's part of what we do, and of who and what we are. We sing not because we can, but because we must. Sure, let's not get too carried away. After all, the ability to sing doesn't separate us from the animals. (That's what opposable thumbs, and instruments, are for.) But music is part of the human DNA. We aren't human because we sing; we sing because we are human.

We also sing because there are songs that need to be sung. The Oratorio Singers have performed a remarkable repertoire of the great music of our time. If you cannot be moved by the musical genius and the soaring optimism of the final movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, or by the depth of emotion and rich tapestry of folk and liturgical harmonies in Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, then you cannot be moved.

Finally, we sing because someone is listening. Sure, you can sing along with the radio in the car without an audience (and may even be glad for the lack of one!). Singing for an audience, though, is a rich and rewarding experience for both the singer and the listener. It's a form of communication. I used to enjoy the applause at the end of a performance because I thought of it primarily as a reward for a collective job well done. Standing on the stage of the Blumenthal PAC at the conclusion of Beethoven's Ninth this past April, I realized that I had got it somewhat wrong. The enthusiastic applause at the end of a performance is indeed thrilling to hear. But not so much for what it says about the performers or the performance. It's thrilling to hear for what it says about you, the listener. And what it says is that the impact of the live performance of a great musical work has moved you to respond. In a way that no other art form (and no CD or radio or MP3 file) can, a live performance has elevated your spirit, and maybe even raised your body out of its seat. You have participated in a shared, uniquely human experience and absorbed the beauty and emotional power of live music into your very being. You have fed your soul.
Music affords us the opportunity to celebrate the most essential form of human expression and the highest reach of the human spirit.

That's a good reason to sing.

Born and raised in Aurora, Illinois, Tim Parolini grew up listening to a wide range of music, but mostly classical, jazz and blues. A graduate of Aurora University, he studied voice with Mr. Sten Halfvarson and performed with the Fine Arts Chorale under the direction of Dr. Elwood Smith. His fond memories of attending concerts as a youth include many Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances under the direction of the late, great Sir Georg Solti. Tim runs a brand marketing and design business that specializes in helping niche-oriented businesses and nonprofit organizations identify and effectively communicate their brand value. He is excited to be participating with the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte and currently serves on its board.
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Tagged as Beethoven, Beethoven's Ninth, Haydn, History, Live Performance, Oratorio, Rachmaninoff, Sing, The Creation.

Education Concert Inspires Mom to Blog

Originally Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted by Pamela Grundy at http://seenfromtherock.blogspot.com/
The music spills out from the Ovens Auditorium stage and washes over the seated students in classic, staccato waves. Dum Dum Dum Dummmmmmmm. Dum Dum Dum Dummmmmmmm. Beethoven's Fifth. 

A full-fledged symphony orchestra feasts eyes as well as ears. Stringed instruments, reflecting the stage lights, glow deep reddish-brown. Bows move back and forth in perfect time, while harmonies dance from place to place within the space the sound creates first here, then over there, then back again.
The students, clapping with the beat, become a joyful blur of sound and movement.

 True to the concert's theme "
Rhythm Around the World" conductor Jacomo Rafael Bairos is guiding his audience through a landscape of waltzes, marches and classical tunes, illustrating beat and rhythm with pieces by Stravinsky, Grieg and Sousa, as well as Beethoven. The students moved cautiously at first, leaning forward to catch the unfamiliar rhythmic patterns. But confidence built quickly, and they now stomp and clap with gusto.

Bairos drops his hands and brings the music to a stop. Then he lifts his baton again, and the sounds pour out once more still Beethoven's composition, but patterned to a hip-hop beat. The students quickly catch this more familiar rhythm, and began to move with even greater zeal, throwing hips, shoulders, heads and arms into their response.
 When at last the music stops, the audience heads for the exits all but the Shamrock students. All our students play in Shamrock's orchestra, and organizers have arranged some special treats.

Before the concert, the students got to meet Joy Payton-Stevens, a cellist who visited Shamrock back in the fall. Now, as the students from other schools reach the doors, Bairos appears in front of us, smiling and high-fiving and ready to answer questions. The kids beam, and shoot their hands into the air. When did he start playing music? Is it scary to be up in front of all those people? They learn he started out when he was just their age, and there is nothing he loves better.

Gerald Turner, a longtime member of orchestra sponsor St. Luke Methodist Church, happily photographs the scene. He's been to plenty of musical events over the years, he says, but he's never seen a symphony orchestra before. He can't get over how wonderful it was, how perfectly all the musicians played together. Amazing.

Back outside, the students chat and pose for pictures as they wait for the bus. It's been one of those school days that you don't forget your friends, the sun's warmth, the way you clapped and swayed in the embrace of extraordinary music. What a great day to be young. What a sense of possibility. What an achievement to aspire to.

But as the glowing kids line up to board the bus, I think about the testing season that will soon be upon them, how pinched and sad those lists of carefully vetted questions will seem next to the marvel of Beethoven's Fifth. What slice of this experience could be mechanical enough to reduce to a multiple-choice answer?

How many beats per measure are in a waltz?

a. 4
b. 3
c. 7
d. 10

In what year was Ludwig van Beethoven born?

a. 1740
b. 1760
c. 1865
d. 1770

Is this achievement?

If some children mark more of these answers right than others, what does that tell you about them? And in this era of pay-for-performance, what does it say about their teacher?

Later, I try to imagine the kind of question a good teacher would ask her students.

Which word best describes the way you felt while listening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony?

a. Exuberant
b. Tempestuous
c. Funky
d. Wakazoo! (this last courtesy of Parker)

In the standardized test world, of course, a question like this would never make the grade. Sadly, none of these marvelous words is the one right answer. It depends on the person, on the performance, on a hundred other variables. It calls on students to discuss, explain, weigh different points of view. Just like in literature. Just like in life.

But these days, when achievement has become an educational obsession, standardized test scores seem to be the only thing that matters. They determine which students pass, which schools are closed, which teachers are rewarded. When someone talks about achievement, they are almost always referring strictly to test scores. We seem to have forgotten how remarkably limited they are, what a small slice of education they represent.

Of course, these tests have one, powerful advantage that fits them to the Darwinian conditions of today's educational surroundings an advantage has allowed them not merely to survive, but to thrive and multiply.

Unlike a great symphony, or a marvelous piece of writing, the bubble patterns test-takers create can be turned into numbers.

Once you have a set of numbers, they take on a life of their own. You can line them up in impressive columns, top to bottom. You can extend them out to multiple decimal places, creating the illusion of ultimate precision. You can set numeric goals for schools to reach or face the consequences. You can create salary scales that slice your teaching staff into neat quartiles of "effectiveness."

And after a while you can forget that at the heart of this quantitative extravaganza lies a child sitting in a classroom, penciling circles in answer to the limited range of questions that can be pressed to serve the multiple-choice format. You learn something from the scores those patterned circles generate, but not as much as everyone around you imagines that they signify. Lost in the chase for just the right array of calculations, the magic matrix of accurate assessment, you have ceased to notice just how little this mathematical emperor is wearing.
Pamela Grundy is a parent at Shamrock Gardens Elementary School. Her blog is Seen from the Rock.
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Tagged as Beethoven, Education, grieg, hip-hop, Jacomo Rafael Bairos, sousa, Stravinsky.