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Sound of Charlotte Blog

Welcome Back to the Symphony!


It's been over a year since the Charlotte Symphony has had an audience in the hall during a performance, but that will finally change this month when the CSO welcomes back a limited number of subscribers into the Belk Theater for a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, featuring violinist Simone Porter, and Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances. 

In-person seats will be limited, but if you weren't able to snag a ticket, fear not! The CSO will bring audiences back on May 14 and 15 for a special concert featuring Grammy-Award winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis performing Ibert's Concertino da camera and Schulhoff's jazz-inspired Hot-Sonate. The program will also include Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances and Gershwin's Lullaby. 

The concerts in May, conducted by Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, will feel like a homecoming for musicians and audience alike. "These performances are going to be very emotional for all of us, said Maestro Warren-Green. "For the past 13 months, we've been connecting with our audiences through virtual concerts and in small groups, but I cannot wait to safely reconnect with our CSO family in person." 


Streaming concerts have made it possible to continue performing throughout the pandemic, but it just cannot replace the unique experience of sharing in a live orchestral concert. Maestro Warren-Green agrees, "to feel the energy of an audience from the podium again I've missed it so much!"  
As we work to welcome our audiences back into the concert hall, the CSO is committed to safety first and foremost. We're working in coordination with Atrium Health and the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center to develop safety procedures, including reduced seating capacity, physically distanced seating, enforcement of face coverings, contactless ticketing and program books, and more! 
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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical.

Spotlight: Branford Marsalis


Branford Marsalis hails from the musically rich and diverse city of New Orleans and was raised in a house of jazz royalty - his father, Ellis, was one of New Orleans' most esteemed pianists and music educators, and he's the oldest among jazz siblings Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason Marsalis. The New York Times described the Marsalis family as "jazz's most storied living dynasty."

Marsalis has performed with countless jazz legends, formed his own quartet in 1986, and is the winner of three Grammy awards, but his musical interests are not confined to jazz, he is also an accomplished and dedicated performer of classical music and has made a name for himself as a soloist in the orchestral world.

Though he bridges these two musical worlds, his approach is different when playing classical music, "I have to be less loud," Marsalis said in a 2019 interview for artsfile. "I need to have a mouthpiece that allows me to control the tone. Non-classical music never really gets to pianissimo. It never gets softer than super loud. To get that you have to practice in a different way. I played clarinet first. My clarinet teacher was always on me about my tone."

When asked which genre was more difficult, Marsalis didn't hesitate, "Classical is harder. Jazz is like a story that you personalize, but classical is a story where you can't use your own words. It's like reading Shakespeare or Chaucer. You have to develop the characters to make them believable, but the words aren't yours, and you're not going to change Shakespeare. You can't. In classical music, you don't play your own notes, you play theirs." 

 
Branford Marsalis performs the first movement of Ibert's Concertino da Camera.

Reflecting on the growth of his classical music career, Marsalis said "Classical music in my 40s got me to a place where I was going to have to practice and become a better player. It made me a better musician."
Branford Marsalis will join Christopher Warren-Green and your Charlotte Symphony at the Belk Theater on May 14 & 15 to perform Ibert's lyrical and soaring Concertino da camera and Schulhoff's jazz-inspired Hot Sonate. >> Get Tickets

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, guest artists.

A Composer to Know: Jessica Meyer


As a critically acclaimed violist and passionate educator, New York-based artist Jessica Meyer embarked on her composition career only seven years ago. In a recent interview for the record label Bright Shiny Things she explained, "After many, many years of playing new music and helping kids create their own music, I could not ignore the nagging feeling I had that I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing. I started to write for myself, but once I started writing for other people in 2014, the floodgates were opened and I knew that without a doubt that was what was missing from my life."

In her solo performances, Meyer uses a single simple loop pedal to create a virtuosic orchestral experience using her viola and voice. Drawing from wide-ranging influences which include Bach, Brahms, Delta blues, Flamenco, Indian Raga, and Appalachian fiddling, Meyer's music takes audience members on a journey through joy, anxiety, anger, bliss, torment, loneliness, and passion.

Meyer's work Slow Burn had its premiere on March 18, 2018, performed by the string quintet Sybarite5. 

The piece was premiered at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre in Sarasota, Florida to accompany a dancer from the Black Diamond Burlesque Company which is essentially all you need to know in order to conjure up the appropriate amount of sass you need in order to play it effectively! 

It is also a combination of all the groovy music I like to listen to, at the heart of which is a theme that most singers wind up singing about at some point: that unrequited love that was never meant to be.


Photo: Black Diamond Burlesque Company / members of Sybarite5

Hear Jessica Meyer's Slow Burn performed by your Charlotte Symphony streamed from the Knight Theater on Saturday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. (watch through March 13)

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, composer, Virtual Concerts.

Behind-the-Scenes at a Virtual Performance

Take a journey backstage to see what goes into producing your Charlotte Symphony's virtual Classical Series Reimagined. From the musicians and conductors to stagehands and video producers the work of many hands comes together to create the concerts that stream directly to your living room.

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As concert-time draws near, Charlotte Symphony musicians and staff enter the Knight Theater through the stage door in staggered 15 minute intervals ensuring that only small groups are entering at any given time.
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A check-in kiosk is located right inside the door with a symptom checker and touchless thermometer, along with ample sanitizing wipes! Musicians are tested for COVID-19 each week the day before rehearsals begin.
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Meanwhile, in the wings of the theater, stagehand Mark Show uses a special UV light wand to sanitize chairs, stands, and sheet music.
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After checking in, musicians make their way backstage to pick up music for their next concert. Music Library staff use disposable gloves to package the music into envelopes. Those envelopes are then quarantined in music trunks for 3 days.
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After collecting their music, musicians make their way past the video production area and through a large set of doors to the stage, where chairs and stands are placed a safe 6 feet apart.
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Backstage, Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees checks in with some of the team behind the recording and production of the CSO's virtual concerts - (from left to right) Director of Operations Sara Gibson, Vice President of Operation & General Manager John Clapp, and CSO Third Horn/video producer Bob Rydel.
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John Clapp watches over the stage as musicians warm-up. Everyone is required to wear a mask at all times - the only exception is for wind/brass players once they are seated and ready to play.
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The production team is making final adjustments as Bob Rydel and John Clapp monitor the various camera angles and prepare to stream the video feed live to YouTube.
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The strings are all warmed up and await their Maestro.
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As the concert begins, Sara Gibson is keeping an eye on the livestream and the score, preparing to call a light cue that shows the conductor when the microphone is ready for his speaking portion.
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When everything comes together, ticketholders are able to safely enjoy the concert, streamed live, from the best seat in their own houses.
 
 

There are many more opportunities to experience your Charlotte Symphony from the comfort of your own home. Subscribe today for exclusive content, extended access to each concert, and save 10%. Explore the Classical Series Reimagined! Read more

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, Virtual Concerts.

Clarinetist Allan Rosenfeld’s Top 10 Orchestral Bass Clarinet Solos


In a previous blog post, I featured a list of my favorite orchestral clarinet solos. While a significant amount of my in the orchestra is spent playing the clarinet, there are many occasions when you can also catch me at CSO concerts performing on the bass clarinet. The bass clarinet is often featured for its ability to fortify and color the woodwind section. Nevertheless, there are some spectacular passages that spotlight the appeal of this magnificent instrument as a solo instrument in its own right.

Here are my Top 10 Orchestral Bass Clarinet Solos:

10) William Schuman's Symphony No. 3 (Part II, Toccata)

After a brief snare drum solo, the bass clarinet introduces the thematic material for the Toccata movement. Here is a chance to hear the bass clarinet whip up and down the lowest and highest parts of its range in an impressive display of virtuosic technique.

9) Gershwin's Concerto in F (Second movement)

This is a clarinet section soli accompanying various wind solos. It shows how wonderful the clarinets sound together with the bass clarinet filling out the bass line. Of particular note is the slinky and sensuous close harmony, which is unmistakably the sound of Gershwin!



8) Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, middle of Pas de Deux)

The Sugar Plum Fairy solo is a classic -- instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent time in an elevator during Christmas season. The Pas de Deux solo is an especially tender bit of melodic writing for the bass clarinet.

7) Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8 (Fifth movement)

Low register mischief displays the boisterous side of the instrument's personality. 



6) Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (Act II, scene 3)

Wagner may have understood the lyrical capabilities and expressive character of the bass clarinet better than any other composer. These gorgeous opera passages really dig deep into the mournful, introspective side of the instrument.

5) Wagner's Die Walkure (Act II, scene 2; Act III, scene 3)

These two opera scenes showcase some of the best of the many big moments for bass clarinet in Wagner's Ring Cycle. For a truly outstanding example of great bass clarinet playing, try to get your hands on the Metropolitan Opera recording featuring former CSO clarinetist Jim Ognibene, who sadly passed away last year.



4) Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (Opening)

You've heard of Dueling Banjos; these are dueling bass clarinets!

3) Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony (First movement)

This is one of the prettiest melodies written for the instrument. It features the lyrical solo capabilities inherent in the bass clarinet's deep, dark voice.



2) Mahler's Symphony No. 6 (First movement)

Mahler and the bass clarinet go together like fine red wine and dark chocolate. Don't miss a lot more great writing for the instrument in Symphonies 1, 4, 7, and 9.

1) Khachaturian's Piano Concerto

Soaring, sustained solo passages venture into the lowest of low notes on the bass clarinet. Listen also for the unusual sound of a Flexatone -- a rarely scored percussion instrument. See also: Beginning and ending of second movement.

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, Musicians.

The Classical Series: Reimagined


Your Charlotte Symphony's virtual concerts have already been viewed by thousands of people and received widespread acclaim, with a critic from Classical Voice North Carolina observing that, "the Charlotte Symphony's [virtual concert series] demonstrates the persistence and resilience of the arts and artists and the organization's commitment to its musicians, as well as its listening community."

We're reimagining what it means to serve as your orchestra during the pandemic, and it's been thrilling to find new and innovative ways to bring the music directly to you and your families. 

But we're just getting started! The New Year brings four new virtual concerts.

Highlights include:

  • The return of Music Director Christopher Warren-Green conducting works by Elgar, Holst, Mozart, and more.
  • The continuation of our celebration of Beethoven 250 with performances of his First and Seventh Symphonies.
  • Concertmaster Calin Ovidiu Lupanu and Principal Trumpet Alex Wilborn take center stage for concerti by Mendelssohn and Hummel, respectively. 
  • Contemporary works by Jessie Montgomery and Leonardo Balada, led by Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees.
 

We're Here to Help

We want you to make sure that everything is working for you once you're settled in to watch our concerts. Please check out this blog post for information on how to access the CSO's virtual concerts. We also have step-by-step instructions for how to stream the concert from a variety of devices, including your computer, phone, or smart TV.  

If you would prefer to speak to someone, please contact Patron Services at 704.972.2000 or ticketoffice@charlottesymphony.org
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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, Music Director, Musicians, Virtual Concerts.

100 Years of Voting Rights for Women

Today marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying U.S. citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. To celebrate this historic achievement, the Charlotte Symphony is using its platform to highlight the many contributions of women in classical music. We asked a few CSO musicians and conductors to share with us a list of women composers who they wish everyone knew more about.

Jessie Montgomery

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. 

"She's an extremely talented individual, an accomplished violinist and chamber musician in the Catalyst Quartet, and I've been so proud to perform her wonderful music alongside the rest of our canon of timeless art pieces. I hope we will continue to share her beautiful work with our Charlotte community!" - Principal Violist Benjamin Geller

The Minnesota Orchestra performs Montgomery's Starburst, a work performed by CSO musicians at Off the Rails last season.

Gabriela Lena Frank

Born in Berkeley, California to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Gabriela explores her multicultural heritage through her compositions. Her music often reflects not only her own personal experience as a multi-racial Latina, but also refract her studies of Latin American cultures, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.

"Gabriela Lena Frank is a varied & important fixture in American composition, has numerous awards & Composer in Residence credentials, and has founded a Creative Academy of Music which enables opportunity for dozens of up & coming composers. Her string orchestra piece 'An Andean Walkabout,' written for A Far Cry in Boston, is both visceral in energy & jarring rhythmically. A terrific, monumental piece that I love." - Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees

Frank's Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout performed by chamber orchestra group A Far Cry.
 

Barbara York

Barbara York has been working in both Canada and the U.S. for over 40 years as a concert accompanist, choral and theatrical music director and composer. Her score and lyrics for the Canadian musical Colette won a Dora Mavor Moore Award (Canada's version of a Tony) in 1981.

"I think her music is important to be celebrated because, to be honest, I just really like it. When I have performed some of her solo pieces, they have spoken personally to me, and I found myself lost in tunes that I wish I had written myself." - Trombonist Thomas Burge

CSO Trombonist Thomas Burge performs York's Elegy for an Angel, Mvt 1. 

Cécile Chaminade

Cecile Chaminade was a French composer and pianist. In 1913, she was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, a first for a female composer. Chaminade's music has been described as tuneful, highly accessible and mildly chromatic.

"When I was 13 years old, Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Orchestra was one of the first big flute solos that I had ever performed. It's a very popular piece for young flutists, and I didn't realize until years after playing it that Chaminade is actually female!" - Youth Philharmonic Conductor Jessica Morel

"Chaminade composed more than 400 pieces, but the Concertino is her most beloved and remains an important piece in the flute repertoire.  Though her father did not permit her to attend the Conservatoire de Paris, she was able to study composition privately and eventually gained popularity as a composer and pianist." - Flutist Amy Orsinger Whitehead

Chaminade's Concertino for Flute and Orchestra performed by Hayley Miller and the Boston Philharmonic conducted by Benjamin Zander.

Nkeiru Okoye 

Nkeiru Okoye's genre-bending compositions reflect her many influences - Gilbert & Sullivan, the Gershwins Sondheim, Copland, gospel, jazz, and Schoenberg. She specializes in works that celebrate the African American experience. In 2018, the Charlotte Symphony commissioned her to write an orchestral piece in celebration of the city's 250th anniversary. 

"I think Nkeiru Okoye is important because her works incorporate many different sounds and styles from cultural areas that are both part of her own personal journey, and also are part of a larger narrative regarding the history of African American people. Spending her youth divided between living in New York and Nigeria, she offers an important personal perspective through her music that also highlights a broader cultural connection that resonates with many Americans." - Trombonist Thomas Burge

A playlist of works by Okoye.

Inspired to learn about more women composers? A great place to start is Music Critic Anne Midgette's list of the top women composers in classical music from The Washington Post. Read more

Posted in Classics, Community. Tagged as Classical, composer, women composers.

Trailblazer: Composer Florence B. Price


A composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher, Florence Price is recognized as the first African-American woman to have a symphonic work performed by a major national symphony orchestra. Her extraordinary achievements during the racist "Jim Crow" era are a testament to her immense gifts and determination. 

Born in Little Rock, AR in 1887, Price grew up in a middle-class household and attended the New England Conservatory, one of the few that admitted African-Americans at the time. Fleeing racial violence in her home state, Price moved with her family to Chicago where her career began to flourish. She won first prize in the Wanamaker Competition with her Symphony in E minor which caught the attention of Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Frederick Stock. The piece was premiered by the Orchestra in 1933 with The Chicago Daily News reporting "It is a faultless work, a work that speaks its own message with restraint and yet with passion ... worthy of a place in the regular symphonic repertory."


Florence Price's musical style was influenced by composers such as Dvořák and Coleridge-Taylor. It is infused with European and African-American musical and cultural elements, including spiritual melodies, gospel church music, and African instruments such as the marimba.

Her piece Adoration, arranged for Brass Quintet, was performed by members of the CSO's brass section on our latest al Fresco concert. 

(Discussion: 21:03 ; Performance: 22:57)

Though recognized in her day, Florence Price's memory and music faded into history - perhaps due in part to the relatively small number of surviving compositions. However, in 2009, nearly 200 of Price's manuscripts were discovered, tucked neatly away in boxes in an old fixer-upper in a suburb of Chicago. The discovery has prompted a happy resurgence in the popularity of her works. We can all hope that this re-examination of her talent and musicality will allow Florence Price to take her rightful place among the great American composers.  Read more

Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical, composer, women composers.

A powerful message from Cherokee Nation youth: Si Otsedoha (We're Still Here)

The Cherokee Chamber Singers have a powerful message to share: Si Otsedoha (We're Still Here). Nestled in an all-American Classical Series concert on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2020, below is everything that you need to know about this powerful work and our collaboration.


Si Otsedoha (We're Still Here) sprang from the minds and hearts of students of Cherokee Middle and High Schools under the guidance of the Cherokee Chamber Singers. Composed in 2018 by contemporary American composer (and NC native) William Brittelle, Si Otsedoha (We're Still Here) is sung in the Cherokee language and musically documents the past, present, and future of the Cherokee people who have lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina for several thousand years.



The Cherokee Chamber Singers vocal group was formed in 2016 as the advanced vocal group from the Performing Arts Department at Cherokee High School, the Native American high school in the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, NC (also known as the Cherokee Indian Reservation). Under the direction of Michael Yannette, the singers' unique and varied repertoire offers audiences both traditional and modern Native American music, as well as choral, classical, musical theater, and pop/rock genres.

"I have been a teacher for 33 years and have never been part of something with the impact of this work," Yannette said. "The audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive; I thought people might be disturbed by it in Raleigh, but it had universal acceptance. They were open to what these kids had to say: 'We're still here, and we're always going to be.'"

This concert serves as a continuation of the Symphony's commitment to use music to both explore issues of systematic injustice, and to look to a more equitable future for all people. Under the baton of Music Director Christopher Warren-Green, the orchestra will perform this powerful work that celebrates the creativity and cultural heritage of the original citizens of North Carolina, but also amplifies their voices.

"Si Otsedoha (We're Still Here) is not only an artistically excellent work that shines a light on North Carolina music and composers, but it also gives voice to a group of people in our home state who feel forgotten," Michelle Hamilton, Charlotte Symphony Interim President and CEO, said. "The Charlotte Symphony is proud to share the stage with these young singers and provide a platform for their voices."
Hear their message: Join us on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at Belk Theater. Also on the program: Copland's Appalachian Spring and Barber's Adagio for Strings.
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Posted in Classics, Community. Tagged as Classical, community, guest artists.

CSO concerts return to WDAV Classical 89.9



We're thrilled to announce the return of "Charlotte Symphony in Performance" on WDAV Classical 89.9! 

Tune in from 3-5 p.m. on Saturdays, August 24 through October 12, to enjoy (or relive!) four popular concerts from 2017 and 2018 in their entirety. View the schedule below to plan out an afternoon with your Charlotte Symphony playing Gershwin, Bernstein, Mozart, and Mahler.


Americana

Air dates: Saturday, August 24, 3 p.m.
Saturday, September 21, 3 p.m.

LISTEN HERE

George Gershwin's symphonic poem An American in Paris was performed alongside Copland's Old American Songs and Grammy Award-winner and former Charlotte Symphony Artist-in-Residence Mark O'Connor's Americana Symphony.

Christopher Warren-Green, conductor
Charlotte Symphony Chorus

GERSHWIN An American in Paris
COPLAND Old American Songs
MARK O'CONNOR Americana Symphony

This concert titled "An American in Paris" was performed at Belk Theater, Feb. 2-3, 2018.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Bernstein Centennial

Air dates: Saturday, August 31, 3 p.m.
Saturday, September 28, 3 p.m.

LISTEN HERE

We celebrated the highly-anticipated centennial of Leonard Bernstein's birth with Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, presented alongside his remarkable Symphony No. 1 "Jeremiah" and Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront.

Christopher Warren-Green, conductor
Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano

BERNSTEIN Symphony No. 1, "Jeremiah"
BERNSTEIN Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront
BERNSTEIN Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

This concert titled "Bernstein at 100" was performed at Belk Theater, March 23-24, 2018.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Mozart Exsultate Jubilate

Air dates: Saturday, September 7, 3 p.m.
Saturday, October 5, 3 p.m.

LISTEN HERE

Mozart's fanciful opera The Magic Flute was quickly embraced by audiences of its day and its overture has remained a popular staple ever since. His Exsultate, jubilate is simply fit for a king, and was performed at the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York. And who knew Haydn could mix it up with the likes of Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, and Springsteen? His Symphony No. 45, known as the "Farewell" Symphony, represents his own brand of protest music.

Christopher Warren-Green, conductor
Amanda Forsythe, soprano

MOZART Overture to The Magic Flute
HAYDN Symphony No. 65
MOZART Exsultate, jubilate
HAYDN Symphony No. 45

This concert titled "Mozart Magic Flute" was performed at Knight Theater, January 19-20, 2018.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Mahler Symphony No. 2

Air dates: Saturday, September 14, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Saturday, October 12, 3 p.m.

LISTEN HERE

The 2016-17 Classical series finale featured just one work; and it was big. More than 250 musicians joined forces to perform Mahler's Second Symphony. A magnificent work that explores the full range of human emotion and our shared quest for understanding. Experience wonder, doubt, triumph and faith in this epic, life-affirming journey

MAHLER Symphony No. 2 (in C Minor), "Resurrection"

Christopher Warren-Green, conductor
Charlotte Symphony Chorus
Kathleen Kim, soprano
Maya Lahyani, mezzo-soprano

This concert titled "Mahler Symphony No. 2" was performed at Belk Theater, May 12-13, 2017.

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Posted in Classics. Tagged as Classical.

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