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Meet "Christmastime in Charlotte" composer, Gary Fry

Emmy-winning composer Gary Fry returns this season for Magic of Christmas & The Singing Christmas Tree, Dec. 13-22 at Knight Theater. We sat down with Gary to find out if his beloved carol written for the Queen City, "Christmastime in Charlotte," will sport a new verse, when he begins listening to Christmas music every year, and more.


Do you have any holiday traditions?
I think our family traditions are pretty normal. We gather for family dinner on Christmas Eve, and my wife gives all our children (and now, grandchildren) Christmas pajamas before bedtime, and we read the Clement Moore poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. Christmas Day is a time for spending time with family and opening gifts!

Last year, you wrote a new Christmas carol for us, "Christmastime in Charlotte." Will there be any changes or additions to the carol this year?
From the beginning, the idea was to have one verse of lyrics that changed each year to reflect things that were happening currently in Charlotte, or something special related to the Magic of Christmas program that particular year. You'll just have to come to the concert to find out what the "topical lyrics" are this year!

Which part of the concert are you most excited for?
It's all exciting to me especially the fact that this year joining our wonderful Charlotte Symphony are Carolina Voices' The Singing Christmas Tree, the Charlotte Children's Choir, and Grey Seal Puppets. It will all make for a very fresh and exciting new sound and look - filled with Christmas spirit!

What's your favorite Christmas carol?
Well, I must say I especially like "O Holy Night" as a traditional carol, and the music from the movie The Polar Express is wonderful as far as newer Christmas songs go. And, hearing "Christmastime in Charlotte" is always a wonderful thrill for me as a composer.

If you were a sugar cookie, what shape would you be?
Ha! A Christmas cookie shaped like a harp or a bell-- something musical!-- would be appropriate for me.

A potentially controversial question: At what time of the year do you start listening to Christmas music?
Since I work on so much Christmas music, I listen to it literally year-round. I'm already listening to Christmas music for 2020!
Joyful. Heartwarming. Pure family fun. Make new family memories to cherish for years to come at Magic of Christmas & The Singing Christmas Tree, Dec. 13-22 at Knight Theater. Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as holidays, interview, Magic of Christmas, Pops.

5 Exciting holiday experiences with your CSO this season

The Holidays are just around the corner, which means the return of time-honored traditions and the making of new ones. From acrobatics above the orchestra to snow in the theater, check out these five exciting experiences that you can have, only with your CSO. 

1. Snow in the Knight Theater

You may already be familiar with the CSO's annual Magic of Christmas, but did you know that it snows in the theater following the concert? Featuring a visit from Santa, audience sing-alongs and your favorite holiday music, this longstanding Charlotte tradition combines this year with Carolina Voices' The Singing Christmas Tree December 13-21.



2. Acrobatics above the orchestra

When the circus comes to town, they don't mess around. Cirque de Noel on December 28 at Belk Theater will include stunning aerial feats that will wow the whole family.

3. Dancing on stage for New Year's Eve

The party has moved to the Belk Theater this year to accommodate more room for the post-concert festivities. Swing into the New Year with style with Gershwin's famous Rhapsody in Blue, followed by champagne, desserts, a live jazz band, and a countdown to midnight. 



4. Halleluja!

Handel's Messiah returns this year by popular demand. The CSO will perform this beautiful, dramatic work featuring the Hallelujah Chorus with the Charlotte Master Chorale and four soloists on December 6 & 7 at Knight Theater. 

5. Watch Kevin get left Home Alone

Part of the CSO's Movie Series, the orchestra will perform the soundtrack to this delightful holiday classic live in sync with the film projected on a large screen above orchestra. Don't miss it on November 29 at Belk Theater. Read more

Tagged as holidays, Magic of Christmas, Movie Series, Pops.

Making the Most of Magic of Christmas


Whether, like us, it's a 20-year holiday tradition for you, or you're attending for the first time with your family, Magic of Christmas is sure to be full of memorable fun! Make it even better with these need-to-know tips to help enhance your experience.

NEW THEATER: Know where to go.

This year, we're shaking things up a bit and holding performances at Knight Theater - that's the theater on the Levine Center for the Arts campus at 430 S. Tryon St.
 

Know the players.

Get to know the full-time professional orchestra musicians you'll hear performing on stage! For one, the man who makes that horse-whinny noise we all love at the end of "Sleigh Ride?" That's Acting Principal Trumpeter Alex Wilborn, one of two new musicians this season. Also, fun and festive Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees will lead us!
Alex Wilborn, Acting Principal Trumpet
 

Get to know our composer, Gary Fry.

You know when you just CAN NOT get a song out of your head? We promise that our NEW Christmas carol written just for us this holiday season will do just that. Emmy-winning composer Gary Fry, who's new to the area (he moved here from Chicago to be closer to his family), joins us for Magic this season. Get to know Gary.

Francene Marie Morris For these performances, Francene Marie Morris join us as host and narrator for 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
 

Join the chorus!

Of course the Charlotte Symphony Chorus will make the event merry. But we know in your heart of hearts that you want to join in the fun! The chorus will lead YOU and your kin in singalongs, including the world premiere of "Christmastime in Charlotte." Pro chorister tip: Drink lots of hot tea and cover up your throat when outdoors!
 

Come early - or stay after - to snap family photos with Santa!

The Jolly man himself will join us on and off stage. Look for the man in red before the concert and afterwards. Charlotte Symphony backdrops and Santa's pals will make for great holiday card shots! Tag @cltsymphony and use the hashtag #CSOmagic.
 

Dress appropriately.

And by that, we mean wear the ugliest sweater or fanciest dress you can find. In other words, come as you are - our musicians will be festive and they always love looking out to see our smashing audience. Finally, dress wamly, beacuse IT WILL SNOW in the theater!
 

Posted in Pops. Tagged as holidays, Magic of Christmas, Pops.

12 Days of Magic

Each day leading up to the first of 10 performances of Magic of Christmas, we'll spotlight one of the many magical elements of this year's program. Check back each day for the next installment!


Our stage is set, and we're ready to kick off the first of ten performances of Magic of Christmas! We can't wait to see you tonight. 
Some sounds of the season are quintessentially Christmas particularly in Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride. And no one knows that better than Acting Principal Trumpet Alex Wilborn, who performs the notorious horse whinny. Get a sneak peek of his rendition here.
Magic of Christmas includes all of your favorite holiday tunes, festive singalongs, and a brand new Christmas carol written just for Charlotte. In THREE days, we kick off the first of ten performances! Click here for a sneak peek of the program.
Did you know that there are 10 GUARANTEED snowfalls in Charlotte? At each Magic of Christmas, snow will fall in Knight Theater using four snow cannons positioned around the theater. 
Click here for a special holiday greeting from your Charlotte Symphony. We can't wait to celebrate with you as Magic of Christmas kicks off in five days.
December 9 is World Chorus Day, and there are just six more days until the Charlotte Symphony Chorus joins us for carols and singalongs at Magic of Christmas!
Francene Marie Morris joins us in just seven days as Magic of Christmas host and narrator for the timeless 'Twas the Night Before Christmas!
Just eight days until we kick off this year's ALL NEW Magic of Christmas program! Take a look at how this year's performance stacks up.
Santa's bringing some friends to Magic of Christmas in just nine days! Don't forget to capture the memories with a photo when you join us for Charlotte's favorite holiday tradition! 
Resident Conductor Christopher James Lees will take the podium to kick off this year's Magic of Christmas in ten days! Hear a message from him here.
Whether you know him as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or Santa, don't forget to visit the jolly man himself at each Magic of Christmas performance! 
Get to know "Christmastime in Charlotte" composer Gary Fry. 
Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as holidays, Magic of Christmas, Pops.

Get to Know Composer Gary Fry

At this year's Magic of Christmas, new Charlottean and Emmy-winning composer Gary Fry has written a Christmas carol fit for the Queen City! Get to know Gary below.


Tell us briefly about how you came to be a composer.
I grew up in Iowa, and my parents were farmers. I loved music from an early age and had public school music training with wonderful teachers who encouraged me to write for high school chorus and jazz band. Following my time at the University of Miami (Florida)--where I met more great mentors in choral music and composition--I graduated with a double major in music composition and music education. I taught middle school general music in New Jersey briefly, began to write arrangements for music publishers, and in a couple of years got a staff position at a commercial music agency in Chicago. I've now written thousands of commercials and began to write arrangements for the Chicago Symphony Christmas program, which I did for 19 years. I still write a lot of music, especially for Christmas!

What's your favorite thing about writing music? Do you prefer composing Christmas music?
Three things. First, the "aha" moment when you think about a concept that really makes a piece work. Second, the moment when you hear musicians bring that concept to life for the first time; and third, when you see an audience respond to that concept the way you had hoped.

And yes, I love writing Christmas music! It's such a joyful season, filled with family and tradition and generosity and good will.

How do you gather inspiration when beginning to look at a piece like "Christmastime in Charlotte?"
Well, it's easy to be inspired when you consider all the things I just mentioned--and then, of course, there's the city of Charlotte itself and the things that make it special and the Christmas activities and traditions that make it unique.

 

You're from Chicago. What have you learned about Charlotte along this process?
It's been terrific for me as a new resident of the area to become acquainted with the city: learning the landmarks like Independence Square, and street names like Tryon and Trade, and nicknames like "The Queen City," and discovering the things that folks here commonly do at Christmastime (especially without the sometimes frigid weather I knew in Chicago). It's all been great fun, and though I definitely still feel like a newcomer, but that does give me a fresh view of just how dynamic and full of energy the city of Charlotte is.

How does this type of collaboration work?/How much input does the conductor have?
This is very much a collaboration! My first contact was with Mary Deissler, who has a wonderful vision of what the all-new Magic of Christmas concerts could be for the orchestra and for the city. And then there's Christopher James Lees--what a marvelous conductor and person, whose personality on the podium will really infuse the program with enthusiasm and joy and fun. And in seeking input from both of them, I actually wrote two songs with completely different melodies and musical frameworks, so that they could consider them both and choose the one they thought would work best for the orchestra and the program. And we're still fleshing out all the lyrics, with plenty of back-and-forth about that. They are both invaluable resources to a composer!

How many songs have you written total?
That depends on just what you consider a song! If mini-songs like commercial jingles count, that number would be well into the thousands. But if you're talking full-length, original songs with verses and refrains and so forth, it's in the hundreds. And as an arranger, I've written hundreds more arrangements of existing songs. So ... a lot!

What makes a holiday tune "catchy," so you can't get it out of your head?
With a background in commercial jingles that are supposed to do exactly that, it boils down to simplicity, sing-ability, and repetition. The trick is to do that without being boring! I think it's also the way the words marry to the melody, and hopefully a little different sort of twist that sets the tune apart and gives it real identity.

For "Christmastime in Charlotte," my hope is that by the end of the very first performance, the audience is singing along!

Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as composer, holidays, interview, Magic of Christmas, Pops.

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