A message from your Charlotte Symphony regarding COVID-19 >> CLICK HERE

Sound of Charlotte Blog

CSO Musicians Go Totally '80s!

We asked CSO musicians to "turn back time"... and, boy, did they deliver! With its distinctive fashion, slang, and music, the 1980s was definitely the raddest decade in history. Take a blast to the past with these old-school cool photos!




Violist Ning Zhao

Ning immigrated to the U.S. to further his music education at Kent State University in 1986. This photo was taken during his first year. With this white jacket and sneaker combo, Ning shows that he definitely knows as much about fashion as he does about music - like the back of his hand. 


Acting Assistant Principal Double Bassist Jason McNeel

Jason may have been young in the '80s, but he definitely had his finger on the pop culture pulse. On Halloween of 1988, Jason was repping one of the most iconic characters of the decade: Alf. He definitely proved his love for the extraterrestrial by featuring him in his outfit not once, but twice. 

Evidently, I loved Alf! ~ Jason McNeel



Violist Nancy Marsh Levine

If there is one thing the '80s is known for, it's volume. This photo from Nancy's wedding in 1989 definitely exemplifies that trend. The amount of sleeve on her dress is beyond impressive. Modern-day bridal fashion really isn't what it used to be! 


Violist Ellen Ferdon

As hard as it may be to believe, this is not a still from a John Hughes film. This photo was taken in 1982 of Ellen and Jeff Ferdon, just before their wedding. As impressive as the fashion and hair are in this photo, the only thing we can focus on is the adoring look they're sharing.


Double Bassist Jeffrey Ferdon

This photo from 1984 shows Jeff graduating from University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Jeff claims he "had zero interest in clothes at the time," but judging by that sleek white button-up shirt and voguish clogs, we don't believe him at all. Finding inspiration from MTV's hottest music videos, Jeff's hair evolution included both the infamous mullet and even a foot-long rat tail. We can only hope to see a revival of one of those looks on stage! Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as CSO Musicians, Musicians, Pops.

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.

Father and daughter share the stage at Stars, Stripes and Sousa

Violinist Jenny Topilow has a special connection to our upcoming Stars, Stripes and Sousa concert on Nov. 15 & 16: her father is the guest conductor! Find out in our interview below what it's like for Jenny to see her dad on the podium, and how Carl Topilow creates his patriotic clarinet for this concert. 


Jenny, what's it like to have your father on the podium as your conductor? Have you worked together like this before?
JT: My Dad was my primary conductor when I was 18-22 years old. During that time, I wouldn't say we "worked" together as much as I was a student learning from him as a teacher, which he's great at. He did give me a B in conducting class [at the Cleveland Institute of Music], though (he was probably being generous!). 

Since becoming a member of the Charlotte Symphony, I have worked with my Dad many times. Often it's just us playing duets (with him on the clarinet), but also in [an orchestral setting] a few times, too.

I'm very proud of my dad and his amazing career, and it is special when he is on the podium, but he's very cognizant about not treating me any differently when we are in a professional setting. Maybe he'll point out that I'm his kid and he's excited to have me in the band, but then it's down to business. As he says "I've worked with hundreds of violinists, and you're definitely one of them."

Carl and Jenny, what inspired you to choose a career in music?
CT: My love of music and my desire to pass this passion on to other people as teacher and performer was my inspiration to make this a full-time profession.

JT: I started violin at age three after seeing Itzhak Perlman on Sesame Street (a surprisingly common story!). It's been simply amazing to share the stage with him recently.

My dad being a conductor and my mom being a ballet dancer, they basically had the 16th sized violin waiting for me in the closet. I was pretty talented and practiced pretty diligently, but as a professional musician and a teacher at a conservatory, my dad knows just how hard it is to have a successful career in music, and never pushed me to go into it. He didn't exactly stand in my way, but he made sure I knew how competitive it is. 

When I won my job with the CSO, he was the first person I called and he was the one person who cried happy tears with me, because he really understands how rare it is to win a job and how hard musicians work to prepare for auditions.

Is anyone else in your family musical?
CT: My brother, Arthur, is an excellent jazz pianist. He's also a much-respected hematologist/oncologist. My younger daughter Emily enjoyed performing as violinist with her college orchestra for 4 years and is now playing with a community orchestra in Cleveland. I recently appeared as guest conductor with that orchestra, and it was very rewarding to perform together!

JT: Like my dad said, my Uncle is a fantastic jazz pianist and my little sister plays the violin. My mom was a ballet dancer with Joffrey and the Metropolitan Opera in NYC before I was born and is a great lover of classical music (especially opera), and my stepmom, Shirley, is a professional tap dancer and also started the Cleveland Pops.

Carl, this kind of patriotic concert is one of your specialties. How did that come to be?
CT: These concerts do so much to instill a sense of pride and privilege to be living in the U.S.
There are many portions of the concert that are very moving, but I strive to create a balance of solemn and upbeat selections. It's always great to observe the reaction of the audience when they are touched by particular piece.

We hear you have a very patriotic clarinet... What's the story behind that?
CT: I have red, white, blue, and green clarinets, and can assemble parts of each to come up with multicolored clarinets. I always play the piccolo obbligato to the Stars and Stripes along with the orchestra piccolo players on a red, white, and blue clarinet. Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as conductors, CSO Musicians, guest artists, interview, Musicians, Pops.

Rodgers & Hammerstein: A to Z

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II ushered in the golden age of Broadway with their revolutionary partnership. In this special A to Z guide, read how their legendary careers impacted musical theatre on both stage and screen. 


A

Away We Go! was the original title of Oklahoma! After the addition of the show-stopping song "Oklahoma" during out-of-town tryouts, the decision was made to retitle the musical after that number.

B

Russian-born actor Yul Brynner gave one of the most iconic performances in Broadway history as King Mongkut of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. For the role, he won two Tony Awards and an Academy Award for the film version.

C

Carousel (1945) is the second collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein. The story is about carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, who marries naive millworker, Julie Jordan. After he dies during an ill-conceived robbery attempt to provide money for his wife and unborn child, he is allowed to return to earth for one day to set things straight. Carousel features classics such as "If I Loved You", "June is Bustin' Out All Over" and "You'll Never Walk Alone".

D

Doylestown, Pennsylvania is where the farmhouse stands that Oscar Hammerstein lived in from 1940 until his death in 1960. This is where he wrote his famous lyrics to the shows with Richard Rodgers and where he mentored his young neighbor, Stephen Sondheim, on the art of writing musicals.  

E

"Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music is a song sung by Captain von Trapp as a statement of his Austrian patriotism in the face of Nazi Germany. Named after the edelweiss, a white flower found high in the Alps, many have incorrectly believed that it is an actual Austrian folk song. It is also the last song that Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote together as Hammerstein would die from cancer shortly after The Sound of Music opened on Broadway.

F

The 46th Street Theatre is a Broadway house built in 1925. In 1990, it was renamed The Richard Rodgers Theatre in honor of the composer. Ironically, it has never presented a show by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it was the venue for the 1965 musical Do I Hear A Waltz? written by Rodgers with (Hammerstein protégé) Stephen Sondheim. It is the current home of the smash hit Hamilton

G

Green Grow the Lilacs a 1931 play by Lynn Riggs about settlers in the Oklahoma territory that Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted into their first musical collaboration, Oklahoma!

H

Lorenz Hart was a famous lyricist who was Richard Rodgers' first writing partner. Rodgers and Hart collaborated on shows such as Pal Joey, Boys from Syracuse, and Babes in Arms, and on many popular songs like "Blue Moon", "The Lady is a Tramp", and "My Funny Valentine".

I

"It Might as Well Be Spring" is a song from Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1945 film musical State Fair. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year. Cinderella, which was written for television, and State Fair are the only musicals by the pair not written for the stage. However, both musicals have since been adapted into stage versions.

J

Julie Andrews has become synonymous with Rodgers and Hammerstein due to her iconic performance in the movie version of The Sound of Music. Prior to that, she originally auditioned for R&H's 1956 musical Pipe Dream but Rodgers advised her to take the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady instead. The following year she starred in R&H's television musical Cinderella which was viewed by more than 100 million people.

K

Jerome Kern was a prolific songwriter and composer of musicals in the 1920s and 30s who Hammerstein worked with prior to his relationship with Rodgers. Their most famous collaboration was on the 1927 musical Show Boat. They also wrote notable songs such as "All The Things You Are" from Very Warm for May and "The Last Time I Saw Paris" which won the 1941 Academy Award for Best Song.

L

Liliom a 1909 play by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnár about a Carousel barker who falls in love with a maid named Julie. Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted the story, transporting the action from Budapest to Maine, for their second collaboration Carousel.

M

Mary Martin is one of the legendary performers in Broadway history and a three time Tony Award winner. A favorite of Rodgers and Hammerstein, she originated the leading roles of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific and Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music.

N

Nine the number of musicals Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for Broadway. These include the "Big 5" of Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959). Their other shows include the minor hit Flower Drum Song (1958), as well as the less successful Allegro (1947), Me and Juliet (1953) and Pipe Dream (1955). (Cinderella and State Fair were written for television and film respectively).

O

Oklahoma! (1943) was the first collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein. It revolutionized the American musical by fully integrating songs, dialogue, and choreography into the story.

P

Paul Robeson, the son of a former slave, was a celebrated American baritone stage and film actor and activist. He is the actor most identified with the role of Joe and song "Ol' Man River" from Show Boat. The song with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Hammerstein. Hammerstein's wife Dorothy, however, remarked that "Jerome Kern wrote 'dum, dum, dum-dum.' My husband wrote 'Ol' Man River'."

Q

Queens, New York: Richard Rodgers was born into a prosperous German Jewish family in Arverne, Queens. Rodgers' father was a prominent physician who had changed the family name to Rodgers from Abrahams.

R

Richard Rodgers is the first person awarded the esteemed "EGOT" or Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. He also was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for South Pacific.

S

"Some Enchanted Evening" tells the love story of the sophisticated Emile Debec, a rich Frenchman who falls for US Army nurse Nellie Forbush in Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific.

T

"There Is Nothing Like a Dame" from South Pacific is a comic song sung by the Navy Seabees, led by the wily Luther Billis, who lament their lack of female companionship while at war.

U

Underwear no seriously! In the early '20s, Richard Rodgers was struggling to make ends meet as a composer. He seriously considered quitting show business altogether to become an underwear salesman. Luckily, he and Hart broke through in 1925 with the hit song "Manhattan" that launched their careers.

V

The Von Trapp Family Singers were the basis for The Sound of Music, the final collaboration between Rodgers and Hammerstein, debuting on Broadway on November 18, 1955. The musical was an immediate hit, and the show's cast recording, recorded just a week after the debut, went on to sell over 3 million copies worldwide.

W

"The Carousel Waltz" is a symphonic piece by Richard Rodgers that opens the musical Carousel. At the time, it was customary for shows to open with an orchestral overture, however, "The Carousel Waltz" was revolutionary as the music instead underscored a pantomimed opening scene staged by the great Agnes DeMille.

X

Rodgers and Hammerstein took a stand against Xenophobia in their show South Pacific; especially through the lyrics of "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught". Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song speaks of how racism is not born in people, but they are taught to hate. Defending their stance and inclusion of the song, R&H remarked that "[its message] represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in."

Y

"You'll Never Walk Alone" is the hopeful anthem that concludes the first act of Carousel. In addition to being a Broadway standard it also the anthem of Liverpool Football Club and is sung at soccer games around the world.

Z

Impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, known primarily for his legendary Zeigfeld Follies, produced the original production of Show Boat in his theatre. Jerome Kern composed the score, with Oscar Hammerstein II providing the book, lyrics, and staging.
  Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as Pops, Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Meet China Forbes of Pink Martini

China Forbes (vocals) was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she graduated cum laude from Harvard and was awarded the Jonathan Levy Prize for acting. She appeared in New York regional theatre and off-off Broadway productions, earning her Equity card alongside future stars of stage and screen such as Norm Lewis, Peter Jacobson and Rainn Wilson.

Soon after college China formed and sang with her first band. They regularly performed at NYC clubs CBGB's Gallery, Mercury Lounge and Brownies. Her first solo album Love Handle was released in 1995 and she was chosen to sing "Ordinary Girl," the theme song to the TV show Clueless.

In 1995, she was plucked from New York City by Harvard classmate Thomas Lauderdale to sing with Pink Martini, and has since written many of Pink Martini's most beloved songs with Lauderdale, including "Sympathique," "Lilly," "Clementine," "Let's Never Stop Falling in Love," "Over the Valley" and "A Snowglobe Christmas," which can be heard on Pink Martini's holiday album Joy to the World. Her original song "Hey Eugene" is the title track of Pink Martini's third album and many of her songs can also be heard on television and film. She sang "Qué Será Será" over the opening and closing credits of Jane Campion's film In the Cut and her original song "The Northern Line" appears at the end of sister Maya Forbes' directorial debut Infinitely Polar Bear, which was released in 2015 by Sony Pictures Classics.

With Pink Martini, Forbes has appeared on The Late Show with David LettermanLate Night with Conan O'BrienThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Later with Jools Holland. She has performed songs in over twenty languages and has sung duets with Michael Feinstein, Jimmy Scott, Georges Moustaki, Henri Salvador, Saori Yuki, Faith Prince, Carol Channing and Rufus Wainwright among others. She has performed in venues from Carnegie Hall to Red Rocks, the Sydney Opera House to the Grand Rex in Paris. She released her second solo album '78 on Heinz Records in 2008, a collection of autobiographical folk-rock songs.

 
Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as guest artists, 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.

Get to know the Broadway Singers for The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and More

         

We caught up with our three soloists for The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and More, Morgan James, Hugh Panaro, and Debbie Gravitte. Each brings his or her own special Broadway experience to the Charlotte stage. 


Have you ever been to Charlotte? If not, what are you most excited for duing your visit?
MJ: I was in Charlotte last fall with my band. I always love coming through and I'm excited to make some new fans, and eat some great food!

DG: You bet! My husband was born in Goldsboro. We have family all over the area, who will be attending the show, and we vacation every year on Ocracoke. Can't wait!

HP: I don't think the airport counts so I'm pretty sure this will be my first time performing in Charlotte!  I have performed in Garner twice with my solo show. But there's nothing like singing with a Symphomy orchestra and I've already heard great things!  I'm also a HUGE  "foodie,"  so I can't wait to eat my way through Charlotte! 

How many shows were you in?
HP: Wow, I don't know!  I started acting professionally when I was 13 years old as Friedrich Von Trapp in The Sound of Music so I had already been in at least 13  productions before making my Broadway debut as Marius in Les Miserables. And here I am all these years later and I STILL get the same joy from performing! 

DG: This is a trick question for me. Whether it's the Broadway stage, a movie set, a television set, a nightclub or a Symphony Hall, it's all performance! I have been lucky to be in 8 Broadway shows and numerous other productions. 

MJ: I've been working on stage in some capacity for 20 years. I did four original companies on Broadway, and countless readings, workshops, and regional productions.

Hugh, what was it like performing in Phantom of the Opera, first as Raoul, then coming back to play Phantom years later?
HP: I loved playing both roles!  I think I was cast in the right roles at the right time. Hal Prince cast me as Raoul in my early 20's and I was kind of an impetuous "puppy" with a lot of energy and confidence. I don't think I had the "weight" or life experience to play the Phantom back then. Going back to play the Phantom many years later I had a lot more life experience to draw from so that I could fully embody a more complex character  Every experience we have hopefully helps us grow and allows us the opportunity to bring more of ourselves to a role.

Morgan, What was the stage show that has most influenced you and how has that shaped you as an artist?
MJ: I did a production of hair 10 years ago that really shaped me. It was one of my favorite leading roles out of town, right before I got my first Broadway show, and I think I really grew as an artist and became a true leader. I'm very grateful for my years of doing regional theater and learning how to be a leading lady out of town. 

Debbie, Being that you have performed with over 175 orchestras, what is your favorite aspect of performing for Symphony audiences?
DG: Every Symphony performance is different depending on the city it takes place!   Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as guest artists, interview, Pops.

Older Posts »

Archives