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Sound of Charlotte Blog

Get to know Broadway sensation Michael Cavanaugh

Grammy- and Tony- nominated artist Michael Cavanaugh joins us on September 28 & 29 to kick off our Pops series with The Music of Elton John and More. Get to know the Piano Man behind the music below.

1. At age 7, Michael's parents bought their first piano and he began to play. Encouraged by family and friends, he formed his first band at age 10.

2. In 2001 at a performance in Las Vegas, Billy Joel discovered Michael's vast talents and joined him on stage. Afterward, he invited Michael to join him in creating the Broadway musical Movin' Out.

3. Michael was nominated for Tony and Grammy Awards for his work on Movin' Out.

4. After Movin' Out closed in 2005, Michael began touring and quickly became one of the hottest artists in the private events market. He continues to perform worldwide for company and charity events, and at sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Indy 500.

5. In 2008, Michael debuted his first performance with symphony orchestras, The Songs of Billy Joel and More. He soon followed that up with the debut of The Music of Elton John and More in 2010. Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as guest artists, Pops.

Learn about Lenny: 10 Interesting Facts about Leonard Bernstein



1. Leonard Bernstein was originally born Louis Bernstein at the pressing wishes of his grandmother, but his parents and friends preferred to call him Leonard ("Lenny" for short). When Bernstein was 16, his grandmother passed away, which allowed him to have his name legally changed to Leonard. 

2. He was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts to Russian/Jewish immigrants, and began playing piano at young age of five.

3. Bernstein's rise to fame was rapid. He was unexpectedly named Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic with less than 24 hours' notice, when he was called upon to stand in for flu-stricken Bruno Walter. The program included works by Schumann, Miklós Rózsa, Wagner and Richard Strauss's Don Quixote with soloist Joseph Schuster, solo cellist of the orchestra. After a brilliant performance, he made the front page of The New York Times the following morning. 

4. In a concert of Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1, where he famously argued with the pianist Glenn Gould in rehearsal (Gould wanted a slower tempo), Bernstein made an announcement to the audience before they began: "Don't be frightened. Mr. Gould is here....in a concerto, who is the boss....the soloist or the conductor? The answer is, of course, sometimes one and sometimes the other, depending on the people involved." Ever the entertainer, who waited for the applause between each line of his address, Bernstein was later criticized for either attacking Gould or simply abdicating responsibility for the performance that was to ensue.

5. Perhaps his best-known work is the Broadway musical, West Side Story. Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the musical explored rivalries between two 1950's New York gangs (the Jets and the Sharks). What many don't know is that the musical was originally going to be about an Irish Catholic family and a Jewish family living on the lower east side of Manhattan. This idea was discarded, however, and replaced with the story we know and love today.

6. Bernstein was one of the first classical musicians to "master" TV. The Young People's Concerts existed in the US since 1924, but Leonard Bernstein brought them to a whole new audience in 1958 with the first televised concert of its type. Then, in 1962, The Young People's Concerts became a TV series, of which Bernstein conducted 53!

7. Bernstein was a close friend of Aaron Copland and recorded all of his orchestral works. He also played the Copland Piano Variations so regularly that they became his trademark piece.

8. He has been famously quoted saying, "I'm not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself. I want it to sound like the composer."

9. Though considered a conductor and great pianist, Bernstein oddly never performed a solo piano recital. He did, though, conduct and play in performances of Mozart piano concertos (and memorably in the Ravel Concerto in G).

10. Bernstein died only five days after retiring. His death was a result of emphysema.

Source: CMUSE. Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as Bernstein, composer, conductors, Pops.

Meet the Performers of Cirque de la Symphonie

Before you are bedazzled by the awe-inspiring performance of Cirque Goes to the Cinema, get to know the incredible Juilliard-trained musician and former Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Brothers performers that comprise Cirque de la Symphonie!

Janice Martin is a solo violinist who brings multiple talents. A Juilliard School of Music standout, she has won competitions such as the Washington International Competition and the Lena Na International Competition and was recipient of the Amadeus Career Grant Award and the Career Award Grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. In addition to being a concert violinist, opera singer and classical pianist, Janice has become an accomplished aerialist as well. 
Vitalii Buza began his gymnastic training in the Republic of Moldova and soon competed as an elite gymnast with the Russian national team. After a move to the US, he starred in productions at Sea World, Universal Studios, and Walt Disney World. He has been featured in numerous TV ads and won a role in the Walt Disney movie Enchanted. He excels in duo hand-balancing, straps, Cyr wheel, spinning cube, Chinese pole, and Russian bar.
Alexandra "Sasha" Pivaral has performed and headlined in countless productions around the world, including famous "Cirque Du Soleil". She has won prestigious awards for competing in top International Circus such as "Monte Carlo International Circus Festival" in Monaco and considered to be one of the most talented acrobats in her field of contortion, balancing and hula hoops. It is her stage presence, originality of elements and choreography that set her far above anyone else.
Vladimir Tsarkov provides a spell-binding performance with combinations of mime and juggling feats. A favorite of the younger members of the audiences, Vladimir's Red Harlequin act features rings, balls, and batons, and he's even been known to teach the maestro a trick or two! He is a veteran of Circus Circus, Cirque Ingenieux, and various Cirque de la Symphonie performances. 
Elena Tsarkova the "Lady in White," is a graduate of the famed Moscow Circus School and first-place winner of the prestigious National Russian Circus Festival. From her Master of Sports in gymnastics, Elena developed into a unique and graceful performer with the Big Apple Circus, Switzerland's Circus Knie, and Germany's Circus Roncalli. Her combination of contortion, balance, and graceful dance moves has made her a major star.
Pavel Prikhodko is a native of Voronezh, Russia, and is a 3-time national champion of Russia, 2-time World Champion, and 2-time Champion of the World Cup in acrobatic sport. A former veteran with Cirque du Soleil's "Varekai," Pavel is a multi-talented performer on straps, Russian swing, trampoline, and acrobatics. 
Ekaterina Borzikova is a graduate of the School of Olympic Reserve in St. Petersburg, Russia. A dynamic professional circus performer, Ekaterina has been involved with all aspects of the art form as a performer and creator of unique acts. She is a 10-year veteran of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, and is an accomplished performer on the aerial platform. She was the recipient of the Jean-Louis Marsan Award as an outstanding performer. 
Vitaliy Korshunov is a native of Ukraine, where he graduated from Kiev State Circus College. He began his career with the National Circus of Ukraine, winning first place at the New Ukrainian Circus Festival. His acrobatic experience includes worldwide tours with Nikulin's Moscow Circus.
Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as guest artists, Pops.

Randy Newman Serenades Symphony Staff Member

Meet Liz Wooley. Liz is our hardworking Operations Manager, who, since we are presenting the one-and-only Randy Newman tonight, had to work on her birthday due to rehearsal. But, there was a surprise in store for her at the end of the evening!

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

5 Questions With: John Goberman

John Goberman is a legendary name in performing arts circles. Probably best known as the creator of Live From Lincoln Center, Goberman developed the audio-video technology for telecasting live arts performances without audience or performer disruption and has earned tons of accolades (including Emmy and Peabody Awards) for his work in the arts.

Goberman also created a series of film-and-concert presentations called Symphonic Night at the Movies with many orchestras, including the Charlotte Symphony.

We caught up with Mr. Goberman before he joins us in Charlotte for Singin' in the Rain next weekend.
So how did the idea of Symphonic Night at the Movies come to you?
John Goberman: It all started with Alexander Nevsky, the great Prokofiev/Eisenstein cowboys-and-Indians Hollywood western, which they converted into a Russians-and-Germans non-esoteric thrilling picture with the best film score ever written. It turned out to be the worst film score recording ever, which is why I thought it would be great to have a real orchestra play it--live--and figured out ways to do that, which we premiered in Los Angeles with Andre Previn.

Why was that important to implement when you did?
Because there was a period of Hollywood filmmaking that used symphonic music, I thought there might be some other films where the live presence and sound of a symphony orchestra would fill (at least the composer's) concept of the music. The Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain, Psycho, Casablanca--they're all films in which the music is extremely important to the experience. The presence of an orchestra turns the event into a performance of a film, instead of just a screening of a film.

Seems complicated. How exactly will Conductor Albert-George Schram coordinate all of this?
I like to think that this experience for the conductor and orchestra is very much like playing an opera--when there's give and take between the performers and orchestra--except here there is no give. The conductor will be accompanying the singers on the screen just as he would in an opera. And while there is no "adjusting" coming from the screen singers--you can be sure they will do it the same every time! Same with the dancers.

So, does the orchestra rehearse with the movie on? How do they prepare?
Yes. The orchestra and conductor can prepare completely in advance by studying a DVD prepared for them. The study DVD contains all the visual elements of the performance, plus the dialog, vocal and sound effect tracks, without the music (as it will be in the performance) and also the original tracks with the music so he knows he is correct. There is also a clock, an analog clock with a sweep hand, which he uses as a guide so that the music is accompanying the picture correctly (a certain time at a certain point marked in the score).

How did you get into the field of music production? Did you study music? 
I used to be a cellist, and then I started the Live from Lincoln Center television series, which I produced until recently. But I have always had an affection for my live orchestra presentations of film. It is an audience experience and a musical experience that allows the work of some great composers to be heard fully, in context.
We kicked off our 2025-16 Pops series with a presentation of Singin' in the Rain on September 18 & 19, 2015, Belk Theater.

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

Albert-George Schram's Two Lives



Albert-George Schram is known at the Charlotte Symphony as the joyful white-haired conductor that makes seeing the orchestra play Pops concerts, ranging from Christmas music and Broadway to Motown, exciting. Elsewhere around the country, he's known for conducting Classical music. In a recent article in The Charlotte Observer, Larry Toppman covers this in "Charlotte Symphony's Albert-George Schram leads two lives."

Within the article, we learn 5 interesting facts about George:

1. He got bad early reviews from his piano teacher: "As a boy, my first instrument was tuba. I played cornet, euphonium, other wind instruments. And I'd ride my bike up to an old lady's house and sit among these big dark curtains to study piano. She told my father, 'You are really wasting your time.' "

2. He was a 20-year-old 12th-grader in Canada: "I was living in Alberta, and they wouldn't accept my Dutch high school degree. So I finished school while working on a farm with 12,000 chickens, collecting eggs and hammering fence posts into the ground."

3. After getting a bachelor's in music from the University of Calgary, he became music director of Stratusfaction, a 25-piece Canadian jazz ensemble that peaked with gigs in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He played trombone and trumpet, sang, arranged and wrote musical charts.

4. Languages come quickly to him. He improved his English after settling in Canada by watching TV. His favorite program: "Stampede Wrestling," where Archie "The Stomper" Gouldie battled Abdullah the Butcher. Much later, he spent a month at a Spanish-language institute, so he could conduct in Bolivia and Argentina.

5. He watches the Grammy Awards. "I do it because I want to know what's happening now," he said. "If I don't think any of the music played today is good music, and millions of people take to it, then I have to start opening my ears wider." Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as conductors, guest artists, Pops, summer pops.

Lions, mermaids and… bassoons?

Happy New Year, CSO fans! This weekend ushers in the first Charlotte Symphony concert of 2012, with "Disney In Concert: Magical Music from the Movies." This show will feature famous Disney songs from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, among others. Four talented vocalists will perform with the CSO, backed by original storyboard artwork and Disney-produced visuals. 

We sat down with the dynamic singers Andrew Johnson and Candice Nichole to get the inside scoop on Disney princesses, how they made it to the top, and wha treally goes on backstage.

How long have you been singing and performing?
Candice Nichole: My parents always exposed me to music and theatre when I was a little girl, but it wasn't until I was about 7 or 8 years old when I really began singing and got involved in community theatre. From there, I began training vocally at the age of 9 and started working professionally for Disney at the age of 11. At 13, I was invited by Maestro Barry Jekowsky to be the guest artist with the California Symphony and from that moment on, I knew for sure that this was my path and what I wanted to do with my life.  

Tell us about your role within the production.
CN: As the soprano of the two female singers in "Disney in Concert" I really love the material I get to sing in this show. I have always loved the music from The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. As a child, I used to wrap a towel around my legs and sing "Part of Your World" pretending that I was Ariel, so it's really fun to get to sing these classic Disney songs in such a fabulous show as an adult now.  

What do you love most about the show?
Andrew Johnson: I love being on stage with my fellow cast members all at the same time. We have such a blast!

CN: What I love most about this show is the reactions we get from the audiences we perform for. There is such a love for these Disney classics not only from young children, but all ages. For those of us who grew up watching these Disney movies or whose children or grandchildren did, it's very nostalgic and a real walk down memory lane for them as they watch the show. For the children of this generation who are still watching these Disney movies because they are so timeless, it's magical for them. It's also such a fabulous way to introduce young children to Symphony music because it's music they can relate to. I think it's so wonderful that the show appeals to all ages. Ted Ricketts and his wife Sherilyn Draper (Show Director) did such a fantastic job of weaving all these classic songs together in such a beautiful way.  

We all have our favorite Disney characters and princesses - who's yours?
 A.J. My favorite character is Ursula, because she's the most unique! Who ever thought of a evil octopus witch?!?
 
CN: I have to say, Ariel and Belle are my absolute favorites! I've loved them ever since I was a little girl, and I'm not just saying that because I get to sing their songs in this show! I have always identified with their passion and strong-willed determination.  
 
Give us the real deal: what really goes on backstage? Got any fun stories?
AJ: Backstage is a lot of prep for the show with lots of laughter. We don't see each other everyday so we catch up a lot. Sometimes it involves jokes and YouTube videos! Of course, there are lots of vocal warm ups too.
 
CN: Well....that would spoil all the magic, wouldn't it?  
 
What one piece of advice would you give to young singers who want to make it?
AJ: Always continue molding your craft. There's always room to be better and for the best foundation of singing and performing, study performers from previous generations...you will find all the skills needed for a successful and long career!
 
CN: I would say to any young aspiring singer/performer to train hard at your craft and keep on training even after you're busy performing. It's important to constantly be working on your instrument and craft and always working at being the best you can be. Also, perseverance is key. If you really want to make it in this business, you have to be willing to never give up. 
 
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Posted in Pops. Tagged as guest artists, interview, Pops.

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