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A pitcher of cool water in a musical desert

Jun 16, 2020

By Lawrence Toppman, Of Note - WDAV Classical Public Radio 

The Internet has been crammed for three months with well-intentioned, often makeshift performances designed to relieve the cultural drought. Now the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra has found a satisfying way to bridge the gap between the virtual world and the real one: Its six-concert Al Fresco series kicks off with principal cellist Alan Black and principal harpist Andrea Mumm.

They play on the stage Black erected behind his Woodberry Forest home, a locale so inviting I felt like tracking it down and hiding in the bushes for the next taping. (Suitably masked, of course.) He built it to carry on the 400-year tradition of intimate musical gatherings for small audiences at private homes. But the debut concert had no audience beyond a video crew.

The format, roughly 40 minutes of music and conversation, flows easily. The first program, dedicated to the healing of a nation battered by COVID-19 and racial unrest, consisted of brief, uniformly soothing pieces. Only the last of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Six Studies in English Folk Song" briefly moved along faster than an andante tempo. Arvo Pärt's mesmerizing "Spiegel im Spiegel," the most serene music I know, seemed especially apt in this context.

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