Entertainment

Symphony plazacast Saturday night: Big screen, free music

Keith Evans, a stage hand with Local 322 helps hang a banner for the Charlotte Symphonies "A Night in New York," concert. The symphony is attempting to create a "tailgate" atmosphere for the next KnightSounds concert at Knight Theater. The Levine Avenue of the Arts will be closed off and the concert inside the theater will be projected for free to an audience outside.
Keith Evans, a stage hand with Local 322 helps hang a banner for the Charlotte Symphonies "A Night in New York," concert. The symphony is attempting to create a "tailgate" atmosphere for the next KnightSounds concert at Knight Theater. The Levine Avenue of the Arts will be closed off and the concert inside the theater will be projected for free to an audience outside. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Here’s a question that hasn’t come up before other Charlotte Symphony concerts: Where do we put 3,400 pounds of water?

The correct answer is “Behind the 144 square foot LED screen, so it doesn’t topple over onto Levine Avenue of the Arts during the KnightSounds concert.”

Sure enough, huge plastic containers propped up the structure holding that luminescent screen Friday. Passers-by stopped to watch the trailer for the next “Star Wars” movie, as technicians worked alongside the “Firebird” sculpture. Friday and Saturday, crowds will gather there for the CSO’s first free “plazacast,” which will be visible from Tryon Street to Knight Theater.

Inside the Knight, music director Christopher Warren-Green will lead works by Gershwin and Bernstein and klezmer pieces featuring clarinetist Gene Kavadlo. Outside, people will watch the concert.

Five cameras have been mounted around the hall: two at the back, one on each side, and a remote-controlled machine at the back of the stage. They’ll show images on that LED screen and a screen over the stage. Davidson College’s Tara Villa Keith will sit with the video producer in a booth and cue him about upcoming moments in the scores.

KnightSounds has been the CSO’s most innovative series since its 2010 premiere, but this $40,000 undertaking (partly underwritten by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation) is its trickiest.

“We have 15 to 20 (extra) people on the technical side,” says Bud Simmons, who’s in his 20th year as director of operations and pops programs. “But the most challenging thing has been coordinating this with the Blumenthal, Wells Fargo, the Mint Museum, the Bechtler and the city.”

Simmons turned to the Greensboro company S.E. Systems for the screen and local stagehands for the load-in, which began at 7 a.m. Friday in the rain. “The riggers had to climb wet steel to set this up,” said Simmons. “That wasn’t for the faint of heart.”

The screen will go live with images and information at 6:30, after Levine Avenue has been closed, and the concert starts at 7:30. Patrons can download a Charlotte Symphony app to see the digital program book, which will include a welcome video from Warren-Green, musician bios, information about the selections and a playlist of suggested listening.

“We already like this idea enough to do it next season, if we find funding,” said Simmons. “It takes a lot of effort we wouldn’t normally put in, but we have to keep trying new things.”

Toppman: 704-358-5232

‘A Night in New York’

The Charlotte Symphony does its first free plazacast at a KnightSounds concert. It offers Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” (with pianist Phillip Bush), Bernstein’s “On the Town” and Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” (with Charlotte Ballet II) and klezmer dances featuring clarinetist Gene Kavadlo.

WHEN: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.

TICKETS: $29. Free outdoors. Bring your own chairs or use the seating around Levine Avenue of the Arts.

DETAILS: 704-972-2000 or charlottesymphony.org.

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