Classical goes modern with multimedia

Audiences will see the Charlotte Symphony on March 30 and 31 as they never have.

As the orchestra digs into an all-Tchaikovsky program, video cameras will zero in on the Belk Theater stage. The images of the conductor and players will be beamed onto a screen above the orchestra, giving the audience a personal view of the musicians at work.

The orchestra also will let the audience vote on an encore. A list of options will flash onto the video screen, and the audience will text message their selections before the concert and during intermission.

The multimedia presentation – sponsored by Charlotte’s Marand Builders – is the orchestra’s latest venture aimed at revamping the concertgoing experience. Classical music, which has been presented in much the same way for generations, has to adapt to modern times, says Marand President Francisco Alvarado.

“In our rapidly changing high-tech environment,” Alvarado says in a statement, “innovation, creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit are essential ingredients for success.”

Drawing in new listeners ties in with the orchestra’s years-long effort to put financial crises behind it. The group is now in the second season of its KnightSounds series, which offers shorter concerts, a casual atmosphere and pre-concert mingling (with food and drink) in hopes of attracting people who are new to classical music.

The next KnightSounds concert comes Friday, when the orchestra, N.C. Dance Theatre and Opera Carolina collaborate on a program weaving together Tchaikovsky’s life and music – part of the city’s monthlong Tchaikovsky festival.

The March 30 and 31 concerts, also part of the Ulysses Festival, will open with excerpts from “Swan Lake” and finish with Tchaikovsky’s tumultuous Symphony No. 4. In the middle, guest soloist Joshua Roman will join the orchestra in the graceful “Rococo Variations” for cello and orchestra.

That will remind everyone that Tchaikovsky isn’t only about drama.