State of the Art

Charlotte Symphony takes free music to the streets

The Charlotte Symphony will host a free outdoor Knight Sounds concert April 17-18 at Knight Theater.
The Charlotte Symphony will host a free outdoor Knight Sounds concert April 17-18 at Knight Theater. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

As if the breezy KnightSounds concerts weren’t informal enough, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra will make the next one a chairs-and-blanket affair.

Folks who pay the regular $29 fee will get a general admission seat inside Knight Theater at 7:30 p.m. April 17 or 18, as well as the usual complimentary drink. But the CSO will do its first free “plazacast” outside to audiences at Levine Avenue of the Arts and Tryon streets. Those who make their own al fresco seating arrangements can watch a simultaneous broadcast of the show on a 16-by-9-foot screen with speakers.

Music director Christopher Warren-Green will conduct the concerts. They include selections from Leonard Bernstein musicals, including “West Side Story”; traditional Jewish Klezmer music commissioned for CSO principal clarinetist Gene Kavadlo; and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Charlotte native Phillip Bush, who teaches piano and chamber music at the University of South Carolina’s School of Music, will solo.

Members of Charlotte Ballet II will join the CSO onstage for dance selections from “On the Town.” After the concert, guests will hear live jazz from two Jazz Arts Initiative ensembles. (I saw one of the JAI ensembles rehearse recently, and they’re well worth hearing.) You can call 704-972-2000 to learn more.

Camera angles, we are told, “will capture onstage action and will be projected onto a large screen above the stage, including close-ups of Maestro Warren-Green, the musicians, and their instruments.” The quality of this experiment depends a lot on editing; the last time I saw the CSO do this, we spent a lot of time watching Warren-Green in brow-furrowed intense mode. (Fun, but not varied.)

Patrons will be encouraged to download the Charlotte Symphony app for Apple or Android to see the concert’s digital program book, which will include a welcome video from Warren-Green, musicians’ bios, information about the musical selections and a playlist of suggested listening.

The CSO has been more innovative over the last five years, partly in an effort to reach younger audiences and partly because it wants all of Charlotte (not just a moneyed elite) to realize it’s relevant. It always has been, of course, but not everyone has noticed. Taking music to the streets for free is a smart way to make them aware.

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