For the first time in more than ten years, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (CSO) will be performing alongside Johnson C. Smith University’s Concert Choir.
This concert is one of Charlotte Symphony’s efforts to diversify its audience and increase accessibility to orchestral music.
CSO was supposed to perform in 2022, but a new COVID variant spread around the same time, and the school’s protocols prevented the show from happening.
“The CSO has been putting greater emphasis on performing in spaces outside of uptown and also in creating partnerships in higher [education],” Deirdre Roddin, director of institutional marketing and communications, told QCity Metro.
“JCSU is one of those important partnerships, [and] we certainly want to support the incredible work they are doing.”
Performance pieces include Hall Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “La La La La” by Hatian-American composer Daniel Bernard Roumain.
Resident conductor Christopher James Lees collaborated with JCSU’s director of choral activities Dr. Shawn-Allyce White, to select a variety of pieces that would cater to a diverse audience.
”Coming up with pieces that really amplify and complement one another, showing the various strengths of all of the expertise in the room, was an important aspect of doing a program like this,” Lees said.
In this way, Lees said, CSO and the concert choir were able to bring recognition to the names and stories of composers who “didn’t make it into the history books.”
Ashtonraquel Williams is a sophomore at JCSU and soprano in the concert choir.
Williams has performed with orchestras prior to this event, she told QCity Metro, but this is her first performance with the CSO.
“No matter where you come from, there’s always someone that you can learn from,” Williams said when asked what this performance means to her.
Tuesday’s show will feature individual performances from the orchestra and the choir, and will end with a combined performance.
CSO plans to make the show interactive for guests. The organizers plan to invite the audience to sing along, Lees told QCity Metro in an interview.
Lees also shared that he hopes the collaboration will help people reimagine their perceptions of the orchestra and its music form.
“We hope that it showcases the diversity of what’s possible within orchestral instruments, because a lot of folks don’t think that orchestral music is for them,” Lees said.