Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Lunch Break (5/31/16): School bus runs off road into home and tree, 14 kids hospitalized

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 11:38 AM


Fourteen students and the bus driver were injured this morning when a school bus careened off the road and into a house and a tree. The kids were headed to Randolph IB Middle School. None of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening. Eight other children on the bus were not harmed. It's still unclear what caused the accident. (WCNC) 

Police are searching for two people involved in a shooting they believed stemmed from a robbery in east Charlotte this morning. The incident occurred at a home on Eastway Drive near Kilborne Road at around 3 a.m. One man was shot in the leg and is expected to recover. (Jennifer Miller, WBTV)

Traffic was snarled on Highway 321 in Lincoln County this morning after a man lost control of his truck and a passenger was ejected in the resulting crash. The man told reporters he heard a popping noise before losing control and overturning into the median. The passenger suffered serious injuries. (Dave Faherty, WSOC) 

Detectives with the CMPD Homicide unit arrested 26-year-old Michael Duncan for the murder of 46-year-old Darion Curry yesterday in the University area. Two men were reportedly shot on Berkeley Place Drive and drove together to the nearest hospital. Curry was later pronounced deceased there. Duncan was located this morning by the CMPD's Violent Criminal Apprehension Team and taken into custody. The incident is believed to be drug-related. (Ryan Pitkin) 

A boat exploded on Lake Norman yesterday, throwing one person off while four others were able to jump off at the first sign of trouble. One woman was airlifted to the hospital with severe burns, while a man was transported by ambulance. Another person from the boat was treated on scene. The cause of the explosion is still unclear. (Brett Baldeck & Meagan Faison) 

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Friday, May 27, 2016

The Blumeys turn five

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 5:22 PM

I suppose that I should begin by saying that Central Academy of Technology and Arts swept the top trophies last Sunday evening at the 5th Annual Blumey Awards. Their production of Ragtime won the Wells Fargo Best Musical for high-budget productions, and the show earned two of its stars tickets to New York for the Jimmy Awards, which recognize, mentor, and present the top high school performers in the nation in fine Broadway style. Our reps up in the Big Apple on June 27 will be Justin Rivers, who was Coalhouse Walker, and Amina Faye, who was his wife Sarah.

And hey, if you didn’t know, Central Academy of Technology and Arts is in Monroe.
Even if you were at the live ceremonies in Belk Theater, you might have assumed that Central Academy was a Charlotte school: the partisan screaming for them when they performed the “Prologue” from Ragtime was that loud. The almost universal standing ovation they drew validated it.

But Central wasn’t the only finalist from out of town to bring spirit, excitement, and enthusiasm at high decibels. Nation Ford High brought their “Under the Sea” sampling of The Little Mermaid from down in Fort Mill. Butler High, presenting “Brotherhood of Man” from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, rode in from Matthews. And cfa Academy, singing the dum-diddle-eyes of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins, hailed from Concord.

Their parents, teachers, and schoolmates were as loudly supportive as the winners’. Nor did these faraway schools go away empty-handed. Butler High’s Rickey-Levon Burch II was Best Featured Performer, and cfa took home top honors for Best Choreography, Best Set Construction, and Best Tier 1 Musical (budget under $10K). Other out-of-towners who were gleeful on their rides home were Hickory Ridge High from Harrisburg for Best Costume Creation (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and Libby Hatfield, from Arborbrook Christian Academy in Matthews, who took the Best Supporting Actress laurels (You’re a Good Man, Charley Brown).

Oh, and Central Academy added to their haul of trophies with Best Overall Direction honors.
Charlotte high schools had less to cheer about. Ethan Holtzman’s yeoman work as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance brought the glory of Best Supporting Actor to Charlotte Latin School, and Ardrey Kell High won a pair of prizes, for Best Ensemble/Chorus and Best Student Orchestra (Mary Poppins).

Yet cheer they certainly did. All 43 of the competing schools were involved in the opening number and the finale, with two representatives from each school plus the Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress nominees. When they sang “We’re on the Air” to kick off the ceremonies and “Don’t Be Surprised” to conclude them, the cheering was so loud that you couldn’t really hear the 19-piece Blumey Awards Orchestra or the nearly 100 voices onstage.

Either you bask in this pandemonium or add to it. As you’d expect, jolts of the same electricity came when ensembles performed and winners were announced – but partisans also punctuated the evening with raucous cheers almost every time a nominee’s name flashed onto the huge projection screen over the Belk stage. I’ve witnessed similar outbursts at the defunct Metrolina Theatre Awards and when Creative Loafing’s Charlotte Theatre Awards were briefly a live event.

Multiply that by about 25 and you’ll get the idea of how big and how electric the Blumey Awards have become. You can get a taste of it next month: WTVI jumped aboard this year, their Amy Burkett co-hosting with WBT’s Maureen O’Boyle, and the PBS affiliate will rebroadcast the whole shebang on June 14 at 8pm.

Concentrating on the Belk stage and hall, WTVI may not capture the full impact of the live event. As a judge for both the MTA and CL Awards, I found that the presentation ceremonies had an Oscar Night vibe, with folks I’d normally bump into – or review – at local theaters all dressed-up and in their sophisticated red-carpet mode. There was a lot of that at Belk Theater last Sunday – just three weeks before the Tony Awards, after all. But with those special infusions of high school pep, hormonal frenzy, and hysteria, the Blumeys are more like Oscar Night and Prom Night rolled into one.

Forgot to mention: These kids have talent to burn. You’ll discover that in the rebroadcast.

Plenty to enjoy at Spoleto Festival USA

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 5:12 PM

There’s plenty to celebrate this year at Spoleto Festival USA. The annual Charleston event, a busy and eclectic mix of the performing arts, marks its 40th season this year – along with the reopening of its grandest venue, the Gaillard Center, a sleeping giant since renovations began in 2012. It would be hard to imagine a more fitting way to celebrate the longevity of Spoleto, the city of Charleston, and the rebirth of the Gaillard than this year’s signature event.
Jonathan Green costume sketch for Porgy and Bess.
  • Jonathan Green costume sketch for Porgy and Bess.
Featuring the visual designs of Charleston-based artist Jonathan Green – and the voices of our Johnson C. Smith University Choir – the all-new production of the Gershwin Brothers’ Porgy and Bess will anchor the 17-day festival as no event before. Starring baritone Lester Lynch as Porgy and soprano Alyson Cambridge as Bess, the opera, clocking in at three hours and 15 minutes, will inaugurate the new Gaillard on opening night of Spoleto 2016 on May 27, and it will be among the final events on June 12.

The second performance of Porgy on May 30 will nearly upstage the first, for it will be simulcast on a jumbotron screen at Marion Square in the heart of town – and rebroadcast the following evening at the West Ashley High School practice field. Both events will be free to the public.

Porgy and Bess not only unfolds in Charleston, it is adapted from a novel, Porgy, by Charlestonian DuBose Heyward, who was inspired by people he knew and heard about. George Gershwin came down to Charleston to get a feel for the place, and the songs he wrote with his brother Ira and Heyward have lived on in many classic recordings. In jazz alone, you’ll find treasured versions of “Summertime” and other of the opera’s folksy arias by Billie Holiday, Sidney Bechet, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, and Joe Henderson. Standing tallest among the P&B tributes are the album-length Miles Davis set, with orchestrations by Gil Evans, and the famed Louis Armstrong-Ella Fitzgerald traversal of the score.

René Marie
  • René Marie
Maybe that’s the reason this year’s jazz roster is so mainstream and American this season compared with the international lineups of recent years. Of course, when we talk about Porgy and jazz, we’re not talking whitebread American. There will be ethnicity galore, with a couple of the chief headliners getting to break in the Gaillard Center as a jazz venue. The first jazz artist at the Gaillard will be René Marie (May 29), making her fourth appearance at Spoleto, this time backed by trumpeter Etienne Charles and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, heavyweights in their own right. Later next week, a jazz legend marks the 25th anniversary of his Spoleto debut as the Randy Weston African Rhythms Sextet (June 2) takes over the big stage.

There’s nothing shabby at all about the Cistern Yard venue on the College of Charleston campus. Still, you might catch a slight aroma of decadence as the moonlight filters through the live oaks and Spanish moss, while an ancient stone-faced clock, eerily spotlit, presides over the outdoor evening concerts. Multi-Grammy Award winning pianist Arturo O’Farrell and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (May 28-29) is the first big jazz name to lead a moonlight revel. Two jazz nobles split the next weekend at Cistern Yard. Cécile McLorin Salvant (June 3), winner of many recent critics’ accolades and polls, makes her second Spoleto appearance, and – in outré disguise – MacArthur Genius Fellowship winner Jason Moran (June 4) makes his Spoleto debut.
Jason Moran as Fats Waller.
  • Jason Moran as Fats Waller.
Moran will lead a Fats Waller Dance Party wearing a papier-mâché mask of Waller’s head – and hat. It will be fascinating to find out what that’s about.

The smallest jazz venue, College of Charleston’s Simons Center, isn’t as clubby as the Woolfe Street Playhouse recently adopted for the contemporary Music in Time (June 1-2) series when it veers toward latenight. But it’s a sonic gem – with general seating. So you’ll want to be the early bird, especially when The Freddy Cole Quartet (June 8-11) comes calling for eight performances. Word has long since gotten out that his singing sound is very much like his elder brother’s, Nat King Cole, and with Randy Napoleon backing him on guitar, there’s a kinship in his combo’s sound as well.

Fewer people know about the Bohemian Trio (May 28, 30-31), who make their six-performance stand at Simons a week earlier. Having rated saxophonist Yosvany Terry’s most recent New Throned King album among the top 40 for 2014, I’ll vouch for him. With a piano and a cello rounding out the trio, don’t be surprised to hear some classical sounds mixing into the Afro-Cuban flavors.

On the Theatre front, Dublin’s Gate Theatre will be making their 11th appearance at the festival with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (May 27-June 12). So what could possibly go wrong at the beautifully renovated Dock Street Theatre? Nothing at all … if they speak loudly enough! I’ll be heading back to Charlotte too soon to see Every Brilliant Thing (June 8-11), but having caught Jonny Donohoe’s one-man show off-Broadway early last year, I can recommend it – and the Woolfe is a perfect place to stage it.
Golem by 1927.
  • Golem by 1927.
I’ll be opting for another theatre solo during Spoleto’s final week with Gary McNair’s A Gambler’s Guide to Dying (June 7-11) at College of Charleston’s Robinson Hall. After winning a fortune on a 1966 World Cup bet, the Scotsman’s grandpa bets it all on living to the year 2000 – with a diagnosis of cancer hanging over his head. Please don’t tell me how this turns out! My own bet for a surefire hit comes from Suzanne Andrade’s 1927 company, making their third appearance at Spoleto. Mixing film, animation, Claymation, and mind-blowing set and costume design with live performance, Golem (June 8-12) promises to transform eerie Jewish folklore into a contemporary technological dystopia. Hopefully, Andrade & Co. can conquer the off-putting vibe of Sottile Theatre.
Havana Rakatan
  • Havana Rakatan
Dance is the most consistently fabulous element at Spoleto, so you also want to earmark anything you can wangle a ticket to in the same can’t-miss category as Golem. Appearing at the Gaillard during the last two weekends of the festival, L.A. Dance Project (June 4-5) and Havana Rakatan (June 9-11) are both self-recommending – especially if you realize that Havana Rakatan is shepherded to Charleston by Sadler’s Wells, the same London powerhouse that brought the fiercely exciting Breakin’ Convention to Charlotte last year.

Break dancing does get its moment at Spoleto when choreographer Amy O’Neal brings five world-class B-Boys to Charleston’s most versatile midsized space, Memminger Auditorium, for Opposing Forces (June 8-12) – with an original score by WD4D. Aakash Odedra Company (June 1-5) brings the acclaimed soloist to Robinson Hall, but that’s only after the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (May 27-29) brings their some choice cuts from acclaimed repertoire to the Sottile, plus live musicians to help bridge the moat between the stage and the audience. They’re also bringing a setting to my favorite piece of chamber music, Mendelssohn’s mighty Octet for Strings, an exciting prospect.
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
  • Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
Opposing Forces
  • Opposing Forces
Of course, there are also two operas, 11 lunchtime chamber music programs, two choral explosions, a recently exhumed cabaret revue that relates to Porgy, three orchestral concerts – including a 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert (May 28) – and the category-defying Manual Cinema (May 27-30) that I haven’t described. Head to the helpful Spoleto website for the complete festival schedule of all 150+ performances and info about all 45 of the shows.

Those of you who might be dragged away from Charlotte’s NASCAR bacchanalia might be consoled by the two bluegrass performances by Old Crow Medicine Show (May 26-27) at Gaillard Center, and if you’re gnashing your teeth over missing Brandi Carlile (May 30) here in Charlotte, she and her Americana pops up at Cistern Yard on Memorial Day. Lovers of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding soulfulness will be tempted by the Festival Finale (June 12) at the lovely Middleton Place plantation. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats headline the musicmaking that begins in the afternoon, continues into the evening, and climaxes with a post-concert fireworks display.

Lunch Break (5/27/16): Arrests made in some violent crimes, other violent crimes committed, around we go

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 11:50 AM


Members of the CMPD's Homicide/Assault with a Deadly Weapon unit are investigating after a man was found suffering from head trauma in northeast Charlotte this morning. Police did not originally know the cause of the man's head wound when he was found at around 1:30 a.m. on the 4400 block of John Penn Circle and rushed to the hospital. He was later identified as 34-year-old Gary Bynum and medical staff found that he was suffering from a gunshot wound. At last word, he remained in critical condition at Carolinas Medical Center. (Ryan Pitkin) 

The details of a shooting in the Oaklawn neighborhood last night are still unclear, although Medic has stated that two people were shot, one suffering "very serious" injuries and another just minor injuries. The shooting happened around 10:30 p.m. last night. Police have not released the names of victims nor suspects. (WBTV Web Staff) 

A 55-year-old woman was killed in a one-car wreck on Brookshire Boulevard after she reportedly ran off the road and struck a large pole for a street sign indicating an upcoming I-85 interchange. Medic pronounced Regina Strange deceased on the scene. Speed and alcohol are not believed to be factors in the wreck, according to CMPD, although witnesses said Strange drove onto the shoulder several times before crashing. The cause of the crash is still under investigation. (Ryan Pitkin)

Police have arrested four men in connection with a drive-by shooting that injured a 4-year-old girl in Shelby on Monday night. Patrick Rucker, 25; Cameron Shrader, 24; Julian Jackson, 24; and Marquise Beam, 24, have all been arrested in the case. Rucker, Beam and Jackson have all been charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and discharging a firearm into occupied property. Strong has been charged with obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact. Police are still searching for 22-year-old Robert Strong III, who is wanted for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and discharging a firearm into occupied property. (Ken Lemon, WSOC) 

Police have charged a 17-year-old boy with the murder of a man and woman who were found dead in their Gastonia home over the weekend. Police arrested Jose Adan Lopez Rios and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder. Police found 33-year-old Derrick Brice and 26-year-old Lashea Coleman dead in their home on Salemview Road early Saturday morning after family members said they couldn't reach the couple. Rios is said to be an acquaintance of Brice. (Fox46 Staff) 

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lunch Break (5/26/16): The crime has hit the white neighborhoods, get ready for panic

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2016 at 11:30 AM


Just days after a shooting in the parking lot of Midnight Diner, another shooting happened this morning outside of another popular South End nightlife location, this time outside of a batch of bars near The Oak Room. Police said an altercation that began in The Oak Room spilled into a parking lot near The Gin Mill and Tavern on the Tracks, where the shooting happened at around 2:30 a.m. A man suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was rushed to surgery with life-threatening injuries. (Joe Marusak, Charlotte Observer)

Police are investigating a shooting that took place near the Plaza Midwood neighborhood this morning. Investigators say the shooting happened on the 3100 block of Central Avenue and the victim, a woman who was reportedly grazed by a bullet, drove to Herrin Avenue near NoDa before calling police. She refused treatment by Medic and nobody has yet been taken into custody. (Fox46 Staff) 

Police have reported a large spike in burglaries in Myers Park and Dilworth, according to a WSOC report. CMPD stats reportedly show there were 15 residential burglaries between April 1 and May 24, a time during which there are only two last year. There have also reportedly been 11 burglaries in businesses in the area in that time, compared to none last year. (WSOC Staff) 

CMPD announced last night that a man found dead in his home early yesterday morning was killed by his girlfriend's father, who was protecting his daughter from being assaulted by the boyfriend. Police said they responded to the home late Tuesday night and found that the boyfriend, Patrick Creek, had allegedly punched his girlfriend in the shoulder during an argument. Police left after filing a report and advising the woman how to file criminal charges. They returned later to find Creek dead. Further investigation found that the girlfriend's father, Parker Bogan, put Creek into a chokehold after he went after the woman again. Bogan was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter. (Ryan Pitkin) 

FBI Charlotte officials are actively looking for more victims who may have been sexually assaulted by a man who allegedly sexually assaulted many children over the span of three decades, including during a time when he served as a church youth group leader. Ronald Black Sr., 69, was arrested on April 29 and has been charged with 29 counts of first-degree sexual offense and 12 counts of indecent liberties with a minor. Police believe Black, who led a youth group in a Baptist church in the 1980s, may have assaulted more children than they know about. Black lives in Lillington, North Carolina but also has ties to White Lakes, North Carolina and Florence, South Carolina. (WBTV Web Staff) 


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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lunch Break (5/25/16): Crime in Uptown and east Charlotte, teen missing from south Charlotte

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 11:30 AM


CMPD is investigating a suspicious death in east Charlotte this morning. A man died at 4 a.m. on Cattail Court of Plaza Road Extension and the medical examiner is working to figure out how he died. (WBTV Web Staff) 

Hailey Burns
  • Hailey Burns
Police are asking for the public's help in a missing person case after a 16-year-old girl may have run away from her south Charlotte home. Police said Hailey Burns left her home on Baldwin Hall Drive near Marvin on her own accord just after noon on Monday. She was last seen in blue jeans; a black, long-sleeve t-shirt with Marilyn Monroe on it; and Converse tennis shoes. Police also said it's unclear whether she has assistance from someone else or whether she is still in Charlotte. (Ryan Pitkin) 

A wreck on I-85 northbound in Concord this morning caused backups into Charlotte. The wreck happened near Kannapolis Highway, exit 58, at around 9 a.m. (Joe Marusak, Charlotte Observer) 

A 38-year-old woman was reportedly killed during a home invasion in Salisbury last night. Police there received a call about a home invasion and robbery just after 11 p.m. on Crown Point Drive and found that Lacynda Feimster dead in her residence. No arrests have been made at this time. (Fox46 Staff) 

One person was taken to CMC Main last night after being stabbed near Time Warner Cable Arena in Uptown. It's unclear whether any arrests were made in the incident, which happened around 9:30 p.m. (WCNC Staff) 

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lunch Break (5/24/16): Economic impact of HB2 in Mecklenburg nears $300 million

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2016 at 12:09 PM


City officials announced last night just before the Charlotte City Council meeting that the council would not be taking any action on the city's nondiscrimination ordinance or any other thing related to House Bill 2. Tweets sent out by the official City of Charlotte Twitter account read, "[Mayor Jennifer Roberts] and [Charlotte City Council] will continue to work with the General Assembly and [with] business and community leaders to address the continuing negative impacts of HB2 on the City of Charlotte and North Carolina. Charlotte remains committed to being a welcoming and inclusive community that is free of discrimination." The council was potentially going to vote on whether to repeal or revise the nondiscrimination ordinance it amended in February. The city also released a report on the negative impacts that HB2 has had on the city and the state that was compiled by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, the Charlotte Regional Visiting Authority and city staff. The report states that fallout from HB2 has lost Mecklenburg County more than $285 million. (Ryan Pitkin) 

An extremist pastor who was convicted of stalking abortion doctors in 2011 was kicked out of last night's city council meeting after he was told he couldn't speak and decided to ramble on about what is and isn't a sin regardless. (Sarah Hagen, WCNC) 

Roads will be shut down beginning tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. for Speed Street and will remain closed until Sunday morning. The Observer's list of which streets will be closed and where can be found here, but maybe stay away from driving Uptown at all for a few days if you can help it. (Joe Marusak, Charlotte Observer) 

Police have made no arrests in the case of a 4-year-old girl who was shot in a drive-by shooting in Shelby last night. Ariana Odoms is said to be in stable condition after being shot in the left side when unknown suspects fired more than 12 shots into a home she was in. (Fox46 Staff)  

A 75-year-old man who was killed in a wreck last night in east Charlotte has been identified as Ralph Black. Police said Black was driving a Chevrolet Equinox in the 4500 block of Shamrock Road at around 7:30 p.m. last night when he sideswiped a pick-up truck, continued into oncoming traffic and struck a utility pole. His vehicle then struck a storage building on Gainesborough Road. Black was pronounced deceased on the scene. Speed and alcohol do not appear to be factor. (Ryan Pitkin) 

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Lunch Break (5/23/16): City council to discuss HB2, nondiscrimination ordinance tonight

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2016 at 12:17 PM

Charlotte City Council will discuss House Bill 2 and possible action regarding the city's nondiscrimination ordinance in an open session at tonight's meeting, the city attorney reportedly said. The council could possibly repeal the nondiscrimination ordinance tonight as the first step in negotiations with the state to potentially repeal or revise HB2. (Steve Harrison, Charlotte Observer) 

Police are investigating a shooting in west Charlotte this morning. Police found the victim on Flintrock Road but it is believed that the original incident happened on Glenmoor Drive off of Little Rock Road. It's believed that the victim was shot in the face during a home invasion at around 1:45 a.m. and walked to a nearby home. (WSOC Staff)  

Police are also investigating a shooting at Midnight Diner that happened early this morning. The victim, a regular at the diner, was reportedly shot in the stomach in a parking lot behind the building and brought to the hospital in serious condition. It's unclear what caused the incident, but witnesses believe it was a robbery. Police have not arrested anyone in connection with the shooting, although one man was arrested at the scene for assaulting a police officer. (Mark Davenport, WBTV)  

A federal appeals court has reversed a decision holding Bank of America accountable for alleged mail and wire fraud during 2007 and 2008, negating a $1.2 billion penalty the bank was ordered to pay during the original trial in 2013. (Associated Press via Fox46) 

Baltimore police officer Edward Nero was acquitted this morning of all charges related to the assault of Freddie Gray, who died last year while in police custody. Nero is one of six officers who faced charges for the assault, one of whom's manslaughter case ended in a hung jury in December. (Associated Press via WCNC) 

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Today's Top 5: Friday

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 11:02 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, May 20, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Genome Pop Up # 1 at Art Hole
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Hippo Campus at Visulite Theatre

Shane Mauss' "A Good Trip" at UpStage

• New Frequencies w/ George Kuchar at McColl Center for Art + Innovation

• Junior Astronomers, Patois Counselors, The Mineral Girls, Shell & Cabron at Milestone

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Charlotte Symphony ends its classics season seductively

Posted By on Thu, May 19, 2016 at 5:36 PM

When the Charlotte Symphony Chorus was known as the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, they hooked up on numerous occasions with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in the most popular piece in the classical repertoire, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. More often than not, those collaborations would happen at the end of a season – or even at the end of a music director’s tenure with the company.

Sure, it’s as important to end your season with a bang as it is to start that way, for it’s your last shot at convincing fence-sitting newbies in the hall – as well as existing subscribers who haven’t yet renewed – to pony up for next season’s concerts. But you can’t trot out the “Choral Symphony” every year, can you? Lately, the CSO has found another winning warhorse in their stable, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Last week’s trio of Carmina concerts marked the third time in the past eight years that Symphony programmed Orff’s settings of mostly Latin poems. Not one of these poems, dating back to the 11th-13th centuries, has the chaste plainsong flavor of the church or Christianity, except perhaps for the most famous – and fearsome – “O Fortuna.” The worship of Fortune and her wheel surfaces in the works of Chaucer and lingers on in the tragedies of Shakespeare, a medieval oddity if ever there was one. Orff’s music restores its primal, superstitious force.

But you need to hear it and see it live to get the full power that movie scores, CD recordings, and TV commercials only hint at. Some of the 24 songs are bawdy, others lyrical, some sensuous, and still others festive and carousing, as the section names suggest: “Springtime,” “In the Tavern,” and “The Court of Love.” The weirdest of the songs, “Olim Lacus Colueram” (“Once I Dwelt in the Lakes”), always sounded Oriental to me when I was growing up, listening to my dad’s vintage vinyl. I never suspected that the narrator was a swan getting roasted on a rotisserie!

Delaying his entrance onto the Belk Theater until this song began, countertenor Lawrence Zazzo literally made a meal out of it. Emitting a high-pitched lament bordering on sobs, Zazzo compounded the weirdness of his torment in way I would never have anticipated. As he reached the song’s final stanza, beginning “Now I am lying in a serving dish,” he pulled out a large handkerchief. Instead of dabbing his wounds or his tears, he stuffed the handkerchief into his shirt collar, turning it into a napkin. Then he reached into another pocket, fetched out what must have been a succulent duck leg, and began munching on it contentedly as he made his exit.

Hard to top that little cameo. But I’d say that Javier Arrey, shouldering most of the solo chores, was the best baritone we’ve had here in Carmina – and his alcoholic Abbot of Cockaigne wasn’t altogether anticlimactic in the wake of Zazzo’s roast duck. I wasn’t especially wowed by soprano Klara Ek’s initial efforts, but when she reached “In Trutina” (“My Feelings Alternate”) and its wavering between chastity and erotic enslavement, she was sublime.

Clocking in at slightly more than an hour, CSO’s Classics Series finale was more like a KnightSounds event at Knight Theater. Indeed, the last time Symphony and Chorus combined on Carmina in 2012, it was a KnightSounds event. At the Belk, when Christof Perick last conducted Carmina in 2008, the program was fortified with a Mozart Violin Concerto served up as an appetizer.

Marketing was also cleverer. After crowning her performance of “Dulcissime” with an orgasmic “Ah!” that topped all the hedonism we had heard before, soprano Heidi Meier didn’t simply vanish into history. Nope, she had already been announced as a guest performer for the season to follow.
That’s not to say that the audience was let down by the relative scarcity of music and promotional tie-in. When I heard various people in the grand tier humming “O Fortuna” as we exited to the lobby – or singing that Latin out loud – I sensed total satisfaction in the air.

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