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Escaping Expectations - The Charlotte Symphony Moves

by Teresa Hoelle

November 9,2010

Halfway down the hall, outside the closet door.

That’s where it happened.

It was nothing like I had expected, but it was simply perfect. You see, three years ago standing together halfway down the hall, outside my closet door, is the exact spot where I first kissed him. The man I am now about to marry. At that very moment, while I was reaching for a scarf to wear to dinner on that cool fall evening, our eyes locked and a surge of emotions exploded within me. Without even realizing what I was doing, I leaned forward and planted my lips onto his. It was fabulous. Surprise, shock, joy, bashful smiles, laughter, a tinge of shyness and youthful emotions… it’s a moment in my life that I will never forget.

Just like that first kiss, when it comes to what matter most to us, we act in response to our passions, beliefs and emotions. Something moves within us, and we can no longer confortably abide by what is expected. With all the benefits we gain from it, I feel one of the greatest gifts music bears is its ability to stir and climax our emotions. From sports locker rooms to church choirs, athletes’ iPods, movies, advertisements, even nightclubs and restaurants – all strategically incorporate the power of music to elevate and inspire the human spirit. Piano, percussion, violin, guitar, the human voice, even synthesized sound – at the right moment, music has a way of moving us in almost incomprehensible ways.

Oddly enough, however, I have typically found myself experiencing emotional dissonance when attending symphony concerts. Although I love a wide variety of music (classical included), and my surrounding and societal norms dictate I am to love this art form, I’ve often felt alienated and restricted in the quiet concert halls. Somewhere between hunting down my exact seat number (oh – that’s row M in the gallery…upstairs…) and trying to follow the program’s archaic and academic description comparing so-and-so’s 5th Symphony to you-know-who’s 9th whatchamacallit, my emotions seem to somehow become suppressed before the concert even begins. And, even though there is an 80-person live performance transpiring right before me and the acoustics truly are phenomenal, I haven’t been able to “connect” somehow.

Fortunately, ignoring my developing aversion to symphony concerts, I accepted an invitation to a attend Charlotte Symphony Orchestra concert in October. It was Charlotte Symphony’s first KNIGHTSOUNDS concert, an inaugural program launched this season, in the new Knight Theater auditorium. The symphony performed Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” while NASA film footage of each planet was simultaneously projected onto a massive screen floating above the players.

The piece was beautiful, and I appreciated the creative integration with the film footage. However, what struck me most about that evening was how in planning and presenting the evening, the Charlotte Symphony took every notion of a typical symphony concert and shook out all the unnecessary and familiar elements. I experienced the symphony concert for the first time again that evening.

The energy I felt upon entering the theater was remarkable. It was packed full of people mingling and buzzing around during the one hour pre-concert cocktails and hors d’oeurves. The evening’s program was comprised of seven small multicolored stock cards, each containing brief information on what to listen for in each of the piece’s seven sections. The seating was open, beverages were permitted in the auditorium, the typical tiresome intermission was eliminated, and the program last just one magical hour. Like me, the entire audience appeared relaxed, and I was impressed by the broad range of people in attendance.

By making a few strategic alterations, the symphony had removed some of the staid traditions which had overtime become barriers to connecting to an audience. My emotions raced to the surface of my skin and my heart pulsed as they played. Several audience members were so moved that they couldn’t wait for the “right time” to applaud (or perhaps like me, they didn’t know or care about any of that nonsense); they just responded as the music and instrumentation moved them. And it was perfect. Just as I was stirred that night three years ago, the symphony has given me a moment that I am sure most of the 1200 people at that sold-out concert will not soon forget.

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