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Symphony plazacast Friday, Saturday night: Big screen, free music

Apr 17, 2015


The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's KnightSounds concert will play inside and outside Knight Theater. People along Levine Avenue of the Arts will watch a simultaneous telecast of Gershwin, Bernstein and klezmer music.


Here's a question that hasn't come up before other Charlotte Symphonyconcerts: Where do we put 3,400 pounds of water?

The correct answer is "Behind the 144 square foot LED screen, so it doesn't topple over onto Levine Avenue of the Arts during the KnightSounds concert."

Sure enough, huge plastic containers propped up the structure holding that luminescent screen Friday. Passers-by stopped to watch the trailer for the next "Star Wars" movie, as technicians worked alongside the "Firebird" sculpture. Friday and Saturday, crowds will gather there for the CSO's first free "plazacast," which will be visible from Tryon Street to Knight Theater.

Inside the Knight, music director Christopher Warren-Green will lead works by Gershwin and Bernstein and klezmer pieces featuring clarinetist Gene Kavadlo. Outside, people will watch the concert.

Five cameras have been mounted around the hall: two at the back, one on each side, and a remote-controlled machine at the back of the stage. They'll show images on that LED screen and a screen over the stage. Davidson College's Tara Villa Keith will sit with the video producer in a booth and cue him about upcoming moments in the scores.

KnightSounds has been the CSO's most innovative series since its 2010 premiere, but this $40,000 undertaking (partly underwritten by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation) is its trickiest.

"We have 15 to 20 (extra) people on the technical side," says Bud Simmons, who's in his 20th year as director of operations and pops programs. "But the most challenging thing has been coordinating this with the Blumenthal, Wells Fargo, the Mint Museum, the Bechtler and the city."

Simmons turned to the Greensboro company S.E. Systems for the screen and local stagehands for the load-in, which began at 7 a.m. Friday in the rain. "The riggers had to climb wet steel to set this up," said Simmons. "That wasn't for the faint of heart."
The screen will go live with images and information at 6:30, after Levine Avenue has been closed, and the concert starts at 7:30. Patrons can download a Charlotte Symphony app to see the digital program book, which will include a welcome video from Warren-Green, musician bios, information about the selections and a playlist of suggested listening.

"We already like this idea enough to do it next season, if we find funding," said Simmons. "It takes a lot of effort we wouldn't normally put in, but we have to keep trying new things."