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Composer creates work for Symphony to evoke Charlotte's 250 years

Sep 15, 2018

The Charlotte Symphony commissioned a composition from Nkeiru Okoye to celebrate the city's 250th anniversary. But

Let your mind roam across 250 years of Charlotte-Mecklenburg history, and what do you hear?
Maybe "Tullochgorum," a fiddle tune from our Scots-Irish heritage? Perhaps the ceaseless clacking of a mill, with laborers singing work songs or spirituals to relieve the monotony? How about a hymn suggesting Billy Graham and our nearly forgotten nickname "City of Churches"?

Nkeiru Okoye tuned into those things, too. She also heard the Angolan music of slaves brought here long ago, songs sung by Latino immigrants who have more recently arrived and cries of protest from people who feel unheard in the least upwardly mobile of America's big cities. She wove them into a dense, 12-minute tapestry titled "Charlotte Mecklenburg," which gets its world premiere Sept. 21 in the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's opening concert.

Ordinarily, the focus for this Gala Opening Night at Belk Theater might be on Joshua Bell and his 305-year-old Stradivarius. They'll team up for Brahms' only violin concerto to close the evening. Yet Okoye's piece, which will come in the middle, after Shostakovich's "Festive Overture," may grip the audience's imagination harder.

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