Thursday, March 22, 2012

'Classical Idol' will spotlight performers' passions

Moving in where television leaves off, an array of Charlotte's musicians and dancers will compete Saturday in "Classical Idol," a combination concert-variety show-multimedia event benefiting the Charlotte Symphony.

The contestants will range from Charlotte Symphony players and N.C. Dance Theatre performers to ballroom dancers and a Celtic fiddler. They don't necessarily divide up the way you'd expect: The ballroom group Passion for Tango includes the orchestra's principal flutist, Elizabeth Landon. She puts on dancing shoes as a hobby.

Landon says her own passion for Argentine tango goes along with being a musician.

"It's all about listening, " Landon says. Because the tango is improvised on the spot, the partners listen to the music, take cues from each other, and go with what they feel.

"When I began dancing tango just over a year ago, I felt like I was learning to play a new instrument," Landon says. "It opened up a world of expression to me that does not include the flute -- for a change. It provides a new way for me to enjoy and express music. This excites and refreshes me as an artist."

In "Classical Idol," just as on the TV phenomenon that inspired it, judges will weigh in on the acts, and the viewers will vote. Video clips will tell more about the performers. The show, created by the Symphony Guild of Charlotte, also includes these contestants:

  • A Charlotte Symphony string sextet will play the zesty first movement of Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence." If they dig into it with the gusto they did last weekend during a chamber-music concert for the city's Tchaikovsky festival, they should make a big impression.
  • Dawn Pierce, who plays Olga in Opera Carolina's staging of "Eugene Onegin" this weekend, will sing opera and Broadway numbers.
  • Passion for Tango will perform to the strains of the Charlotte Strings, a quartet of Charlotte Symphony players.
  • Harpist Alexandra Katelyn Mullins, a member of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra and winner of the Symphony Guild's young-artist contest, will play a pair of solos -- one of them inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven."
  • Celtic fiddler Jamie Laval and youth-orchestra violinist Annika Bowers will lead Charlotte Symphony members in a fantasy on British folk melodies.
  • The five dancers of NCDT 2, a subsidiary of N.C. Dance Theatre, will perform to Mozart's "A Little Night Music" as performed by the Rhodora Winds Trio, an ensemble of Charlotte Symphony players.
  • Witness, a vocal group made up of members of the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte and others, will sing a gospel medley.

While the judges ponder their decision, the audience will listen to a percussion call-and-response by the Bucket Band from east Charlotte's Winterfield Elementary School. While the Winterfield kids won't be part of the competition, I have a hunch that they just might steal the show anyway.