For the third season of its KnightSounds series, the Charlotte Symphony will not only broaden its musical scope but welcome a much-needed addition to the Knight Theater.
The KnightSounds concerts, aimed mainly at newcomers to classical music, will range next season from medieval chant to Mozart to John Lennon. One night will be devoted to the glitter of ballroom dancing. There even will be an orchestral work inspired by the electronic group Aphex Twin.
All the music will get a boost from the theater's installation of an acoustical shell -- a movable enclosure that surrounds the stage to help project the sound toward the audience. Blumenthal Performing Arts, which operates the Knight Theater, will buy a shell and install it in time for KnightSounds to open in September.
Next season's programs:
Sept. 28: "The Power of the Song," a tribute to melody as embodied in Gregorian chant and works by Mozart, John Lennon and others. Christopher Warren-Green conducts.
Jan. 25, 2013: "Ballroom!" Dancers from Metropolitan Ballroom help the orchestra spotlight the waltz, rumba, samba and more. Jacomo Rafael Bairos conducts.
Feb. 15: "Pop-Up Opera." The Oratorio Singers of Charlotte join the orchestra for a night of opera choruses. Translations of the words will be projected onto a screen, interspersed with other texts supplying background about the music or other tidbits. Scott Allen Jarrett conducts.
April 19: "American Music Masters and Pioneers." The orchestra plays Gershwin's "An American in Paris"; Aaron Copland's "El Salon Mexico"; John Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine"; and Paul Dooley's "Point Blank," inspired by music of Aphex Twin. Bairos conducts.
The KnightSounds concerts aim for a more casual atmosphere than traditional concerts. Video or other extramusical components often figure in. Concertgoers mingle over hors d'oeuvres beforehand, and there sometimes are social activities afterward.
The concerts have been a box-office success. Musically, though, they've been dimmed by the lack of an acoustical shell surrounding the orchestra. Without one, some of the sound escapes offstage rather than reaching the audience. As a result, the orchestra's sound has less body and impact.
The installation of the acoustical shell "completes the originally intended design of the Knight," said Jonathan Martin, the orchestra's executive director, in a statement. The shell, he said, "will greatly enhance not only our audiences' experiences, but will ultimately lead to significantly more performances by the Charlotte Symphony in the Knight."
When the theater, which opened in 2009, was planned, the specifications called for a shell. But it was eliminated during cost-cutting before construction. That saved $600,000 to $700,000, planners said at the time.
That's still the price range, Blumenthal president Tom Gabbard said in an interview. Blumenthal, operator of both theaters, decided to buy the shell because the orchestra has committed to doing more concerts at the Knight, justifying the expenditure. Another justification: Shifting performances to the Knight from the Belk Theater will free up the Belk for uses that bring in more revenue, Gabbard said.
"We think everybody wins from this," Gabbard said. The wood-veneer shell will complement the Knight Theater's interior.
"We're prepared to fund it ourselves," Gabbard said. "But if we found a donor who was ready to help us, that would be even better."