Holiday Pops with the North Carolina Symphony

Feb 11, 2013

The North Carolina Symphony is celebrating their 80th season. We talk to the Senior Director of Statewide Development about their upcoming holiday pops concert in downtown New Bern.

First the violins, then the violas, the cellos and double bass - each instrument gradually fading in to tune to the key of A major. That's a familiar sound for the 65 full-time professional musicians that make up the North Carolina Symphony. This week, the symphony started their Holiday Pops concert tour making stops in Statesville, Lincolnton and Wilkesboro. Next Thursday, the orchestra will be in New Bern. We spoke with David Lewis who has played tuba in the orchestra for almost 40 years. He spoke to me from the road Thursday afternoon.

"We're in Hickory. We played in High Point Tuesday night, two concerts in Statesville yesterday, two concerts in Lincolnton today."

Lewis is also the tour manager for the Symphony. He says every year, they log about 14,000 miles on charter buses traveling around the State.

"We're a group that works together so much and travels together so much that it's really a close knit community. And I think that's what keeps the orchestra fresh for all of the people. Because we know everybody so well and work together so easily, it makes for a great relationship."

The North Carolina Symphony has been performing across the state since 1932 and is celebrating its 80th season. According to Senior Director of Statewide Development Rob Maddrey, this season has been busy. He says the symphony performs 175 shows each year, but New Bern is one of the symphony's favorite stops.

"Enthusiastic audience, and just great people to play for. Its also far enough from Raleigh that we come down early enough so we have dinner in New Bern, and there's lots of great restaurants. So everyone likes those New Bern trips."

They've made plenty of stops recently in eastern North Carolina, playing for Beaufort County's 300th celebration in September, as well as a Holiday Pops concert in Jacksonville the day after thanksgiving. Maddrey says the Symphony has a lot of support in the eastern part of the state.

"For us to be able to come to not only New Bern, but other communities in the PRE listening area like Morehead City, Washington NC, and Jacksonville places we've been to very recently, it is a privilege and an honor to be able to provide a quality orchestra with some of the highest artistic standards that you would find in any orchestra in anywhere in the country to these communities."

The North Carolina Symphony also performs for elementary schools, holding 40 education concerts across the state each year.

"We provide a one-hour performance for students in grades 4 or 5 these one hour concerts are centered on the theme of what makes music and it's a way of introducing the orchestral world, or repertoire to kids those age."
The first education concert was in 1943.

In addition to playing as a full orchestra, Maddrey says they teach children the concepts of melody, texture, dynamics, rhythm and tone by having musicians demonstrate their instrument individually, and with the accompaniment of other instruments in the same family.

"We hope that many children will be inspired to want to pick up an instrument, whether it's a member of the orchestral family like a violin or cello or perhaps to want to play euphonium in a marching band or clarinet. We are hoping that we will inspire this love of music for years to come just by this one simple introduction."

From generation to generation, classical music from the symphony has continued in North Carolina, but not without challenges. The financial stress during the recent Recession caused some symphonies around the nation to shut down. Senior Director of Statewide Development Rob Maddrey says the North Carolina Symphony was forced to look at ways to reduce expenses and trim spending.

"Unfortunately, we asked the musicians to take a cut of five weeks of work off their schedule in 2009, because of that sacrifice in the musicians, and salary cuts in the staffing, that dramatically helped but not enough to reduce our debt load and the financial crisis we suffered in 2009."

The North Carolina Symphony is funded by State dollars, and donations from individuals, corporate sponsors, and foundation members. They also bring in money from ticket sales.

The North Carolina Symphony offers many free concerts throughout the year, including the Summer Pops Concert Series, which made stops in Tarboro, New Bern, and Jacksonville. The symphony also performed three free concerts on Independence Day.

On Thursday, they'll perform in downtown New Bern for their Holiday Pops Concert. Maddrey says the program provides a mix of traditional carols, orchestral work, and the popular Christmas carol sing-along.

"It begins will angels we have heard on high, a pretty old carol for many folks, then it blends into a piece called March of the Toys from Babes in Toyland.

"There's a piece that William Henry Curry will conduct that's called Russian Christmas Music, it's pretty much a collection of Russian Christmas carols arranged for orchestra, but I think its going to bring a smile to many folks faces, and the first half ends with selections from the Nutcracker that everyone will know and love."

The Holiday Pops Concert takes place next Thursday, December 13 at 7:30pm at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center. I'm Jared Brumbaugh.