A concert built to be a mirror
BY HELEN SCHWAB
APRIL 24, 2017
The musicians and director Jonathan Govias talked about what they were hearing — natural for musicians.
But this was about words they were hearing, says Govias: hatred and division that worried them, in the fall national elections and since, talk about “visible and invisible minorities across the state,” as he puts it.
But what could the UNC Charlotte Orchestras do? “Orchestras play, that’s what we do, but orchestras usually play at people, not with them.”
What they came up with: Bring together a group aimed at reflecting the state’s diversity, inviting musicians from Pride Bands and high schools, pros and students (including a Persian Santour player who’s an Iranian doctoral student in mechanical engineering), plus a four-student contingent from Israel, in reciprocity for a student delegation Govias took there in February. About 60 people will perform, including the school’s Chamber Orchestra, with representation that Govias thinks is close to proportional across ethnic and religious backgrounds, sexual orientation and gender identities.
But what to play? Something more than the white/male/European expected work, so, to a Verdi opening, they’ll add part of African-American Patrice Rushen’s “Sinfonia”; a work from Jewish composer Marc Lavry; an Americas-premiere of a piece by female Syrian/Palestinian/Bosnian composer Suad Bushnaq from Raleigh; and a finale by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez. (The expanded lineup will do the first and last, and the two-dozen-member Chamber Orchestra will handle the middle three.)
“We’re not going to politic or harangue our audience,” writes Govias. “Just create a living breathing model of what diversity and respect can accomplish.”
“Symphony of Diversity” will be April 27 at Belk Theater in Robinson Hall