Music Director Grant Llewellyn leads the North Carolina Symphony in a celebration of the holiday season, Carolina style, when Greensboro-based singer-songwriter Laurelyn Dossett, Grammy-winners Rhiannon Giddens Laffan and Mike Compton, guitar wizard Joe Newberry and the Concert Singers of Cary all join the orchestra for "A Carolina Christmas."
The performances take place at Meymandi Concert Hall, in downtown Raleigh's Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The concerts begin on Friday, Nov. 25 at 8:00 p.m., followed by performances on Saturday, Nov. 26, at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
The program features the world premiere of Dossett's "The Gathering: A Winter's Tale in Six Songs," a captivating and heartfelt musical narrative for orchestra and string band about a journey back home.
"I was trying to celebrate all the things we love about family gatherings, as well as capture the more complicated things about it," says Dossett. "I also wanted to share images of the region in the winter: the clear Carolina nights, the lights in the lowlands, the frost in the trees and the diamonds in the pines."
Dossett is one of the most sought-after voices in creative collaborations. A co-founder of folk favorite Polecat Creek and frequent performer at traditional music festivals and shows including Merlefest and "A Prairie Home Companion," she has partnered with Greensboro's Triad Stage on four plays featuring regional folklore and original music.
Now she brings that love of traditional Carolina melodies back to the state's premier symphony, and she's invited some friends. Gifted vocalist Rhiannon Giddens Laffan from the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops joins her on stage. Giddens Laffan last performed with the Symphony to great acclaim across the state during its summer "Around the World in Eighty Minutes" concerts. Mandolinist Mike Compton from Elvis Costello's Sugarcanes band and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? recordings, as well as singer and banjo player Joe Newberry of North Carolina's Big Medicine, complete the dynamic quartet.
"These songs were written specifically to work with the symphony, as well as stand on their own," Dossett says. "To help set a time and place for that story, and to set the atmosphere that's uniquely North Carolinian, I chose these string band musicians who also have the virtuosity to play with the Symphony."
The concert is not just about returning home, but honoring the season with familiar winter melodies. Members of the evening's talented quartet, as well as the Concert Singers of Cary, join with the Symphony for "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "O Holy Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High," the Amen Chorus from Handel's Messiah and many more traditional holiday selections.
The performances also include the Symphony's popular Christmas Singalong, in which concertgoers lend their vocal talents to the orchestra for the classics "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," "Silver Bells" and "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)."
In partnership with Interfaith Food Shuttle BackPack Buddies Program, the Symphony is collecting donated food items at all three "Carolina Christmas" concerts. The BackPack Buddies Program provides children from food-insecure homes with weekend meals during the school year. For complete information on what to bring, visit www.foodshuttle.org/backpack-buddies.
Regular tickets to the Pops performances of "A Carolina Christmas" on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 25-26 range from $33 to $63, with $30 tickets for seniors and $10 tickets students. A holiday four-pack of tickets is also available for $100. Meymandi Concert Hall is located in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., in Raleigh.
"A Carolina Christmas" launches the Symphony's holiday season of statewide performances. This year, the orchestra will present a "Holiday Pops" program in ten venues across the state, Nov. 22 to Dec. 15, before returning to Raleigh on Dec. 22 for "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," including a reading by WRAL anchor David Crabtree of the title storybook classic and a special visit from Santa. Finally, the Symphony's New Year's Eve celebration returns, but with a few twists, including a visit by exquisite soprano Sari Gruber and a vocal performance by Grant Llewellyn himself.
About the North Carolina Symphony
Founded in 1932, the North Carolina Symphony performs over 175 concerts annually to adults and school children. The orchestra travels extensively throughout the state to venues in over 50 North Carolina counties. The orchestra employs 67 professional musicians under the artistic leadership of Music Director and Conductor Grant Llewellyn, Resident Conductor William Henry Curry and Associate Conductor Sarah Hicks.