To Tux or Not to Tux
by Jeremy Lamb
It's coming into vogue for orchestras to "hippify" themselves, and the most obvious place to start is by getting rid of the tails. You know, those antiquated tuxedos with the long sartorial mullets? A few major orchestras, including those of Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New York, have switched their attire to an all-black suit in an effort to do just this, and now the Charlotte Symphony might be joining that list. The decision has not yet been finalized, though. Last month, the musicians of the CSO just voted to approve an all-black suit being added to the list of options available to management. So now they could potentially make that our attire for the Classics series beginning next fall, should they decide to.
Before I say more, it's worth hearing the amusing story of how tails came to be. Back in the 1850's, the suit was essentially a long form coat that soldiers wore while riding horseback. The problem was that the front would bunch up in the saddle, so they had to push that part off to the side. After enough years of this nuisance, they decided to just cut off the front and voilà! Tails were born. It didn't take long for that style to catch on with civilians and fashion houses. Years later, in 1865, King Edward VII thought he'd look sharper yet by cutting off the tails, and voilà again! The tuxedo was essentially created.
A white bow tie was traditionally worn with tails, so symphony orchestras settled on this as their uniform since it reflected what the audience was wearing. Over the years though — and as we all know — audiences have relaxed into jeans and suit jackets, short-sleeve button downs, and in the past few decades, just about anything short of beach wear. Nonetheless, orchestras have kept the tails tradition alive, which brings us to our dilemma: should we relax a bit and dress more like our audience, or are we to the point where tails have become an untouchable icon of the orchestra?
Some of us in the orchestra are more eager than others to make the switch. Ben Geller, our principal violist, wants to ditch the tails. He says we should only trot out the penguin suits at our most formal concerts like the Gala and New Year's Eve. His argument is that we're usually playing music from very different eras at each concert, so dressing in a specifically Baroque tradition doesn’t make sense. Another colleague in the CSO said that he doesn't like walking around Uptown in tails. "I'm afraid I'm going to get pied!"
Personally, I feel pretty ambivalent, and it's not because I'm trying to be too cool for school. On one hand, a suit is physically easier to move around in (and playing cello for two hours is fairly physical!) and it looks nicely modern. On the other, I think it's pretty cool to even have a tradition that extends 150+ years back, so I'm a little uneasy about bringing it to an end.
When I asked CEO David Fisk about this in his office, he rubbed his hands together and laughed maniacally. “Now! I will finally bury this garish tradition once and for all!” Just kidding. He actually said he wondered if the audience would even notice. He intends to try it out, see how it goes, and then decide from there.
To summarize: we may or may not be wearing black suits next fall, and people may or may not even notice if we do. But feel free to write to us if you'd like to weigh in!
Meet Angel Adams
by Amy Orsinger Whitehead
We had a chance to catch up with Angel Adams, the CSO’s new Vice President of Finance and Administration, who came aboard in January. Welcome to the family, Angel!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up for the majority of my childhood in West Point, NY (both of my parents were in the Army). We moved to Pacolet, SC during my teen years after my wonderful stepdad came into our lives.
Where were you before joining the CSO?
I worked for a business owner that had six companies ranging from manufacturing to real estate to wholesale distribution. My days were extremely busy!
What is a typical day for you at the CSO?
My days are extremely busy here at CSO (see my answer above... I’m used to busy). There is no typical day, as I am working on several projects at any given time. My inbox is full and the to-do list is long! But I find time to connect with people and enjoy a good laugh whenever I can. Balance – work & fun!
What is your favorite (so far!) thing about working at the CSO?
The people! I think that one of my favorite things in the world is to meet and connect with people! Also, I really like my work, so that’s a favorite thing too.
Do you play a musical instrument?
From 3rd grade to 12th grade I played the clarinet. Funny story, I spent my junior high and high school years chasing first chair... always behind a guy that NEVER practiced! I made All State every year, was a member of the SC Governor’s Band and always received Excellent ratings in every Solo & Ensemble performance. And the only thing that I ever wanted was to beat Timmy Owens for 1st chair (which never happened, though I challenged him many times). Timmy gave me his clarinet when he graduated high school, which I still have. And, even though it is not an instrument, I love watching conductors. And, I tried out for Drum Major my senior year, but lost to my best friend.
How do you enjoy spending your time outside the CSO?
I spend as much time in the garden as I possibly can. And when I am not there, I am hanging out with my husband, Nathan, our boys Ethan and Preston, and our puppy Mocha.
Is there anything we should be asking but haven't thought of yet??
If you look closely in my picture, you will see several albums. They all have a story to tell, so if you are ever on the 3rd floor, stop by my (CSO) office and I will tell you a story.
Match the CSO Musician with their Current Favorite Piece!
1. Erinn Frechette (flute/piccolo)
2. Sam Sparrow (clarinet/E flat clarinet)
3. Bob Rydel (horn)
4. Jane Brendle (violin)
5. Allan Rosenfeld (clarinet/bass clarinet)
6. Jeremy Lamb (cello)
7. Ellyn Stuart (violin)
8. Scott Hartman (bass trombone)
9. Sarah Markle (cello)
10. Jon Kaplan (trumpet)
11. Amy Orsinger Whitehead (flute)
12. Jeff Ferdon (double bass)
A. Prokofiev Symphony No. 5
B. Beethoven Symphony No. 3
C. Vaughn-Williams Symphony No. 5
D. Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5
E. Hindemith Mathis Der Maler
F. Dvorak Symphony No. 8
G. Tchaikovsky Piano Trio
H. Richard Strauss Four Last Songs
I. Verdi Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore
J. Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
K. Brahms Symphony No. 3
L. Vaughn-Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Matching Quiz Answers:
1-I, 2-C, 3-D, 4-B, 5-H, 6-G, 7-F, 8-J, 9-L, 10-A, 11-K, 12-E
Violinist Ellyn Stuart recalls, “Dvorak Symphony #8 was my favorite when I was 13. My Dad was stationed in Vietnam, and my Mom let my brother and I choose a record to listen to at bedtime. My favorite was a recording of this Dvorak, but she had to take this record “off the list” after awhile as I couldn’t sleep because I loved it so much!”
Congratulations to cellist Marlene Ballena and her husband Matt on the birth of their adorable baby boy Owen, born on March 28, 2023.