A Night to Remember: NYE with Melinda Doolittle and Charlotte Symphony Orchestra


Celebrating its 90th anniversary during the 2021-2022 season, the Charlotte Symphony is committed to uplifting, entertaining and educating the diverse communities of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and beyond through exceptional musical experiences. Check out the list of all upcoming events online at charlottesymphony.org

For many, New Years Eve was a time to reflect on the past year and embrace what is to come. This season, you can join the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra for a New Year’s Eve show that does both.

American Idol R&B runner-up and singer Melinda Doolittle will headline CSO’s first New Years Eve concert since the pandemic began, scheduled for Friday, December 31 at the Belk Theater.

Christopher James Lees, the show’s conductor, says Doolittle has a voice that “stops time.”

“You just listen to it, and you’re immediately drawn into this world, and everything else ceases to exist,” he said. “You just exist in this beautiful moment that she creates.”

The performance will be a nice transition from year to year, Lees said.

“Especially after the last two years, marking the passage of time in a festive way is really important.” he said

Christopher James Lees of Charlotte Symphony. Photo by Chris Lee, 10/18/18.

The show will feature a mix of classical music and classical soul, with a star setlist which includes music from Otis Redding, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight & The Pips and more.

Prior to Covid’s intervention, Doolittle and CSO were scheduled to do a similar performance for New Years Eve in 2020. Since then, CSO’s artistic staff have tried to keep the essence of the show intact, but with a few tweaks.

“In every possible version, Melinda sings, and it’s amazing,” Lees said. “It’s just a matter of what the orchestra does in and around her as a centerpiece.”

Typically, a CSO New Year’s concert is followed by a stage party, where audience members are joined by professional dancers. Due to Covid, the stage party was canceled this year. In the absence of this event, spectators will receive two drink tickets to enjoy any drink, including champagne, as well as a take-out box of delicious snacks.

Lees said that CSO is committed to playing various types of music and collaborating with various artists.

“Symphonically, there are certain traditions that you play on New Years Eve, including Johann Strauss, some Leroy Anderson, opera overtures, as well as Auld Lang Syne which is your typical New Years Eve tune,” said he declared. “And then with Melinda, it was about knowing which songs will really resonate with our audience in Charlotte?” What songs can she sing here in the South East that will make the audience feel at home and feel like they come to life? ”

Before his hike on American Idol, Doolittle has performed alongside some of the biggest names in gospel music including Kirk Franklin, Bebe & Cece Winans, among others. Lees said one of the criteria in deciding the setlist was to select songs that match Doolittle’s expansive vocal power and range.

The evening’s performance, Lees said, will be peppered with short interludes called “Symphonic Chocolates,” composed by Maxime Goulet, a Canadian musician who also writes soundtracks for video games.

Lees said the compositions would serve as cleaners for the palette between the rich pieces that anchor the New Years Eve spectacle.

“… We do three of the four movements, and each piece has a different character,” he said. “And what we did was we kind of sprinkled them throughout the night.”

After nearly two years of the pandemic, Lees said he hopes the performance will be cathartic for all who attend.

“They can come into the room in need of catharsis and release after a very difficult year, and we have music that will help bring those emotions out of their bodies,” he said. “If we have people coming in who are just ready to party, celebrate, dance and feel emotional and be so happy that 2021 is over, we have music for that. If we have people who are kind of torn in between the two, if their experience in the concert hall is going to validate and uplift all the parts of them, we’ve got music for that. So by the time we leave together, we are all changed, refreshed and invigorated for whatever 2022 has in store for us. “


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