Symphony and Circus: Five Questions with Cirque Musica

Cirque Musica performers and the Charlotte Symphony rehearse ahead of two shows at the Belk Theater.

High-flying aerialists, balancing acts, and the orchestra come together for Charlotte Symphony Pops: Cirque Musica. The traveling show Cirque Musica comes to the Belk Theater for two evenings (Nov. 21-22). Conductor Albert-George Schram returns for this Pops installment, and pieces include themes from Star Wars, “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and even the Beatles tune “Here Comes the Sun.” America's Got Talent finalist Christian Stoinev and members of The Flying Wallendas are among the performers.

During Friday morning rehearsals, executive producer Stephen Cook and performer Lyric Wallenda spoke to the Revue blog about the show. Wallenda is a seventh-generation circus performer. The show is part of the Revue blog's weekend roundup, and you can get tickets here.

Andy Smith: So, how does Cirque Musica work?
Stephen Cook:
Cirque Musica was developed as a hybrid between the world of the symphony and the world of the circus. And the purpose behind it was bringing new audiences into the hall, and expose them to classical music, but do it in a fun and entertaining way. That was the concept behind it. And the implementation of that we create the charts, the musical part of the show, pick the repertoire, and get the acts to meld with those pieces. The acts and what they do are totally integrated. Most of these acts have been with the show for years.

Once we get here, we have to load in the gear and the rigs. We practice it from a safety point of view, because you know, we have aerialists in the show. And then we rehearse with the orchestra. The second rehearsal is the tech run-through with the cues and that kind of thing. It’s a lot, but it’s what they do.


What’s it like to work with a live, professional symphony? How do you stay in sync?
Lyric Wallenda: We speed it up; we slow it down. The conductors, even the one we’re working with today, are great. They work with us when we need to change things up. And we have to adapt with each performance. 

SC: It’s part of being live.

LW: Working with a symphony is everything. It’s thrilling. You’re feeling honored to have the opportunity to work with these musicians and conductors. And it’s just a whole bundle of emotions. You feed off of it, and I hope they feed off of us, as well.


Lyric, do you find that while you’re introducing people to the symphony, you’re also exposing newcomers to the circus?
I think we attract two different markets, in one sense. People that wouldn’t go to the orchestra, but go to circus, will go. And your clientele that would normally go to the orchestra, and not the circus, come as well. We do meet-and-greets after the show, and they’ll say “Oh my gosh, this is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this live.”

SC: I’d say, nationally, 65-percent have never gone to the orchestra.


What kinds of reactions are you seeing to this show?
The interesting thing is in different markets, they react to different things. In one act, we have a hoe down. And that’s always a huge reaction. There’s some staple things that people always react to. In Texas, we have the country stuff, and they’re all into that. But all over, you’ll see older people, young people, white people, African-Americans, and that’s what it’s all about.

For me, they’re doing the "Flight of the Bumblebee" act, and 20 seconds in, people are clapping and cheering. That’s the payoff for us. You have people of all ages that are happy and saying, “This is unbelievable.” But they’re listening to classical music. That’s the payoff.


AS: You do this in both arenas and theaters like this one. What’s the benefit to the Belk Theater, as opposed to enormous venues?
It’s very intimate.

SC: It’s definitely more intimate. It sounds better; the acoustic are better. We like to do this. Every seat’s a good seat. We love to do this in places like this.

Categories: Arts + Culture, Revue