For a man who conducted the London Chamber Orchestra during the wedding ceremony of HRH The Duke of Cambridge and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey—to a global audience of 2 billion people—Maestro Christopher Warren-Green is refreshingly down to earth. Although he travels frequently to conduct symphonies all over the world, he makes his home here in Charlotte, where he is the music director of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.—Aleigh Acerni
What do you most enjoy about conducting the Charlotte Symphony?
KnightSounds [a popular series that presents classical music in unexpected ways]. I’ve always wanted to mix up the arts. I love doing concerts. We do that … the traditional concert. But I’ve always loved the theatrical elements of what we do and trying to bring the different art forms together. [One particular performance stands out.] It was a program on Tchaikovsky and Countess Von Meck: Two actors read the letters that were written between them; a pas de deux from one of Tchaikovsky’s ballets was danced to by soloists from Charlotte Ballet; and James Meena [principal conductor for Opera Carolina] shared the stage with me and conducted one of the opera singers. It was one of the most exciting evenings I’ve ever done. It’s the sort of thing that puts flesh on music. And I do love the fact that the KnightSounds gives us a chance to sort of cozy up with the audience a little bit.
What are you most looking forward to in the symphony’s upcoming season?
That’s a difficult question. I look forward to every concert. It’s really difficult to sort of say, “Oh which one can I not wait to do.” And I get to choose them anyway! I’m really looking forward to Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” with the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte. Everything they ever do is a highlight for me.
What is the most important skill for a conductor?
You can only really practice conducting in front of an orchestra, which is why it takes a lot of experience. And it takes a long time to build up that experience. The position of conductor is the most coveted. You are actually playing an instrument that consists of however many musicians. It’s like being captain of a ship, and also to inspire. Conducting in a way is the easiest thing in a world to do badly and the hardest thing in the world to do well. It is as simple as that. Your job is really to make magic. Otherwise it’s just notes.
What are the must-do experiences for visitors to Charlotte?
The symphony, of course! (Laughs.) Experience the music live. That is where it feels the best. I would urge people to give it a go.
Aside from the symphony, where do you go to experience the city’s music scene?
I specifically try to get to both the opera and the ballet as often as I can. At least every opera production if I’m in town. We have a phenomenal opera company and a phenomenal opera director in James Meena. Same for Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux at the Charlotte Ballet.
What do you miss about Charlotte when you’re traveling?
The only thing I miss when I’m traveling is my family. I can’t say that I miss places. At least if my wife is with me, I’m at home.
Do you have a favorite view of the city?
I actually enjoy coming in when I fly back into Charlotte. I really love seeing it from the air.
Window or aisle seat?
It depends which way I’m going. Depends on whether I’ve got to get through immigration. If you’re not going through immigration, take a window seat.
What do you never leave home without?
My passport. Then batons. I usually carry four wooden batons with me on tour—because they can break.
So, where next for you?
Minnesota. I’m conducting the Minnesota Orchestra next week.
The Maestro's Perfect Day in the Queen City
9 am, Awake at the Lake
My favorite place in Charlotte is Lake Norman. I live on the lake now. I have very good friends who allow me to use their boats. I love the water; I love the countryside. When I have time off I study my scores taking in the lake at the same time.
Noon, Sweet Sounds
We’ve started to put on matinees for the office workers downtown, who can bring their lunch into the Knight Theater that day, having eaten lunch and listened to a concert. They’re 50 minutes long and they’re not expensive.
1 pm, Serene Lunch Scene
Halcyon, on the second floor of the Mint Museum—I like going there for lunch. Being a traveler of course I’m always eating whatever food; I haven’t quite gotten myself to eat snake in China yet. But we have a fantastic array of restaurants and entertainment in Charlotte.
2 pm, Art Walk
The museums are stunning in Charlotte. And everything is so close. It’s like London in that respect. It’s a walking city.
5 pm, Vine and Unwind
The Wooden Vine; I like that very much.
7 pm, Dinner
Luce is a favorite, and I like to go there after shows. It really is a vibrant downtown. I considered at one point living downtown. I might in the future; who knows?