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Charlotte Contemporary Ensemble celebrates music and culture
40th anniversary show Oct. 5 at West Charlotte High
Published Sunday, September 8, 2019 11:27 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

The Charlotte Contemporary Ensemble, shown in a 1998 photo, marks its 40th anniversary with a concert on Oct. 5 at West Charlotte High School.

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The Charlotte Contemporary Ensemble is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Two concerts to mark the occasion will take place at West Charlotte High School, site of the choral group’s performances in the 1970s: on Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $20, and are available in advance or at the door.

It marks the first CCE performance at West Charlotte in more than 15 years, following the theme of “Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future.” The concerts feature over 50 former members, who will participate in the first half of the concert. The performance also highlights previous directors, as well as a four-piece combo. In addition to CCE’s traditional range of classical, sacred, spiritual, jazz, contemporary gospel, the Oct. 5 concert will include numbers from the Broadway rendition of “The Color Purple.”

“We are proud to celebrate this milestone and to have enriched the music culture in our community,” ensemble director Frank Williams said in a statement. “Through much work, sacrifice, and the sharing of the talents of the members and the Grace of God, we have achieved a forty-year legacy.”

CCE was created to address discrimination shown to teachers of color in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Ten African American instructors formed the group after the district told them they were not qualified to teach high school level music classes.

“In the early days, we met and were determined to have the best elementary and middle school programs in the [CMS] system,” said Williams, who returned to Charlotte as the director of CCE in 2013 after time in Durham and Richmond, Virginia.

While the group has evolved, three early members remain: President Brenda Porter-Dewitt, Wanda Nelson and Fay Friday. The mission remains the same: support CMS’s African American music instructors, such as West Charlotte Choral Director Jovan Adams, and perform the works of African American composers. The group includes members from their early 20s to over 80 years old.  

“In the 21 years I have been a member of the Charlotte Contemporary Ensemble, I have not only developed new long term friendships, but I have found a voice range I never knew I had which challenges me to reach higher levels of musicality and appreciation for the art,” said local dentist Sandy Stovall. “We sing a variety of music that I was never exposed to and this makes us able to make a difference in our communities, our churches, our schools, our homes.”

CCE performed at the opening of the Afro-American Cultural Arts Center, Nations Bank, the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.  They also performed “Porgy and Bess” with Bobby McFerrin and the Charlotte Symphony. Other engagements include the Piccolo Spoleto Music Festival in Charleston and collaborating with Opera Carolina.


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