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UNC symphony pays tribute to David Bowie

Heroes Aline

The UNC Symphony is performing a tribute to David Bowie. Photo Courtesy of Renu Kohlmann.

The tribute concert is part of a nine-day celebration, called “Glass at 80,” of the music and life of American composer Philip Glass in honor of his recent 80th birthday.

Glass is known for his soundtrack work — including for “The Truman Show” — original compositions and more.

The idea was to bring together a lot of Glass’ different inspirations and collaborators as well as those he has inspired, said Carolina Performing Arts’ Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Renu Kohlmann.

The Heroes Tribute show will consist of two elements — the first half will be Glass’ Symphony “No. 4, Heroes,” inspired by the late David Bowie’s album of the same name, performed by the UNC Symphony Orchestra. The second half will be musicians from indie rock label Merge Records performing cover songs from Bowie’s “Heroes,” which was co-written with Eno.

Kohlmann said this concert is a tribute to two iconic artists.

“Because Philip was so inspired by Bowie’s album and with Bowie’s passing last year, it’s kind of a tribute to Bowie,” she said. “They’ve both kind of inspired each other.”

Tonu Kalam, music director and conductor of the UNC Symphony Orchestra, said the 45-minute “Symphony No. 4, Heroes” is made up of six different movements — each one inspired by a Bowie song from “Heroes.”

“What Glass has done taking these songs of Bowie’s from the 1970s is a wonderful thing,” he said.

Kalam said the audience will hear a very interesting orchestral piece.

“It’s very melodious and harmonically beautiful, but there’s also a lot of repetition,” he said. “You kind of have to lay back and suspend your sense of time for a little bit.”

Sophomore Katherine Gora Combs, a flute player in the UNC Symphony Orchestra, said she is honored and grateful to be a part of this experience.

“It would be great if the audience could learn more about Philip Glass and his music,” she said.

Gora Combs also said she hopes the audience is able to pick up on the connections between Bowie and Glass, whether in a concrete or more abstract manner.

Since the second half of the show will involve Bowie cover songs in their classic rock form, there is something for everyone at this show. Kalam said the audience will be able to compare relations between the first and second halves of the show.

Tickets for the event are close to selling out.

“People are excited,” Kohlmann said. “I think having multiple genres involved and different bands helps a lot.”

Both Kohlmann and Kalam said people should come out to the show because of the uniqueness of this particular tribute concert.

“I think it’s kind of a once in a lifetime thing,” Kohlmann said.

“It’s only happened here, it’s never happened before, I don’t know if it will ever happen again,”


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