First Fridays Rewind: 2021-2022

Created in Fall 2019 by Arts Everywhere and the UNC Department of Music, First Fridays is a concert series that features pop-up performances by different student and chamber ensembles on the first Friday of each month. These informal concerts allow students, faculty, staff, and community members to come and go as they listen to live music of all genres & configurations.

Fall 2021: Return to Live Performances

After a year of virtual First Fridays concerts, we were excited to return to the Hill Hall rotunda for these musical creative interruptions. This year’s theme celebrated the sights and sounds of Carolina by showcasing a wide variety of different genres and styles of music.

The First Fridays season kicked off with the UNC Harp Ensemble, who performed live outside of Hill Hall. The UNC Harp Ensemble was one of the first groups who were canceled due to the COVID-10 Pandemic so it was nice to come full circle by opening our First Fridays season – our first live performance since March 2020 – with this group! 

Director Laura Byrne leads 4 student harp players in an outdoor performance
The UNC Harp Ensemble performs in the tent outside of Hill Hall on October 1, 2021 (Brittany Cowan/UNC).

October featured Charanga Carolina, the only university-based Cuban Charanga ensemble in the state of North Carolina! This group of 22 musicians performed a varied program featuring works by Orquesta Aragón, Freddie Hubbard, Cal Tjader, and Ray Bryant.

Watch Charanga Carolina’s recorded First Fridays performance on Instagram.

A birds-eye view of Charanga Carolina performing in the Hill Hall rotunda
Charanga Carolina performs on November 5, 2021 in the Hill Hall rotunda (Kayden Hunt/DTH)

In addition to our regular First Fridays performance on November 5, we were delighted to have a special First Fridays performance on November 19 which featured the premiere of Intimate Distance, a special piece commissioned by Matt Svec (‘23) and Julia Holoman (‘23). With support from Arts Everywhere’s Student Arts Innovation Grant, Intimate Distance celebrates the inherently collaborative nature of music and incorporates distance and isolation as integral components of musical performance through the retelling of the myth of Orpheus.

8 UNC students - performers and composers - stand to take their final bow in the Hill Hall Rotunda
The performers and composers behind Intimate Distance take a final bow after the premiere on November 19, 2021 (Crystal Wu/Arts Everywhere)

Finally, we were excited to close the semester with the UNC Chamber Singers who sang carols on the steps of Hill Hall. For this closing concert, we also offered special treats in the form of candy canes and UNC/holiday-themed coloring books, made by UNC alum Dara Burg and commissioned by Arts Everywhere and Carolina Performing Arts.

Watch the Carolina Chamber Singers’ recorded First Fridays performance on Instagram.

The Carolina Chamber Singers stand in formation as they sing carols on the steps of Hill Hall
Carolina Chamber Singers performs carols for the First Fridays concert on December 3, 2021 (Brittany Cowan/UNC).

Spring 2022: Ukuleles, Bluegrass, and Beats

With the momentum from the Fall semester, we carried on with more performances in the spring, still taking advantage of the good weather to perform outdoors when possible. 

The spring season opened with the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble. Active since 2010, they are the world’s first collegiate ukulele ensemble and are made up of students of all skill levels and backgrounds.

Watch the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble’s recorded First Fridays performance on Instagram.

The Carolina Ukulele ensemble poses with their instruments in the Hill Hall rotunda
Members of the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble performs on February 4, 2022 (Brittany Cowan/UNC).

March brought us back outside to the steps of Hill Hall with the Carolina Bluegrass Band who performed a selection of traditional and contemporary bluegrass pieces. When they’re not performing for First Fridays, you’ll often find the group performing for packed auditoriums on campus as well as at IMBA’s annual World of Bluegrass festival. 

Watch the Carolina Bluegrass Band’s recorded First Fridays performance on Instagram.

Four members on the Carolina Bluegrass Band perform on the steps of Hill Hall
Members of the Carolina Bluegrass Ensemble perform on the steps of Hill Hall on March 4, 2022 (Jess Abel/College of Arts and Science)

Finally, we were excited to close the semester with the UNC Beat Lab, a community space where musicians can use a wide variety of DJ gear, electronic music tools, and digital resources to practice, create, and collaborate. Kelli Smith-Biwer, the Arts Everywhere Graduate Fellow in Music Technology, led two demonstrations so attendees could learn the mechanics behind the turntables and equipment used by DJs. After the demonstrations, people were able to play with the instruments and make their own beats!

Kelli-Smith Biwer shows a group of students how to use the technology from the Beat Lab
Caption: Arts Everywhere’s graduate fellow in music technology, Kelli Smith-Biwer, leads the Beat Lab demonstration on April 1, 2022 (Jess Abel/College of Arts and Science)

Thank you to the performers and all the supporters who celebrated the sounds of Carolina with us this year! Until next year, stay well and stay musical, friends!

A photo of the First Fridays team members on the steps of Hill Hall
The team behind this year’s First Fridays concert series (L-R): Cat Zachary (‘10), Crystal Wu (‘13), Erin Wadsworth (‘22), Nuria Shin (‘23) (Jess Abel/College of Arts and Sciences).