A Big Night for Live Music Lovers Coming to WRAL-TV Next Month

A partnership with United Arts Council will televise North Carolina musicians and showcase the local arts community.
by Addie Ladner

It should have been different
It could have been easy
His rank could have saved him
But a country unborn needs bravery
From the ashes grew sweet liberty
Like the seeds of the pines when the forest burns
They open up, grown and burn again

The lyrics above are Wildfire, a song by the Chapel Hill-based folk duo Mandolin Orange. While the 2016 song is about the Civil War, it resonates on many levels right now: music helps us grieve and process, music heals and tells our stories. 

In North Carolina, there is a lot of music, live music, that “everyone has been missing,” says Charles Phaneuf, president of the United Arts Council. That’s why the UAC created Big Night In for the Arts, a regional fundraising initiative to be broadcast live on WRAL-TV on March 11. “This will be the next best thing,” Phaneuf says.

The event will at once celebrate the stellar and diverse range of artists who call North Carolina home, and offer a dialogue on the art’s importance. “It’s a look into a window into the arts community here,” says Phaneuf. After an entire year of closures and cancellations, our state’s arts have suffered disproportionately from the destructive impact of the pandemic. 

Big Night In will host a superstar lineup, including Tony-nominated actress and Raleigh native Ariana DeBose; country music artist Scotty McCreery, originally from Garner; Branford Marsalis, the Durham-based, internationally renowned saxophonist; nationally acclaimed actor and playwright Mike Wiley, based in Chatham County; Mandolin Orange and more. The vision is the brainchild of the combined arts councils of Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake County. 

“We have this wonderful arts community and it’s been hard to experience that,” says Phaneuf. “I think people are going to be really excited to see these performances on television. You don’t get to see local artists represented on TV much, so this is really special.” 

So whether you prefer to dust off your concert-going clothes or lounge in pajamas, make an evening of this rare opportunity to see so many of our state’s iconic artists on the screen. As Phaneuf says — and we concur: “They are part of why we love living here.”

Tune in on Saturday on March 11 at 7 p.m for the broadcast on WRAL-TV or live-stream it at BigNightIn.org