St. Louis Symphony Quartet Shares Music in Prison

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On December 7, 2016, St. Louis Symphony musicians performed for about one hundred offenders at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center.

The concert was part of the St. Louis SymphonyCares program.

STL Symphony violinist Ann Fink said the concert was about spreading hope.

“Maybe we have made their afternoon a little brighter,” Fink said. “If it goes beyond that then that’s even better.”

Fink teamed with Wendy Plank Rosen, Leonid Gotman, and Alvin McCall for a concert that included the music of Mozart, Gershwin, and Tchaikovsky. The STL Symphony musicians performed for more than an hour.

The performance brought back memories for the concert’s special guest, Ron Boyer. He was serving time at MECC when STL Symphony musicians performed at the prison 15 years ago.

“They didn’t have to come in here,” Boyer said. “But they did, and I’ll never forget that.”

Boyer was released from prison in 2004.

“It was a little difficult coming back, but the music makes you feel so happy,” Boyer said.

Boyer returned to the prison to introduce the musicians and share words of encouragement with the offenders.

The concert also marked a return for Gotman. The veteran STL Symphony violist was part of the performance that Boyer saw at MECC 15 years ago. Over the past year, Boyer and Gotman have reconnected through concerts at Powell Hall.

“It made a difference in his life, when he heard our concert as an inmate,” Gotman said.  “For me it’s the best reward.”

It is also proof that the gift of music can enrich people’s lives anywhere.

Music Is Music

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This came to mind as I was looking over a season that includes Mozart and Casablanca, Brahms and Elvis Presley, Carmina burana and the Who.

Forgive me if I’ve told this one before. In 1928 George Gershwin toured Europe and visited with the leading composers of the day. In Vienna he visited the home of Alban Berg, whom Gershwin revered. Berg, being a more than proper Viennese host, had a string quartet play his Lyric Suite for Gershwin.

After the recital, Gershwin approached the piano, but caught a touch of stage fright. How was this Tin Pan Alley song plugger worthy of the brilliance of Berg, of Vienna?

Berg said to him, “Mr. Gershwin, music is music.”

GershwinIn 1936, Gershwin was staying at the Coronado Hotel in St. Louis, in town for a concert with the St. Louis Symphony that would include his performance of his Concerto in F at the keyboard. Members of the local press interviewed him in his suite. Gershwin was the composer of Rhapsody in Blue and An American in Paris, “I Got Rhythm,” “Oh, Lady Be Good,” “Fascinating Rhythm” and Porgy and Bess. “I’m trying mainly to be American in the feeling of my music,” he told them.

The reporters found it a novelty that he spoke of Bach and W.C. Handy in the same breath.