Hot Picks: No. 2

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We resume the St. Louis Symphony musicians’ Top Five Hot Picks countdown. More than half of the musicians participated in selecting their most anticipated programs for the upcoming 16/17 season.

DR with chorusMozart Requiem (November 18-20) receives its high ranking not only because of the program’s centerpiece, which cellist Alvin McCall refers to as “this glorious, beautiful work,” but because of the 19th and 21st century masterworks that accompany it. Not surprisingly this is a David Robertson program–expect the marvelous.

With Ives’ The Unanswered Question and John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, musicians, chorus, children’s choir, and audiences, have a lot to get excited about. Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik highlights the off-stage trumpet solos in both the Ives and the Adams. Second violinist Andrea Jarrett gets a chance to play a work she’s been drawn to since she was a teenager: “I studied On the Transmigration of Souls thoroughly in my AP Music Theory class back in my sophomore year of high school. I believe it is the first piece of Adams I had ever heard–I was so moved by his composition style and the message of the piece. I was able to hear a performance of it by the Detroit Symphony later that year, and I remember thinking ‘how cool would it be if I got to play this someday?’ I guess dreams do come true!”

Mozart’s ultimate musical statement touches many of the musicians personally through their own histories with the piece and through their associations with those they’ll be sharing the stage with. Principal Violist Beth Guterman Chu recalls, “In another lifetime I was a singer and soloed in the soprano part of this piece…. Also, Nick Phan, the tenor soloist, is one of my best friends and favorite people and I am so excited for him to come back to sing with our orchestra again.”

The full Requiem quartet: Caitlin Lynch, Michelle DeYoung, Nicholas Phan and Kevin Thompson, with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus led by Amy Kaiser. The St. Louis Children’s Choirs, led by Barbara Berner, join chorus and orchestra for On the Transmigration of Souls.

Monday: Hot Pick No. 1!

A Few Days and Nights in the Life

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The St. Louis Symphony gets around.

Shannon Wood @ Kranzberg Center for the Arts
Shannon Wood @ Kranzberg Center for the Arts

Monday night Principal Timpani Shannon Wood gave a solo preview of Kraft’s Timpani Concerto No. 2, “The Grand Encounter,” at the Kranzberg Center for the Arts as part of Symphony In The City.

Stravinsky's Mass @ Peace Lutheran Church
Stravinsky’s Mass @ Peace Lutheran Church

Last Sunday night members of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, a wind ensemble from the St. Louis Symphony and Amy Kaiser performed Stravinsky’s Mass at Peace Lutheran Church as part of Symphony Where You Worship.

Claire "The Clown" Wedemeyer and Angie Smart @ the Goldfarb School of Nursing
Claire “The Clown” Wedemeyer and Angie Smart @ the Goldfarb School of Nursing

Last Thursday Claire “The Clown” Wedemeyer of Clowns on Call and Symphony First Violinist Angie Smart demonstrated how music mixed with comedy helps children heal at the Goldfarb School of Nursing, with students from Cote Brilliante Elementary looking on as part of a combined Symphony In Your College and SymphonyCares program.

Michael Gandlmayr and his first violin teacher, Darlene Lanser @ Kellison Elementary
Michael Gandlmayr and his first violin teacher, Darlene Lanser @ Kellison Elementary

Michael Gandlmayr of the Symphony Education Team visited Kellison Elementary today (Wednesday morning) to view classes preparing for the Link Up concerts on May 11. Michael is an alum of the Rockwood School District and ran into his first violin teacher, Darlene Lanser.

Returning to Carnegie

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Good news on the eve of the California tour: Carnegie Hall announced its 2016-17 season today, and the St. Louis Symphony is a part of it. John Adams’ oratorio Gospel According to the Other Mary appears on the Carnegie stage March 31, 2017. David Robertson conducts the Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Amy Kaiser, for this concert that is part of Adams’ 70th birthday celebration. Mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor joins the company, reprising the title role that Adams wrote for her. For the Carnegie site: click.

Mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor performs with the St. Louis Symphony & Chorus at Carnegie Hall in 2017.
Mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor performs with the St. Louis Symphony & Chorus at Carnegie Hall in 2017.

Taking a Bow

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Bernard Labadie, who conducted the extraordinary Messiah concerts this past week, is averse to taking solo bows. He bows with the soloists, he requests orchestra and chorus to take a bow, but not for himself alone.

Bernard Labadie
Bernard Labadie

Amy Kaiser and Susan Patterson, Chorus Director and Manager, respectively, sought to alter this personal tradition. After all, these were not only magnificent performances of this most-popular work–Kaiser tweeted that these were her finest Messiah concerts ever–but there was the heroism of Labadie himself, conducting his first concerts after battling a brutal cancer, and choosing to make his return with the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus.

So on Sunday afternoon, after “…for ever and ever. Amen,” after the soloists bows, the orchestra bows, the chorus bows, Labadie returned to the stage with Kaiser. The chorus rose again, but when the maestro asked for the orchestra to bow again, the musicians stayed in their seats. There was nothing for Labadie to do but turn and receive the audience applause.

Then he turned back to the chorus members, and waved an admonitory finger at them.

Gotta Sing!

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I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with a few chorus members over the years. Members of the chorus always seem to be wickedly fun. They also combine passion, dedication and awesome talent to every concert.

The St. Louis Symphony Chorus is holding auditions Wednesday, August 26 from 5-9pm, for the 2015-16 season. The auditions are open to all voice types. The repertoire this season includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette, Holst’s The Planets, and the Music of John Williams in December.

Amy Kaiser heads into season 21 leading the St. Louis Symphony Chorus in 1516. Photo credit: Gerry Love
Amy Kaiser heads into her 21st season leading the St. Louis Symphony Chorus. Photo credit: Gerry Love

Chorus Director Amy Kaiser offered the following rhetorical question, “What could be better than Beethoven, Berlioz and John Williams?” If you cannot come up with a good answer to that, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus may be for you.

Gotta sing? Give it a try. Click for info. Contact Chorus Manager Susan Patterson to schedule an audition appointment:

Kaiser’s 20th

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René Spencer Saller’s profile of St. Louis Symphony Chorus Director Amy Kaiser was picked up by Amy celebrates 20 seasons with the Symphony Chorus in 1415, and you’ll be sure to read some quotes from her during my live tweet from Powell Hall during Beethoven Mass in C rehearsal Wednesday night. #slsoRehearse from 6:45-8pm. Here’s René’s article: click.


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As I mentioned last week, I will be sending out live tweets from the Powell Hall stage during the first rehearsal of Beethoven’s Mass in C, featuring the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus, Wednesday night, January 21, 6:45-8pm.

You can follow me on Twitter at #slsoRehearse. I’ll offer commentary, David Robertson quotes, and share all I can of what I see and hear. I’ll take some photos too.

I thank the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus for allowing me to join them on stage, and I thank David Robertson and Chorus Director Amy Kaiser for granting me permission. Although Amy had one rule: I’m not allowed to sing.

St. Louis Symphony Chorus Director Amy Kaiser: The chorus sings, not the writer. Photo credit: Gerry Love
St. Louis Symphony Chorus Director Amy Kaiser: The chorus sings, not the writer. Photo credit: Gerry Love

A Human Requiem

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Johannes Brahms said of the title Ein deutsches Requiem, “I confess that I would gladly omit even the word German and instead use Human….” So Brahms wrote a work of consolation for the living, “a healing piece,” as Symphony Chorus Director Amy Kaiser has described it. You don’t need to know German or the Bible when you hear Brahms’ Requiem, you feel its meaning and its comfort.

You no doubt have heard of the protest at Powell Hall Saturday night, just before Markus Stenz turned to give the downbeat to the orchestra and chorus to begin Ein deutsches Requiem. You no doubt have your own thoughts and feelings about it.

Among the orchestra and staff of the St. Louis Symphony the thoughts and feelings are as diverse as can be found anywhere outside of Powell Hall. In response to the protest, some were inspired, some were afraid, some were appalled, some were angry, some were puzzled.

Some members of the audience booed, some applauded. Some members of the orchestra and chorus applauded. Others did not.

I’ve seen the word “surreal” used more than once on individual musician and chorus member Facebook accounts. And for some, there remain unresolved, conflicting thoughts. One chorus member wrote: “As for me, I added Michael Brown and his family to my private list of those for whom I was singing the great German Requiem.”

“Behold, I show you a mystery:/ we shall not all sleep,/ but we shall all be changed….”


Happy Place

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Following the afternoon rehearsal of Four Preludes and Serious Songs, I asked Amy Kaiser, “Are you happy?” The St. Louis Symphony Chorus director told me, “I’m happy.”

Amy Kaiser
Amy Kaiser

I asked Chorus Manager Susan Patterson how A German Requiem was going, with one rehearsal to go Thursday night. “It’s going to be beautiful,” she told me.

Symphony violist Chris Woehr gave me a bit of music theory relating to Brahms, and music in general. It is an equation he’s devised based on “emotional bang for practice buck.” Some works, Woehr has observed, take a lot of practice, but they are more intellectual or idea-driven. They don’t score with the emotions. Other composers, Brahms especially, aren’t terrifically hard to play, but man, do they ever zero in on the heart.

With double Brahms this weekend, Chris is happy too.

Pirate Chorus

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The St. Louis Symphony Chorus gave new titles to those at the top of the roster for Pirates of the Caribbean: Amy Kaiser, Captain (Director); Leon Burke III, First Mate (Assistant Director); Gail Hintz, Boatswain (Accompanist); Susan Patterson, Quartermaster (Manager).


Captain Kaiser leads the crew.
Captain Kaiser leads the crew.