Now that the Top Hot 5 has been charted, it’s good to be reminded that every concert with the St. Louis Symphony is a hot pick, for you and for the musicians. The music that matters most to us does so for many reasons, and our feelings for music changes, sometimes inexplicably. I was indifferent to Bartok when I started working for the Symphony, then David Robertson came and led the orchestra in The Wooden Prince and Cantata profana and the Second Violin Concerto with Leonidas Kavakos and what a fool I’d been. I’m looking ahead to the Concerto for Orchestra (April 21-23) with muffled impatience. We change and we respond to the world differently as we change, sensibility shifts.
And there is memory, which is a place where music resides. It haunts us, even shocks us at its power when suddenly a tune passes through and we find ourselves in another place, another time feeling emotions we thought were forgotten. Music can be a trigger that propels us. It can take us where we need to go.
I thought of this after re-reading first violinist Angie Smart’s remembrance of singing Belshazzar’s Feast (February 24-25) as a schoolgirl. The powerful weight of homesickness lifted by song. Here’s her story:
“When I turned 13, I auditioned for a place at a prestigious music school in Manchester, England and won a scholarship to attend that fall. It was a boarding school and so I lived there for five years before leaving to study in the U.S. Since I am from a very large family—I have seven siblings—my parents could not afford to bring me home very often, and in that first year I was frequently very homesick. If you have not experienced this then consider yourself lucky, but it is a dull sickness in your stomach that takes days to subside.
“In my first year at music school we put on a performance of Belshazzar’s Feast. Every pupil in the school was involved in this production. I was neither old enough nor good enough to play in the orchestra, but I sang in the choir! When it came time to perform, I sang my heart out. It was quite simply the most powerful musical and emotional experience of my life, to be in the heart of such a phenomenal piece of music. I said goodbye to homesickness and never looked back. This piece propelled me into a ferociously committed passion for music, and choral music with orchestra remains my favourite musical experience today.”
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.
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.
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 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.
Claire “The Clown” Wedemeyer and Symphony violinist Angie Smart are in the business of smiles and laughter. Through Clowns on Call and SymphonyCares they visited Mercy Children’s Hospital this week and lifted spirits from room to room. A little shtick goes a long way to making children and their families feel a little bit better.
Friday night the Black History Month Concert: Lift Every Voice featured R&B/Gospel legend Patti Austin. She shared many stories with the audience and sang up a storm–but don’t blame her for the snow.
At intermission of the BHM concert, following a performance of Adam Maness’ Divides That Bind, the composer and Brian Owens, who read text by Martin Luther King, Jr., during the piece, meet with IN UNISON Chorus members backstage.
Saturday night I experienced one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever had at Powell Hall: a sold-out audience on its feet singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” with a tribute band and the St. Louis Symphony. Nobody even asked them to, word for word from beginning to end: “Just a small-town girl/ Livin’ in a lonely world….”
Sunday the Heart Quartet, which is performing throughout February advocating for Women’s Heart Health, played at IN UNISON Church partner St. Philip’s Evangelical Lutheran.
Also on Sunday, Symphony musicians played Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds, Cello, and Double Bass at Peace Lutheran Church.
Monday morning, Angie Smart and Claire “The Clown” Wedemeyer entertained girls and boys at Mercy Children’s Hospital. All the kids they entertained were in isolation, so Angie and Claire made in-room performances.
And on and on, and on, and on…throughout the St. Louis region…anywhere.
What happens on stage, whether that stage be at Powell Hall or a child’s hospital room, takes a lot of hands and hearts and minds to prepare. And I’m not even talking about the orchestral concerts.
For example Mrs. Silva gave up a few hours to make a fork for Max of Where the Wild Things Are to use in the Tiny Tunes concerts for pre-K kids from Grace Hill Head Start.
It took three St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association members to create leaves for the children to wave during the concerts.
Meanwhile, the students at room13delmar, just across the street from Powell Hall, with Ilene Nodhouse, made this swell boat for Max, and a cool set too.
But that’s just one show. Meanwhile, on Monday Community Programs Director Maureen Byrne was with Claire “The Clown” Wedemeyer and Symphony violinist Angie Smart working on some new bits to perform at children’s hospitals as part of SymphonyCares.
For one of the skits, it looks like Claire is doing a Joan Jett impersonation.
Those are just a few of the things we do around here when we’re not playing Bach.
The Symphony musicians continue to make the rounds of places where people get together, whether sick or well, old or young. It’s kind of like the Symphony’s marriage with the community: in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.
A reminder that if you want to see and hear more stuff about David Robertson’s 10th season, 50 Symphony musicians playing solos throughout 1415, and all things wonderful relating to the St. Louis Symphony’s 135th, visit this link to 10-50-135 for videos, as well as my podcasts about each program. These podcasts are especially erudite, intelligent, informative and are a fun way to hear the English language mangled. I’m also usually running behind. We’ll get 4 Seasons up asap.
With St. Louis experiencing the forces of early winter this week, the Symphony welcomed a few thousand schoolchildren to learn how composers have used nature as inspiration: storms, rivers, the power of a sunrise, the power of the Earth itself, and the grandeur of outer space.
The students received a welcome via the big screen at Powell Hall.
These students enjoyed some good seats.
The orchestra was conducted by Joseph Young.
Will James got intense with a triangle.
A swan flows along the Moldau.
Angie Smart brings on the storm in Vivaldi’s Summer from The Four Seasons.
A volcano explodes to the sounds of Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance.
Thanks to the Saint Louis Science Center, John Williams’ Star Wars theme included fantastic images of our solar system, including a flyby of Saturn.
Lovely usher Rita Hoguet comes to the front of the stage to guide schoolchildren, teachers and chaperones to their buses.
How was the show? Multiple thumbs up!
Joseph Young is in the house! The conductor goes into the audience and gives high fives and says thank you to everybody.
Big kudos to Symphony Director of Education Berakiah Boone for helping to let the forces of nature be for everyone.