SLSO and Make-A Wish Missouri Team to Grant Faith’s Wish

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The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Make-A-Wish Missouri teamed to make a young girl’s wish come true in October.

Faith*, who is eight-years-old, wanted to experience an SLSO concert.

She was born with SOX2 anophthalmia syndrome. The genetic condition left Faith blind and with limited mobility.

Faith’s mom, Bridget*, said that life or her daughter can be a “struggle,” but music has been a “great motivator.”

On October 8, SLSO musicians Melissa Brooks, Celeste Golden Boyer, Beth Guterman Chu, and Eva Kozma performed three pieces of music for Faith at St. Francis Xavier College Church. St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Artist-in-Residence Brian Owens was the featured vocalist for the concert.

“To see the string quartet and vocalist so dedicated to making this happen for her was special to us,” Bridget said.

SLSO cellist Melissa Brooks called the experience “amazing.”

“It really was it was an honor to play for her,” Brooks said.

SLSO violist Beth Guterman Chu agreed.

“Anytime we can touch anyone it is special, but to know that this was Faith’s dream, was a real high point for me,” Guterman Chu said.

Faith’s Make-A-Wish also included a private concert in her home on October 4. The musicians performed two pieces of music, including a piece by Tony Bennett.

“This was just a great opportunity to see how much Faith is loved by so many people,” Bridget said. “It was the right wish request.”

*For privacy reasons, the SLSO is not releasing the family’s last name.



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In recent days I’ve seen oboist Phil Ross, percussionist Will James, violinists Wendy Plank Rosen, Kristin Ahlstrom and Jessica Cheng, double bassist Chris Carson, English horn player Cally Banham, and I’ve engaged in email conversations with violists Beth Guterman Chu and Jonathan Chu, clarinet player Scott Andrews, horn player Thomas Jöstlein, violinist Erin Schreiber, and concertmaster David Halen. This means the summer festivals are over and the musicians are beginning to return home to St. Louis–a delightful harbinger of the new season. When they all get together next week for rehearsals they’ll look something like this:

Orch_Stage - resized

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!


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David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony are rehearsing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral,” this afternoon. Joshua Dobkins and I are working on a very cool project for the Thanksgiving weekend performances of Tan Dun’s Contrabass Concerto: The Wolf this week, so in the meantime, I will reprise this Play Memory piece with Principal Viola Beth Guterman Chu.

Play Memory – Beth Guterman Chu

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A number of people who have watched this video have told me that it made them tear up a bit. I suspect it’s partly because of the expressiveness of Beth Guterman Chu’s face, the domestic setting of the kitchen, and the connection of mother and child through a single piece of music. Whatever it is, I suggest you get out your handkerchiefs.

Don Quixote

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St. Louis Symphony Principal Cello Daniel Lee connects a 400-year-old novel, a 300-year-old piece of wood, a 100+-year-old tone poem, and a symphony orchestra made up of nearly 100 talented people in this week’s video blog.

Summer Lake Views

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Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik has already made her way back to the Aspen Music Festival and School from Tanglewood, but she shares last glimpses of what is known as the Stockbridge Bowl, near Tanglewood, in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.

Stockbridge Bowl
Stockbridge Bowl
Stockbridge Bowl through the trees
Stockbridge Bowl over the hills and through the trees

Bliznik is a member of the artist-faculty at Aspen, as are fellow St. Louis Symphony musicians David Halen, Mark Sparks, Tom Stubbs and Beth Guterman Chu.

A Huge Orchestral Sea

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It’s not hard to find the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony throughout the summer months. Visit any major music festival in the country–Aspen, Boulder, Sun Valley, Chautauqua, Boonville, MO (David Halen runs that one)–and you may find a few St. Louis Symphony musicians in the orchestra. Offer to buy them a beer or a chardonnay after the show.

David Robertson would probably appreciate a beer as well. He’s back in the U.S. from Sydney, Australia, where he is music director of the orchestra there, and has already traveled from the Aspen Music Festival and School to Santa Fe, where he is conducting a production of Richard Strauss’ Salome with Santa Fe Opera. Opening night is Wednesday, July 22.

The St. Louis Symphony isn’t performing Salome this season–although it did memorably with Deborah Voigt a few seasons back–but there is plenty of Strauss to go around in 1516. Robertson conducts an all-Strauss program September 25-26, with Principal Cello Daniel Lee and Principal Viola Beth Guterman Chu playing Don Quixote, and Karita Mattila singing the Final Scene from Capriccio. The all-Strauss concerts are among the musicians’ hot picks for next season.

The Oscar Wilde references aside, Robertson gives a good primer to the music of Strauss in this clip from Santa Fe Opera, especially the West Coast surfer analogies.

Joyful Music, Joyful Couple

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Beth Guterman Chu and Jonathan Chu are the solo artists for Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante this weekend. They had their first rehearsal with the orchestra and guest conductor Hannu Lintu Wednesday morning. They’re not doing the Miles Davis back-to-the-audience thing for the concerts. Some soloists prefer to turn and play to the orchestra in rehearsal, especially vocalists–Susan Graham and Christine Brewer are notable examples. Beth and Jonathan told me they’ve had a wonderful time working on the piece together. Put the kids to bed and then practice.