Symphony in Your School @ UCity High

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The Symphony in Your School program took up residency at University City High, as represented by violinist Shawn Weil and cellist Bjorn Ranheim, who spent a few mornings with Lucy Mosier’s string class. STL Symphony video intern Nicola Muscroft put this mini-documentary together about the experience.

Morning Strings

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Lucy Mosier’s University City High School string musicians can say that they’ve played with members of the St. Louis Symphony. Violinist Shawn Weil and cellist Bjorn Ranheim have been sitting in with and coaching and giving tips to the high school string players since early March. Symphony video intern Nicola Muscroft and I had the privilege of joining the morning string class. It was raining outside but inside the music was bright. Photos by Jessica Ingraham.

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Trying to get serious for an interview
Trying to get serious for an interview

442s in the House

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On Thursday afternoon the 442s were in the Green Room preparing for upcoming recording sessions. The band is made up of Adam Maness and Syd Rodway of the Erin Bode Band, and Bjorn Ranheim and Shawn Weil of the St. Louis Symphony. They fuse many styles to create one that is their own. I stepped in when Adam was clapping out a beat, Shawn took up a repeated phrase and then Syd and Bjorn dug into the low notes.

Left to right: Syd Rodway, Bjorn Ranheim, Shawn Weil of the 442s.
Left to right: Syd Rodway, Bjorn Ranheim, Shawn Weil of the 442s.

Living Composer Live!

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Thursday night is the first On Stage at Powell concert of the season. That’s where you get to sit on stage with the musicians, making for an especially intimate concert experience and an easy concert series to name.

Samuel Adams, Photo credit: Ben Tarquin
Samuel Adams, Photo credit: Ben Tarquin

A Symphony string quartet made up of violinists Ann Fink and Helen Kim, violist Chris Tantillo and cellist Bjorn Ranheim play works by Haydn and Samuel Adams. Since Adams is the living composer, and in town, we’re putting him to use. He’ll be on stage to talk about both the Haydn quartet and his own, giving insights into how they relate. Adam Crane will be on hand to interview Adams, and I’ll be bringing around the microphone so audience members can ask questions and share responses.

Thursday, September 24 at 7pm. It’s free. It’s On Stage at Powell.

A Matter of Perspective

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A visit to the dress rehearsal of Barber of Seville got me to thinking about perspective. Rossini’s entertaining romp is the season opener for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. The folks making the music from the pit are members of the St. Louis Symphony. (The Symphony is roughly divided in half through opera season, the Red and the Green, and the two groups rotate between operas and Live at Powell Hall concerts–see previous “Red and Green” blog posts over the last ten years or so for more in-depth explanations.)

This Barber is delightfully colorful with touches of absurdist comedy akin to the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, and the camp classics of Pedro Almodovar–the opera does take place in Seville, after all.

But as to perspective, all the stage bits, Figaro’s deep blue long-coat, the row of cocks at the base of a curtain, a swaying rump–the musicians see none of it. So, since no one I talked with sounded in the mood for a photo during rehearsal break, I thought, how about the backs of heads as metaphor for the musician’s experience in the opera pit? The audience sees the show; the musicians see their music and the conductor’s baton. The face; the faceless.

And let’s make a game of it. Let’s see how well you know your Symphony musicians. I provide the list of five. You match with photos.

1) Helen Kim 2) Xiaoxiao Qiang 3) Eva Kozma 4) Born Ranheim 5) Shawn Weil

     A
A
     B
B
     C
C
     D
D
     E
E

Prelude to a Memory

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For St. Louis Symphony musicians it’s never just about playing the notes. There is emotion, memory, personal and professional history that filters through as well. Cellist Bjorn Ranheim shares all of the above.

August

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It’s August, the month in which the reality of the new season calls for significant mental adjustments for many of us working at Powell Hall. The pace shifts. I begin to type faster. Next thing you know Shannon Wood will be starting off Brahms’ Piano No. 1 with that dramatic timpani part, the strings will shiver beneath, and Yefim Bronfman will muscle his way in on the solo piano. So it will begin.

Cellist Bjorn Ranheim took a moment during his summer days to send me his thoughts about opening weekend:

“Robertson/Bronfman is always a formidable pair and this program is going to be a barn burner! Anytime one can hear Yefim Bronfman perform Brahms is a treat. He has the power and musical insight to bring out all of the nuances from this great piano concerto. Plus, Erin Schreiber plays The Lark Ascending, ¬†one of the most hauntingly beautiful violin solo pieces around!”

Erin Schreiber plays Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending" on Opening Weekend.
Erin Schreiber plays Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” on Opening Weekend.

Thanks for the late-summer inspiration, Bjorn. The theme at Powell for August: Get ready.