It’s a party at Powell Hall when the SLSO and music students Link Up

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Each spring, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders take over Powell Hall for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s Link Up concerts.

The students participate in the concerts. They play recorders and violins along with the orchestra. The students also sing and dance.

The concerts are the pay off for months of hard work that starts each fall in greater St. Louis area elementary schools.

According to 5th grade Hazelwood student Jaylah Burton, the program offers her a way to connect with her parents.

“My mom and my dad played instruments,” she said. “I wanted to play an instrument too.”

Link Up provides music educators with specialized curriculum that prepares students for the concerts.

“Studies have shown that kids that play instruments do better on tests and succeed in life,” Hazelwood Orchestra Teacher Kimberley Jackson said. “This program is very beneficial for their development.”

The curriculum comes from the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall.

The help from the SLSO and the curriculum is free.

The SLSO is searching for more schools in the region to Link Up with this school year.

For more information click here.

The Orchestra Sings

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The theme for this season’s Link Up program was The Orchestra Sings. Students throughout the region studied and learned a comprehensive curriculum–created by Carnegie Hall’s worldwide music education initiative–in their music classes all year long. Wednesday morning was the culmination of all that work–the annual Link Up concert at Powell Hall.

Two near-capacity shows featured guest vocalist Erin Bode, host Brian Owens, and Steven Jarvi conducting the St. Louis Symphony. Also on stage were music teacher Emilee Kellermann and two trios from Kellison Elementary leading the audience in singing and recorder playing.

Music teacher Emilee Kellermann and students from Kellison Elementary perform at Link Up concert.
Music teacher Emilee Kellermann and students from Kellison Elementary perform on stage at Powell Hall for Link Up concert.

Two-thousand recorders playing the “Going Home” theme from the “New World” Symphony–you don’t experience that every day. Nor the talent of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra’s Hava Polinsky, who stepped out to play an excerpt from Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the orchestra. Any number of grade school students are going to sleep on Wednesday night thinking about the musician who played so beautifully on her 17th birthday, and how they want to be like her someday.

A full house for Link Up concert
A full house for Link Up concert

Special kudos to the Education Team of Jessica Ingraham, Michael Gandlmayr and Laura Case-Reinert, who worked so hard and so smart to make this one of the best Link Up experiences ever.



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.

Spreading the Dazzle Around

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Many of the St. Louis Symphony musicians who returned from New York on Saturday made their way back to Powell Hall on Sunday. They came to see and hear the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, whom many St. Louis Symphony musicians coach and teach, both as part of the YO Beyond Rehearsal program and privately. They heard Grant Riew and Hava Polinsky perform as soloists (Faure’s Elegy and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, respectively) as well as Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite and Marquez’s Danzon No. 2 for Orchestra. It was a sold-out house. Once again, the YO dazzled.

Hava Polinsky performed Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.
Hava Polinsky performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Many of you have seen the reviews that have already come in from New York documenting the dazzlement the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus left behind at Carnegie Hall Friday night. Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times wrote “the chorus entered, soft and calm yet changeable, like clouds moving past one another” during Meredith Monk’s WEAVE. The women of the chorus sang the third, Sirens, movement of Debussy’s Nocturnes. Woolfe wrote that they “brought filmy subtlety to the hovering vocal mist.”

One of those sirens, Patty Koflon, shared these thoughts of her Carnegie moments: “It was thrilling to sing at Carnegie Hall. I was surprised by the size of it … that it only holds approximately 121 more seats than Powell Hall, and that the configuration was more vertical (think sitting in the KC Royals stadium) as opposed to our more horizontal configuration. The audience was so very responsive to us and, due to what I presume is a huge Monk fan base on top of it, the atmosphere felt almost party-like.

“I loved some of the quirky things such as the sign leading onstage which reads: “Isaac Stern Auditorium Dedicated January 28, 1997 No Eating, Drinking or SMOKING On Stage.”

Sign of another era. No smoking on Carnegie stage.
Sign of another era. No smoking on Carnegie stage.

After WEAVE was performed, Kofron writes, “…as the chorus came off stage after performing the Monk, Ms. Monk was standing backstage and an impromptu receiving line formed whereby she greeted us individually as we approached her, shook our hands and made conversation. She is an extraordinarily kind and down-to-earth woman.”

Dazzle and down-to-earth is a nice descriptive pairing for the YO, St. Louis Symphony and Chorus. A final example, the dazzling down-to-earth chorus manager Susan Patterson, keeping her cool in a Carnegie rehearsal space.

Chorus manager Susan Patterson, standing, keeps her cool.
Chorus manager Susan Patterson, standing, keeps her cool.

Ear Candy

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Home again home again jiggety-jig. At least for some. Many musicians are staying the weekend in NYC. And why not? You can find quite a bit of nourishment in New York. Some are taking in a matinee of the Metropolitan Opera, because they truly live for music, or, possibly more accurately, music has become their lives.

The St. Louis Symphony provided its own nourishment to the Carnegie audience. Many raves are coming in via social media and elsewhere. First review I’ve seen. Click.

A horn-section view of Carnegie rehearsal.
A horn-section view of Carnegie rehearsal.

A few perspectives from those who played the music. From Principal Timpani Shannon Wood: “The talent, subtle musical nuances and the heritage of sound that this orchestra has cultivated over the years never ceases to amaze me. Audiences hear/notice the difference. Guest conductors say how unique and rare it is to hear an orchestra with such tradition and character in  sound.

“It’s vital that we continue to share this institution with other audiences. We have something special to share.”

Second violinist Lorraine Glass-Harris, playing her last Carnegie, that is unless some smart orchestra brings her in as a ringer in seasons to come: “My thoughts, yes, always many of them … First, personal, this was my last concert with the St. Louis Symphony in Carnegie. An understandable telescoping of past and present, all the way back to the Susskind performances of the early ’70s, my entry to the professional world of orchestral sports.

“Of greater interest, even to me, however, is the pure pleasure of performing in the fine acoustics of Carnegie. The absolute necessity of the players to be performing not just here but in all the great Halls of the world, not just once, but often in one’s career.

“The value of hearing one’s individual contribution and responding to the collective sound Is inestimable. And the best part, of course, is that the group brings this knowledge back to Powell. Recycled for greater clarity and a fuller sense of the whole.

“Learning how to listen and how to contribute has been among the best accomplishments of my 43 years with the orchestra. Carnegie Hall? Ear candy!”

And from English horn player Cally Banham, who got a shout out from the aforementioned review: “It’s always thrilling to hear my colleagues play in Carnegie–so much detail can be heard of color and subtleties in phrasing because of the perfect acoustic!

“I had the pleasure onstage and off last night. I don’t play the Tchaikovsky Symphony so [Associate Principal Oboe] Barbara Orland and I went out into the audience. At the end of the first movement we turned to each other with mouths agape and said, ‘It sounds like the greatest orchestra in the world!'”

The musicians who have arrived home have come back to spring after the snows of Manhattan. In St. Louis the birds are singing songs much older than Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. But both are familiar songs. We cannot live without them.

First Spring Snow

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More on food: English horn player Cally Banham admired her colleagues’ foodie virtues. “One thing is clear so far,” she told me, “the members of the St. Louis Symphony are extremely refined foodies, pouncing on the NY opportunity, and many seem particularly versed on the subtle variants of each Ramen place!” Ramen, you’ve been informed. Next time you’re in New York, get some.

She also had some reflections on the recent Carnegie renovations: “Last year was a bit of a shock to see the backstage renovations. I mourned the loss of those hallowed halls of tiny dressing rooms, but the expanded backstage areas have been appointed to capture that old Carnegie charm!”

To give you some idea of the charms, Megan Stout shared this photo of where she and Principal Harp Allegra Lilly warm up. This is a two-harp show.

Nice place to warm up the harp if you can get it.
Nice place to warm up the harp if you can get it.

And here is a view of that divine layer cake that is the Carnegie auditorium, a chorus-eye view from Patty Kofron.

A chorus-eye view of Carnegie Hall.
A chorus-eye view of Carnegie Hall.

Snowing heavily in New York. A good omen for a Russian symphony.


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One of the traditions of the Carnegie tour blog is the “proof” photo. My colleague Adam Crane got to NYC a day before most of the gang and snapped the St. Louis Symphony poster. Proof: we’re at Carnegie Hall again.

carnegie posterThis edition features David Robertson along with Katie Geissinger and Theo Bleckmann, who will perform Meredith Monk’s WEAVE with the orchestra Friday night. Monk has been celebrated throughout the 2014-15 Carnegie season. She especially wanted the Symphony to perform WEAVE, which it premiered at Powell not so long ago. Monk titled the work just before it was played the first time.

As the applause began after WEAVE‘s finale in St. Louis, I remember following Monk down the steps of the hall at breakneck speed–she was so thrilled at the performance that she wanted to thank Robertson backstage before they went back out for their bows.

Looking Ahead to a Friday Night in NYC

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Tuesday afternoon, when most of St. Louis was turning greener by the minute on St. Patrick’s Day, the St. Louis Symphony was completing its final Powell Hall rehearsal before heading to New York City and Carnegie Hall.

One Symphony daughter of Erin said to me on her way out the door: “It’s amateur night, you know. So I’ll be home eating my own corned beef and cabbage and sipping my own whiskey and my toes close to my own fire.”

The orchestra and chorus have a day off on Wednesday. The violins are snug in their case.

Violins waiting to go
Violins waiting to go

A Shape-Shifting Symphony

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Last week I talked to double bassist Sarah Hogan Kaiser about  the Carnegie concert, coming up this Friday night, March 20, in New York City. She talked about the famous Carnegie acoustic, without in any way denigrating the acoustic in Powell Hall. Powell has a great sound too. But one of the biggest differences, she told me, was the acoustic on stage. At Carnegie, she will hear instruments she has not heard before. During Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, for instance, Kaiser usually is seated behind the cellos, but on the Carnegie stage she will hear a lot more than the celli–the oboes, perhaps, or even the triangle. It makes for different choices in her own playing, different ideas about blending, or providing contrast or support. It makes for a different Tchaikovsky 4, because music is a living thing, changing, shape-shifting, taking different forms wherever it goes, whether in mid-town St. Louis or mid-town Manhattan.

Sarah Hogan Kaiser in the background among the basses
Sarah Hogan Kaiser in the background among the basses [Photo credit: DILIP VISHWANAT]

Cat’s Out of the Bag

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At last week’s Town Hall Meeting it was announced that the St. Louis Symphony would be returning to Carnegie Hall next season. But we couldn’t tell with what or when, because that’s Carnegie’s privilege.

David Robertson Photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat
David Robertson Photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat

Cat’s out of the bag. It’s officially announced. Click.