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Christine Brewer sings Berg’s Altenberg Lieder in the Symphony’s subscription season finale this weekend. Whenever Brewer performs with the Symphony it’s like a welcome visit with a neighbor, which she is, making her home across the river in Illinois. And whenever Brewer sings her first rehearsal with the Symphony, she usually brings her kids along. Those kids are the sixth graders from Marissa Elementary, where Brewer taught before she changed her career path toward that of world-renowned soprano. Brewer stays true to her school with her “Operatunities” program, sending photos of the Teddy bear Marissa Melody to the students via email and social media from wherever in the world Brewer may be performing. It’s a nice way into social studies lessons, just as an open rehearsal is a nice welcome to the St. Louis Symphony. Ex Aff staffer Zach Schimpf took these photos of the Wednesday visit.

Christine Brewer and students from Marissa Elementary
Christine Brewer and students from Marissa Elementary. Marissa Melody in front row.
Take our picture!
Take our picture!

Double Digits

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Last Monday I announced the Top Five Hot Picks of the 2015-2016 season as chosen by the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony. They are 1) Mahler 5, January 22-23; 2) Mahler 4, April 2-3; 3) All-Strauss, September 25-26; 4) Beethoven 6, November 13-15; 5) Beethoven 9, October 9-11.

Undoubtedly there is music to love every week at Powell Hall, and throughout the season, on the blog and elsewhere, you’ll learn more about the relationships musicians have with the music they play–what makes the hot picks hot, what are the memories and emotions the music evokes in the individual players.

In the meantime, three concert programs were on the bubble for the Top Five Hot Picks. So not unlike in the Chris Rock movie Top Five, there’s always a sixth worth mentioning (Slick Rick!), or a seventh and an eighth. The concerts were all in the double digits when it came to the final tally.

Joshua Bell
Joshua Bell

6) Opening Weekend with Joshua Bell. September 18-20. David Robertson, conductor; Joshua Bell, violin. JANACEK Taras Bulba KODALY Hary Janos Suite LALO Symphonie espagnole.

Music and images play in the Symphony's performance of "From the Canyons to the Stars."
Music and images play in the Symphony’s performance of “From the Canyons to the Stars.”

7) From the Canyons to the Stars. January 16. David Robertson, conductor; Peter Henderson, piano; Deborah O’Grady, video artist. MESSIAEN Des canyons aux étoiles… (From the Canyons to the Stars…) .

Christine Brewer sings Berg's "Altenberg Lieder" in the season finale.
Christine Brewer sings Berg’s “Altenberg Lieder” in the season finale.

8) The Planets. May 6-8. David Robertson, conductor; Christine Brewer, soprano; Kathleen Mattis, viola; St. Louis Symphony Chorus; Amy Kaiser, director. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Flos campi (Flower of the Field) BERG Altenberg Lieder HOLST The Planets.

You can call these the Slick Rick Picks if you want to.


A Sunday Evening in Ferguson, Missouri

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Music brings people together. With music people laugh, they sing, they dance, they sway. Woody Guthrie used to say that he didn’t sing songs to bring people down or to feel bad about themselves. He sang songs to lift people up. Woody would have felt right at home at the #HealFerguson concert Sunday night, which included St. Louis Symphony string players performing a work written specifically for the concert by the multi-talented Adam Maness. Maureen Byrne, Director of Community Programs, put together the string ensemble. Brian Owens, the hardest working man in show business, put together the show for his hometown, and for the world.

Here are some pics.

Ferguson strings wait to go on stage
Symphony strings wait to go on stage
Ensemble performs Adam Maness' "Divides That Bind"
Ensemble performs Adam Maness’ “Divides That Bind”
Brian Owens
Brian Owens
Everybody dance now
Everybody dance now



Brian Owens and Christine Brewer sing "The Prayer"
Brian Owens and Christine Brewer sing “The Prayer”
Sea of Tranquility glows over Ferguson
Sea of Tranquility glows over Ferguson




Engaging Our Hands

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Brian Owens is not only an amazing vocalist, performer and recording artist, he serves as IN UNISON® Artist in Residence and Program Manager. I usually try to avoid titles, but I think Brian’s is pretty cool. Not only does he help make the In Unison program better each year, he works as a mentor to the In Unison scholars, music students who attend UM-St. Louis and McKendree University with support from In Unison. He gives them practical tools to go with their artistic vision.

Brian Owens Photo: Jerry Naunheim
Brian Owens
Photo: Jerry Naunheim

Brian lives in Ferguson, and as the events that made international news this summer transpired, he kept himself directly involved in helping his community any way he could.

Not that long ago he started calling up his friends with an idea. One of those friends (and colleagues) was Maureen Byrne, who directs the St. Louis Symphony Community Programs. A free concert, he told her, in Ferguson. He was going to make it happen. Let’s get the Symphony involved. Music, it’s what we do.

Brian has said, “Music has an amazing ability to bring people together in peace and at the same time enlighten our hearts to experience something even greater. This experience is about engaging our hands, lifting our spirits and looking forward to a new and even better Ferguson community and city.”

Maureen called on 12 very willing Symphony string players to perform a new work, “The Divides That Bind,” composed for the event by Adam Maness, a multi-talented musician who plays in the Erin Bode Band and the 442s.

Christine Brewer Photo: Christian Steiner
Christine Brewer
Photo: Christian Steiner

Brian recruited guest artists J.R. (a Grammy-winning producer from St. Louis), Mike Hicks (plays keyboards with Keb’ Mo’), vocalist Nao Yoshioka (Brian performed with her on tours of the U.S. and Japan), and soprano Christine Brewer (the world-renowned opera star from Lebanon, Illinois).

The responses to all the asks were immediate and enthusiastic. Let’s do this.


Sunday, September 7 at 5:30pm

Ferguson Church of Christ – in the parking lot

1239 N. Elizabeth Ave.