SymphonyCares & Clowns on Call Bring Music & Comedy to Children in St. Louis Hospitals

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The St. Louis Symphony, Circus Flora, and Build-A-Bear Workshop are partnering for series of performances for children at area hospitals.

Violinist Angie Smart and Claire “the Clown” Wedemeyer from Clowns on Call provide the entertainment. The performances are a mixture of music and comedy.

Smart plays crowd favorites and Wedemeyer keeps the children laughing. It is a routine Smart and Wedemeyer have perfected. The pair have been performing at area hospitals since 2012.

In addition to the entertainment, each child receives a stuffed-animal from Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Kira Stout, 9, attended one of the performances at Mercy Children’s Hospital in 2016. Her father, David Stout, said the performance served as an entertaining escape.

“When she heard they were here (at Mercy Children’s Hospital) she got very excited and wanted to come down and see it,” Stout said. “She just loved it.”

The hospital performances are part of the SymphonyCares program.

The goal of the program is to enrich people’s lives through the power of music.

 

Remaining Performance Schedule:

  • St. Louis Children’s Hospital

January 24, 2017

1pm

  • Mercy Children’s Hospital

March 29, 2017

10am

  • Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital

May 4, 2017

11am

 

 

 

Stage Exits

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The scene outside of Powell Hall Friday night, the evening of the final St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra concert of the season, included sights of a diverse audience–young and old, dressy and casual, stylish and chill, a mashup of ethnicities and ages, north siders and south siders, folks from the county, city, country and from across the river. Add to this the excited roars of the crowd emanating from the Circus Flora tent.

Stage exit 1
Stage exit 1

I made my way around the backstage areas: in the musicians’ lounge the eternal card game was in progress, orchestra members lounged on sofas and leaned against one another to take selfies. A cake designed for outgoing Resident Conductor Steven Jarvi was in its last wreckage of consumption.

Stage exit 2
Stage exit 2

“I still can’t believe we get to play Beethoven 5!” I heard one musician exclaim. It seemed as if the near-capacity audience could hardly believe it as well. People sat rapt, leaning forward in their chairs intently. At the spaces in between movements you could not hear a sound. Once a baby let out a muted cry, but not for long. I’m sure that babies and Beethoven have been heard together many times over the centuries. In no way were such memorable solos by Curt Sellers, oboe, and Hannah Byrne, clarinet, diminshed.

Stage exit 3
Stage exit 3

At the end, the audience rose as if great stores of emotional energy had been released. A lot of musician tension was released as well. It was Beethoven’s Fifth they had just performed, after all. “That piece is so long,” one musician said at intermission, proud to have played it and relieved it was over.

Stage exit 4
Stage exit 4

Curt Sellers had written the program notes for the first after-intermission piece, Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture. He described the “sweet love song” the English horn plays in that piece, and then he played it beautifully.

Stage exit 5
Stage exit 5

The final piece for the season, Stravinsky’s devilishly difficult and delightful The Firebird Suite, came after the third standing ovation for YO Music Director Jarvi that night.

The music goes on, The Firebird will be played again, many of this group of YO musicians will return. But throughout the evening I thought of those leaving–for college, for the rest of their lives to proceed elsewhere. You could hear in the music the complex mixture of accomplishment and loss: in Emily Shaper’s bassoon solos, in the tricky and yet entirely musical flute and piccolo parts played by Leah Peipert and Lynell Cunningham, in Earl Kovacs’ confident clarinet, in Eric Cho’s songful cello, and in the horn solo that leads to the surging finale of The Firebird, played by Eli Pandolfi this night. Eli is the grandson of Roland Pandolfi, one of the great horn players of this era and a former St. Louis Symphony principal. You heard time beginning, time ending, and the continuum as the orchestra joined in full ecstatic harmony. The Firebird is a perfect ending to a YO season, with an ending so sublime because you don’t want it to end. And it never really does. With every exit there is a return. Another entrance made.

Stage exit 6
Stage exit 6

 

 

 

The Sun Also Rises

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The rains came down. The sky cleared and the sun rose and so did the circus tent. “Ta da,” as they say after something fantastic happens. Circus Flora is making its home on the east lot.

Ta da
Ta da

 

Everything But

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“The Cuckoo Song” goes “sumer is acumen in.” The Green and Red split blog has been written and posted. Now it’s time for the e.e. cummings’ quotation: “Damn everything but the circus.”

Circus Flora tent in its initial stages.
Circus Flora tent in its initial stages.

Circus Flora takes up the parking lot east of Powell Hall for its 30th-anniversary season, “Pastime.” The rain will pass. The twitchy strains of Verdi’s Macbeth will move from Powell Hall rehearsals to the Opera Theatre stage.

The Symphony staff will take time to pet the circus horses once in a while. “Sumer is acumen in.”

 

Everything But

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You leave work for a few days and look what happens.

CF tent

The Circus Flora big top went up lickety-split a couple weeks ago, so now the back windows of Powell Hall afford us views of dogs and horses and circus folk. Shows begin this week. The music of Handel’s Richard the Lionheart made a nice accompaniment to our views of circus world. Opera Theatre rehearsal on the Powell Stage, acrobats on the back lot. “Damn everything but the circus!” said e.e. cummings.

In the Meantime

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Powell Hall is receiving a circus makeover for A Winter Fable, the Circus Flora-St. Louis Symphony collaboration playing this weekend, December 12-14.

The musicians return to the hall Thursday for rehearsal. In the meantime, they are teaching and performing around the region. Here is Principal Trombone Tim Myers teaching a class at Parkway Central Middle School.

Myers 1Myers has taught me a lot about music over the years. I bet he could teach anything and be inspiring.

Also this week, a Tower Grove Park concert in the Piper Palm House with Karin Bliznik, trumpet; Dave DeRiso, double bass; Tom Stubbs, percussion; and Patti Wolf, piano, Tuesday night.

Thursday, bass trombone player Gerry Pagano makes his 20th annual visit to St. Agnes Home as part of SymphonyCares. He brings the whole section: Myers, Amanda Stewart and Jonathan Reycraft. That concert is a highlight of the year every year.

Gerry Pagano at St. Agnes Home
Gerry Pagano at St. Agnes Home

Dromedary Afternoon

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Not far from Powell Hall, camels temporarily reside.

Circus Flora camel
Circus Flora camel

While I Was Away

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I leave for just a few days and look what happens.

photoThe Circus Flora big top rises from the asphalt behind Powell Hall.

Damn Everything But the Circus

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Everyone at the St. Louis Symphony was deeply saddened by the news of the loss of Ivor David Balding, co-founder of the magnificent Circus Flora. Circus Flora just began pitching its big top behind Powell Hall, on Monday, as it does each summer. And each summer I announce Circus Flora’s arrival with the e.e. cummings’ line “Damn everything but the circus.” I don’t know if David Balding ever had a mantra, but that one would have been fitting.

David Balding
David Balding

Balding was one of the greatest artists to have worked in St. Louis. His early career is a who’s who of American theater, including associations with legends such as Eva La Gallienne and Joe Papp. Balding produced some landmark productions of New York theater, including The Knack, The Man in the Glass Booth, and Lenny. In the circus world he produced the famed Jimmy Chipperfield’s Circus World in Europe, and he had a hand in the formation of another great one-ring circus troupe, Big Apple Circus. He co-founded Circus Flora in 1985, and St. Louis has been blessed by its artistry ever since.

I cherish to have been in the presence of his kind and generous spirit and seeing the product of that brilliant artistic mind at work in the Circus Flora big top, and in recent years, at Powell Hall. The Symphony performs a new show with Circus Flora in December. David was a warm and comforting presence on the stage. I know we will feel that it is still there.