Funny Business

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Thursday afternoon I interviewed Maureen Thomas. The interview can be heard during intermission of the Symphony’s Saturday night concert broadcast live on St. Louis Public Radio 90.7 KWMU. As the Symphony’s Shakespeare Festival continues, she is the featured actress for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performing Shakespeare’s words while the orchestra plays Mendelssohn’s music. She’s been doing this show with guest conductor Hans Graf for many years, beginning back when he was conducting the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Maureen plays about a dozen different characters, portraying the all-to-human young lovers, the Rude Mechanicals and assorted members of the spirit kingdom without the aid of costume, masks or props, conveying Shakespeare’s comedic menagerie with voice and gesture alone. She admits that the music helps a lot, with actress and orchestra combining to portray the many moods, emotions and funny business.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" rehearsal. Maureen Thomas in spotlight stage left.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” rehearsal. Maureen Thomas in spotlight stage left.

We were well met, as the Calgary native knows the land of my youth, northern Idaho and Montana, and the curious interactions of those who live not too far from the border from each other.


A Late Summer Night’s Dream

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Tuesday night is the annual Forest Park concert, with the orchestra tucked within the band shell and David Robertson conducting boisterous music on a cool late-summer night. Then the fireworks.




Fireworks_IMG_2004Most of the music performed Tuesday night may be heard during the concert season at Powell Hall, including the Wedding March from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Feb. 27-28, Hans Graf conducting, part of the Symphony’s Shakespeare Festival). You may have gotten married hearing that theme. When the orchestra rehearsed it on Tuesday morning, I expected rice to be flung from somewhere, or is that Rocky Horror Picture Show?

But A Midsummer Night’s Dream evokes all kinds of memories–seeing a production of Shakespeare’s play sometime in your life, whether on stage or on screen. Or, for the Symphony’s new second violinist, Andrea Jarrett, it connects with the ballet, and, for her, a turning point.

She wrote this as part of her musician hot picks selections: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: I am looking forward to this because I did ballet for many years–I studied so seriously that I ended up choosing between dance and violin. No regrets, of course. The company I danced with put on a performance of Midsummer every couple of years, but I was never old enough to participate and SO envied the senior dancers. Now, I will get to play the entire ballet, which is even better!”