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




LouFest Alternatives

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The Symphony weekend calendar is full and the season hasn’t even officially started. Saturday morning was the first St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsal of the season, beginning with an orientation that included a scavenger hunt. The musicians broke into groups–each given the name of a composer (Beethoven, Berlioz, Bernstein, Dvorak, etc.)–and followed clues around Powell Hall, thus getting to know their home away from home. Here one group found the Music Library and took a selfie.

YO scavengerAlso this weekend: a St. Louis Symphony chamber ensemble performs at the Saint Louis
Zoo Saturday afternoon, and 12 Symphony string players join the #HealFerguson Concert for Peace and Unity on Sunday evening. Click for details.

If you want a break from LouFest for a short while, these shows are awesome. And they’re free, like Woodstock was.

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.