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.

 

Turning Point

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Second violinist Andrea Jarrett was a young girl with multi-talents and interests, and two of her major interests were ballet and violin. In this edition of Play Memory, created by our new videographer Nicola Muscroft, she talks about hearing the music of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the ballet program she was not yet old enough to dance. But on February 27-28, she gets to play the music of the ballet with the St. Louis Symphony. Not a bad trade off.

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.

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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!”

 

Gotta Sing!

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I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with a few chorus members over the years. Members of the chorus always seem to be wickedly fun. They also combine passion, dedication and awesome talent to every concert.

The St. Louis Symphony Chorus is holding auditions Wednesday, August 26 from 5-9pm, for the 2015-16 season. The auditions are open to all voice types. The repertoire this season includes Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette, Holst’s The Planets, and the Music of John Williams in December.

Amy Kaiser heads into season 21 leading the St. Louis Symphony Chorus in 1516. Photo credit: Gerry Love
Amy Kaiser heads into her 21st season leading the St. Louis Symphony Chorus. Photo credit: Gerry Love

Chorus Director Amy Kaiser offered the following rhetorical question, “What could be better than Beethoven, Berlioz and John Williams?” If you cannot come up with a good answer to that, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus may be for you.

Gotta sing? Give it a try. Click for info. Contact Chorus Manager Susan Patterson to schedule an audition appointment: susanp@stlsymphony.org.