The Orchestra Sings

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The theme for this season’s Link Up program was The Orchestra Sings. Students throughout the region studied and learned a comprehensive curriculum–created by Carnegie Hall’s worldwide music education initiative–in their music classes all year long. Wednesday morning was the culmination of all that work–the annual Link Up concert at Powell Hall.

Two near-capacity shows featured guest vocalist Erin Bode, host Brian Owens, and Steven Jarvi conducting the St. Louis Symphony. Also on stage were music teacher Emilee Kellermann and two trios from Kellison Elementary leading the audience in singing and recorder playing.

Music teacher Emilee Kellermann and students from Kellison Elementary perform at Link Up concert.
Music teacher Emilee Kellermann and students from Kellison Elementary perform on stage at Powell Hall for Link Up concert.

Two-thousand recorders playing the “Going Home” theme from the “New World” Symphony–you don’t experience that every day. Nor the talent of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra’s Hava Polinsky, who stepped out to play an excerpt from Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the orchestra. Any number of grade school students are going to sleep on Wednesday night thinking about the musician who played so beautifully on her 17th birthday, and how they want to be like her someday.

A full house for Link Up concert
A full house for Link Up concert

Special kudos to the Education Team of Jessica Ingraham, Michael Gandlmayr and Laura Case-Reinert, who worked so hard and so smart to make this one of the best Link Up experiences ever.



Spreading the Dazzle Around

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Many of the St. Louis Symphony musicians who returned from New York on Saturday made their way back to Powell Hall on Sunday. They came to see and hear the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, whom many St. Louis Symphony musicians coach and teach, both as part of the YO Beyond Rehearsal program and privately. They heard Grant Riew and Hava Polinsky perform as soloists (Faure’s Elegy and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, respectively) as well as Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite and Marquez’s Danzon No. 2 for Orchestra. It was a sold-out house. Once again, the YO dazzled.

Hava Polinsky performed Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.
Hava Polinsky performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Many of you have seen the reviews that have already come in from New York documenting the dazzlement the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus left behind at Carnegie Hall Friday night. Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times wrote “the chorus entered, soft and calm yet changeable, like clouds moving past one another” during Meredith Monk’s WEAVE. The women of the chorus sang the third, Sirens, movement of Debussy’s Nocturnes. Woolfe wrote that they “brought filmy subtlety to the hovering vocal mist.”

One of those sirens, Patty Koflon, shared these thoughts of her Carnegie moments: “It was thrilling to sing at Carnegie Hall. I was surprised by the size of it … that it only holds approximately 121 more seats than Powell Hall, and that the configuration was more vertical (think sitting in the KC Royals stadium) as opposed to our more horizontal configuration. The audience was so very responsive to us and, due to what I presume is a huge Monk fan base on top of it, the atmosphere felt almost party-like.

“I loved some of the quirky things such as the sign leading onstage which reads: “Isaac Stern Auditorium Dedicated January 28, 1997 No Eating, Drinking or SMOKING On Stage.”

Sign of another era. No smoking on Carnegie stage.
Sign of another era. No smoking on Carnegie stage.

After WEAVE was performed, Kofron writes, “…as the chorus came off stage after performing the Monk, Ms. Monk was standing backstage and an impromptu receiving line formed whereby she greeted us individually as we approached her, shook our hands and made conversation. She is an extraordinarily kind and down-to-earth woman.”

Dazzle and down-to-earth is a nice descriptive pairing for the YO, St. Louis Symphony and Chorus. A final example, the dazzling down-to-earth chorus manager Susan Patterson, keeping her cool in a Carnegie rehearsal space.

Chorus manager Susan Patterson, standing, keeps her cool.
Chorus manager Susan Patterson, standing, keeps her cool.

Romantic and Classic

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Associate Concertmaster Heidi Harris performs Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto Friday and Saturday at Powell Hall. She is one of 50 St. Louis Symphony musicians selected by David Robertson to perform solos with the orchestra this season. Heidi shared these thoughts about her music director and the concerto.

Heidi Harris  Photo: Celeste Golden Boyer
Heidi Harris Photo: Celeste Golden Boyer

“Most people know David Robertson as the vivacious maestro up on the podium leading us in concerts, and as the Music Director of our beloved St. Louis Symphony. As a musician, I feel so lucky to be able to know David off the podium as well, and know what a generous and kind person he is.

“I recently asked David if he would listen to my Mendelssohn Concerto and give me some feedback. This was an unusual request in a way, because he is not the conductor for the upcoming Mendelssohn concerts. The request meant asking him to spend his valuable time and energy helping for a concert he wasn’t even going to conduct! I really wanted David’s feedback because I respect him so much, and since I have performed solos with him before where he was the conductor, I trust his instincts implicitly about how I play a piece of music and whether or not what I’m doing musically will fit in naturally with the orchestral tutti or not.

“In David’s usual, casual, and friendly fashion, he agreed immediately to listen to me. David gave me great feedback, and was extremely helpful to me, for which I am very grateful! He is one of the busiest people I know, always jet setting to and fro, but he made time to listen to one of his own when he was needed. He is just that kinda guy.

“When I found out that I was asked to perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, I cried. Really, I did. I was so incredibly happy not only to get the chance to perform as soloist with my very own orchestra, but especially happy to be able to perform the Mendelssohn. No doubt you have brilliantly written program notes to read regarding the concerto, so I’d like to share what I feel about it personally instead of speaking about it historically.

“I learned the Mendelssohn as a young child, and when you learn a piece when you are young there is something extremely organic and very special about it. It’s in your blood, so to speak, and becomes a part of you. It has time to marinate and age with you as you yourself age, like a fine wine ages over time. I feel this way about the Mendelssohn, like it’s an old friend that has been a part of me for many, many years. My musical ideas have changed over time, and also my technique, so this in turn changes my relationship with the concerto in interesting ways. It’s always fresh, it’s always changing. The Mendelssohn is at once romantic and classic, which is my absolute favorite combination in any type of music. I absolutely love it, and am so excited about performing it with the symphony orchestra that I love, the St. Louis Symphony.”

See and Hear

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Watch David Halen talk Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 on video, hear me talk Symphonie fantastique, Red Velvet Ball, and Mendelssohn Violin Concerto on our podcasts at 10-50-135.