Claire “The Clown” Wedemeyer and Symphony violinist Angie Smart are in the business of smiles and laughter. Through Clowns on Call and SymphonyCares they visited Mercy Children’s Hospital this week and lifted spirits from room to room. A little shtick goes a long way to making children and their families feel a little bit better.
Wednesday night at Powell Hall, the SymphonyCares Showcase presented many of the inspiring activities the St. Louis Symphony musicians are involved in, taking their music to those who need it the most. The Showcase also placed on center stage its essential partners, those with the medical knowledge to know what works best and what truly makes a difference in the well-being of their patients.
The Heart Quartet, with vocalist Brian Owens and guest violinist and cardiac surgeon Dr. Dawn Hui of Saint Louis University Hospital, performed arrangements by Adam Maness, including heart-warming renditions of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” and “Amazing Grace.” The Heart Quartet played at IN UNISON churches and other venues throughout the region in February, bringing music and information about women’s heart health.
SymphonyCares became the principal entertainment for a bone-marrow-transplant birthday party at SLU Cancer Center this season. As the Cancer Center’s Crystal Weaver explained, when a patient receives BMT, it is a kind of rebirth, and so a birthday party is given. BMT recipient Clifford Burnett was asked if he had one song he’d like to hear for his party. He chose Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.” In the Cancer Center, the piece was performed by Principal Harp Allegra Lilly and First Violin Ann Fink. At Powell Hall, Clifford and his wife Deanna and the Showcase audience heard the Van the Man song played by Andrew Duggins on guitar and the Symphony’s Melody Lee on violin.
Cortango Orquesta, with a core ensemble of Symphony musicians Cally Banham, Asako Kuboki and David DeRiso, have been enlivening the local dance scene for a couple years now. They also have been playing in the SymphonyCares program. Wednesday night, Dr. Gammon Earhart, of the Washington University School of Medicine, talked about the remarkable improvement Parkinson patients experience when combining regular movement therapy with tango dancing. Live tango music makes it even better.
The Symphony, the Maryville University Music Therapy program, and the St. Louis Arc have been partnering for a number of years now. The culmination of the season for all partners is the SymphonyCares Showcase, with a variety show that features music, jokes and some wild skits. It’s always a joyful finale to the program.
Any SymphonyCares Showcase is not complete without a performance by St. Louis Symphony violinist Angie Smart and Claire “The Clown” Wedemeyer of Circus Flora’s Clowns on Call. A hospital-room visit from Angie and Claire have left children laughing in their hospital beds for a few years now. Angie and Claire are constantly coming up with new routines, new pratfalls, new uproarious absurdities.
The Showcase always ends with laughter mixed with tears. Thanks to all the Symphony musicians and partners, and to Director of Community Programs Maureen Byrne. How do you make St. Louis a better place? Stick with these folks.