Awesomeness

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The Symphony’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 was an awesome experience last weekend. Awesome in the true meaning of the word–to inspire awe, and, if you go further down the list of meanings, to inspire fear. There is a power both fierce and fearsome in the presence of such art. For some of us, it’s why we keep returning to it

It is somewhat hard to imagine that the musicians making such art are just getting on with their lives like everyone else. During the present St. Louis Symphony baby boom there are infants to be comforted, fed and changed. There are the everyday challenges large and small, plus social media to keep tabs with. Somehow, amidst all that, the Ravel shimmers, Vivier’s Lonely Child delivers a melancholy lullaby, and Mahler’s heaven bursts forth.

But the musicians aren’t just at home practicing one weekend’s concert. There is the next weekend and the one after that. And there are the Community and Education programs the musicians take part in, bringing more intimate forms of awe to smaller venues.

For example, the St. Louis Symphony & St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra side-by-side rehearsal, in which the two best orchestras in the region join for one big rehearsal. David Robertson conducting. The YO musicians sit right next to their heroes and make music with them:

David Robertson conducts the side-by-side rehearsal.
David Robertson conducts the side-by-side rehearsal.
Side-by-side rehearsal
Side-by-side rehearsal

Cortango Orquesta and Principal Harp Allegra Lilly played a Symphony Where You Worship concert at Second Presbyterian Church.

Principal Harp Allegra Lilly gives a tour of the strings.
Principal Harp Allegra Lilly gives a tour of the strings.

The Creative Music Making concert combined St. Louis Arc, the Maryville University Music Therapy program, musicians from the St. Louis Symphony and more than 30 volunteer entertainers from the St. Louis Arc community.

St. Louis trumpet player Jeffrey Strong proudly wears his Community Music Making T-shirt.
St. Louis trumpet player Jeffrey Strong proudly wears his Community Music Making T-shirt.

And musicians gave master classes and a concert at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Principal Horn Roger Kaza gives instruction that brings smiles at SIUE.
Principal Horn Roger Kaza gives instruction that brings smiles at SIUE.

In a word: awesome.

Show of Shows

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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.

Left to right: Brian Owens, Melody Lee, Dr. Dawn Hui, Shannon Farrell Williams and Elizabeth Chung
Left to right: Brian Owens, Melody Lee, Dr. Dawn Hui, Shannon Farrell Williams and Elizabeth Chung

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.

Left to right: Andrew Dwiggins, Melody Lee, Deanna and Clifford Burnett, and Crystal Weaver
Left to right: Andrew Dwiggins, Melody Lee, Deanna and Clifford Burnett, and Crystal Weaver

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: Adam Maness, piano, Elizabeth Chung, cello; David DeRiso, double bass; Asako Kuboki, violin; and Cally Banham, English horn
Cortango Orquesta: Adam Maness, piano, Elizabeth Chung, cello; David DeRiso, double bass; Asako Kuboki, violin; and Cally Banham, English horn

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.

Creative Music Making
Creative Music Making

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.

AC showcase1

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.