Just Add Trombones

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I enjoyed a conversation with bass trombonist Gerry Pagano on Wednesday afternoon. Since our conversation was recorded at the studios of KWMU, you’ll be able to hear some of what we said during the live broadcast of the September 19 Gala concert on St. Louis Public Radio. I don’t see the need to distinguish our discussion as an “interview,” because Pagano is such an affable and fun guy to talk with. I gave him room to plug the upcoming Live in the Commons concert, featuring the Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony at the Public Media Commons on Olive in the Grand Center district. Even if that part of our conversation gets cut, I’m plugging it here. According to Pagano, all music sounds better when played by four trombones. Go to the show and you’ll hear proof, Monday, September 28 at 7:30pm. It’s outside and it’s free.

The Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony: left to right, Gerry Pagano, Tim Myers, Amanda Stewart, Jonathan Reycraft
The Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony: left to right, Gerry Pagano, Tim Myers, Amanda Stewart, Jonathan Reycraft

Postcard Thursday – End of Summer Edition

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Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik sends the final Postcard Thursday of the summer.

“Hello from the Cape of Massachusetts!”

beach girls“After almost six weeks of traveling, teaching, and performing around Aspen, Santa Fe, and out at Tanglewood in the Berkshires, I finally found some time for a little R&R with family on the Cape, only about a 45-minute drive from the house I grew up in.”

bliznik - family“Here are a few photos from Chatham, Harwich, and Dennis Port, Massachusetts. Pictured are my partner Chloé Evans and my mom and dad, Tim and Marie Bliznik, who couldn’t be more excited to start listening again to those St. Louis Public Radio Saturday night broadcasts live from Powell Hall!”

chowder“Oh, and what would a trip to Boston be without a good ol’ cup of clam chowdah?”

sunset“Chee-ahs! (Cheers! in Cape-speak)”

Karin

Birdland

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The St. Louis Symphony performs Olivier Messiaen’s Des Canyon aux étoiles… (From the Canyons to the Stars) at Powell Hall on January 16 and on the California tour that same month. The piece will be accompanied by video images of the great canyonlands of the Southwest, shot by the artist Deborah O’Grady. Those monumental spaces are where Messiaen walked, taking in the expanse of the land, sky and sound that are unique to the American West. Messiaen loved birds, especially the sounds and songs of birds, and incorporated their music into his own.

Olivier Messiaen writes down what the birds sing in Bryce Canyon in 1972. Photo credit: Fondation Olivier Messiaen.
Olivier Messiaen writes down what the birds sing in Bryce Canyon in 1972. Photo credit: Fondation Olivier Messiaen.


From the Canyons to the Stars
is sure to be one of the St. Louis Symphony musicians’ hot picks for 1516. Messiaen was an enigmatic composer. Many of the musicians store memories of him, whether playing his music or encountering the man himself, and you’ll be hearing about those as the Canyons to the Stars event draws closer.

Richard Goode. Photo credit: Steve Riskind.
Richard Goode. Photo credit: Steve Riskind.

But today I want to share a memory from this past season, relating to birds, music, Messiaen and Mozart. When the pianist Richard Goode was in town to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, K. 453, I conducted an interview with him for the St. Louis Public Radio Saturday live broadcast. I mentioned a famous anecdote about Mozart’s pet starling singing a passage of the K. 453. I suggested a link between classical Mozart and modern Messiaen, since they both were inspired by birdsong.

Goode corrected me: Mozart taught his starling to sing the theme; Messiaen learned and adapted many of his themes from the songs of birds. Then Goode took on an old Brooklyn accent: “Mozart never loined from no boid.”

Autumn Leaves in Spring

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We had just completed recording an interview for the Saturday night broadcast on St. Louis Public Radio. Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski turned to the glassed booth where KWMU’s Mary Edwards sat at the big board.

Simon Trpceski
Simon Trpceski

“Mary,” Trpceski said through the microphone, “may I sing for you?”

Edwards was speechless. I answered for her.

In a lovely, high lilting voice, he sang “The Autumn Leaves,” in French.

When he was done, we all laughed, and I said, “What, you sing in French and not Macedonian?”

“Let me see,” said Trpceski. And in a moment he was singing a tune that sounded as old as romance itself.

Edwards and I applauded and shouted bravos when he was done. “It’s a song about a man admiring a beautiful girl…”

Of course it was.