Lives Transformed

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On Saturday afternoon on the Powell Hall stage, the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra prepares for its final concert of the season, which happens next Saturday at 8pm at Powell. A full, challenging, delightful program with Bernstein’s Candide Overture, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with YO Concerto Award Winner Aleksis Martin, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, a symphony in which all the principals shine.

The last concert of the season is always a bittersweet affair, as for some of the musicians it is their ultimate YO concert. They are going off to school or other life voyages.

Sóley Hyman and St. Louis Symphony trumpet Caroline Schafer during YO-STL Symphony side-by-side rehearsal
Sóley Hyman and St. Louis Symphony trumpet Caroline Schafer during YO-STL Symphony side-by-side rehearsal

Trumpet player Sóley Hyman offered an appreciation of her time with the YO, which appear in the program notes for the concert: “I’m going to Harvard in the fall, and if there was a way I could teleport from Boston to St. Louis I would do it. I feel so lucky to have been a part of the YO. It has been life transforming. To work with the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony has been amazing, but also just to chat with them, to talk about so many things with them—as we did in the recent side-by-side rehearsal with David Robertson—it’s all been incredible.”

What They Do

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A St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra quartet that includes Hava Polinsky, who played an exquisite Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in March, Marisa McKeegan, Will Crock and Eric Cho, performs at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital on Tuesday evening.

Because it’s what YO musicians and St. Louis Symphony musicians do.

Hava Polinsky
Hava Polinsky

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.

LouFest Alternatives

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The Symphony weekend calendar is full and the season hasn’t even officially started. Saturday morning was the first St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsal of the season, beginning with an orientation that included a scavenger hunt. The musicians broke into groups–each given the name of a composer (Beethoven, Berlioz, Bernstein, Dvorak, etc.)–and followed clues around Powell Hall, thus getting to know their home away from home. Here one group found the Music Library and took a selfie.

YO scavengerAlso this weekend: a St. Louis Symphony chamber ensemble performs at the Saint Louis
Zoo Saturday afternoon, and 12 Symphony string players join the #HealFerguson Concert for Peace and Unity on Sunday evening. Click for details.

If you want a break from LouFest for a short while, these shows are awesome. And they’re free, like Woodstock was.

Lots

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St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra auditions are entering their final week. All the fretting will soon be over. One of the exciting things members of the YO will be participating in this coming season is a performance in the temporary installation known as Lots.

"Lots" shadows
“Lots” shadows
"Lots" detail
“Lots” detail
"Lots"
“Lots”

Lots is located across the street from the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. It was designed by Freecell Architecture as part of the PXSTL design competition co-sponsored by the Pulitzer and the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University. YO musicians will be performing there Friday, September 19 at 5:30 p.m. The ensemble and repertoire are yet to be determined, but they will undoubtedly be cool.

 

 

Calendar Check

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If you are a St. Louis Symphony musician, at this time of year you are regularly checking your appointment calendar. For example, if you are playing in the Green orchestra, you play The Magic Flute at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis Friday night and Indigo Girls on Saturday night at Powell Hall. If you are among the Red contingent, you play Gospel According to Swing Friday night, a rehearsal of Dialogues of the Carmelites Saturday morning and a performance of The Elixir of Love Saturday night.

YO gets ready
YO gets ready

If you are in the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra you are totally focused on one thing, the final concert of the YO season, at Powell Hall Sunday afternoon. It’s always a bittersweet affair, with many members playing their last concert with the ensemble as they are aging out (22 max.) or going off to other life adventures. Pines of Rome makes for a rousing farewell, as well as a blazing statement for the continuation of a great and ever-changing orchestra.

Happenings

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If you were paying attention to anything other than the basketball tournament in town last weekend, you may have been somewhere near a St. Louis Symphony event, or post-concert event. The Friday and Saturday Symphony concerts with David Robertson and Gil Shaham were phenomenal. Sunday afternoon the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra knocked it out of the park with Tchaikovsky 5 and YO Concerto Competition Winner Grant Riew’s performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto. After the YO concert Riew and his family were joined by YO manager Jessica Ingraham, Ex Aff VP Adam Crane, and David Robertson for celebratory burgers at Bailey’s Range downtown. Then in the evening a Symphony in Your College concert at Washington University included original works by Principal Timpani Shannon Woods. Robertson made it to that show too, after the burgers.

The place has been so busy I’ve been unable to mention the On Stage at Powell concert last Wednesday, Bosnian Journeys. Through recorded interviews, images and music, stories were told of St. Louis’ Bosnian community. Many of those in the auditorium that night were of that community, people who came here as refugees to escape the frenzy of war after the former Yugoslavia violently fractured in the 1990s. It was a gripping and powerfully moving event. With a great party afterword in the foyer, featuring food from Grbic, Sarajevo beer and slivovitz.

Director of Community Programs Maureen Byrne brought many people, organizations and talents together to make Bosnian Journeys successful. Here she is with Symphony violinist Becky Boyer Hall, who played in the show, at the foyer after-party.

Maureen Byrne (left) and Becky Boyer Hall
Maureen Byrne (left) and Becky Boyer Hall

Everybody wants their picture taken on the grand staircase. Here are musicians from the Symphony and members of the Bosnian community doing what comes naturally at Powell Hall.

bosnians

 

Gotta Get a Bigger Stage

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Saturday the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra and St. Louis Symphony combined for the annual side-by-side rehearsal. The two got together around Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, with guest conductor James Gaffigan on the podium.

side-by-sideSpecial kudos to YO Manager Jessica Ingraham, who planned it all and made it run so smoothly, and to the Symphony stage hands who got all those stands and chairs in place. It was a colossal music-making event, and musicians got together for a lunch break as well.

Yo-Yo with YO

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Yo-Yo Ma is an extraordinary musician, which is kind of like saying that Willie Mays could play a little outfield. I mean, duh.

But what makes Yo-Yo Ma Yo-Yo Ma goes beyond his musicianship. It is his humanity. He gives and gives and gives. Ma and David Robertson shared a flight to St. Louis on Friday, and the two agreed that with the sudden loss of contrabassoonist Drew Thompson last week, something more needed to be done for the Red Velvet Ball concert. So Faure’s Elegie for Cello was added to the program. It became one of the most memorable moments of the evening.

Yo-Yo Ma exhorts the Youth Orchestra musicians.
Yo-Yo Ma exhorts the Youth Orchestra musicians.

Following the Saturday morning rehearsal with the St. Louis Symphony, Ma spent close to an hour talking with St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra musicians. His message: Get out there and play for people. Whatever or wherever the audience might be. No matter how large or how small. You are musicians. Share your music.