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:
Cortango Orquesta and Principal Harp Allegra Lilly played a Symphony Where You Worship concert at Second Presbyterian Church.
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.
And musicians gave master classes and a concert at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
Since I was working on the next Family Concert program, The Zany World of Dr. Seuss, (Sunday, March 13, 3:00pm), a Dr. Seuss title easily came to mind. The places the St. Louis Symphony Education and Community programs went this weekend included:
St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsal on the Powell Hall stage. Aidan Ip is a YO Concerto Competition Co-Winner rehearsing Conus’s Violin Concerto in E minor with the orchestra on Saturday afternoon. Leah Piepert, the other Co-Winner, will be performing Hüe’s Fantaisie for Flute and Orchestra in the same YO concert, Friday, March 18, 8:00pm. Free!
On Sunday evening, February 28, the entire congregation at Salem United Methodist Church rose to its feet to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus, under the leadership of Kevin McBeth, was also joined by Associate Principal Clarinet Diana Haskell for “Amazing Grace” in this Symphony Where You Worship concert.
Monday morning, February 29, Symphony violinists Kristin Ahlstrom and Eva Kozma performed in the infusion room at SLU Cancer Center, making a number of patients’ chemo treatments much less stressful. Patients actually schedule their treatments so they can take in a concert, part of the SymphonyCares program.
Sometimes it’s like this. The elevator door slides open on the first floor and the music of Tchaikovsky fills the space around. A Symphony sextet of violinists Joo Kim and Xiaoxiao Qiang, violists Beth Guterman Chu and Jonathan Chu, and cellists James Czyzewski and Si-Yan Li rehearsing Souvenir de Florence for two Symphony Where You Worship concerts this week: Messiah Lutheran Church on Grand, Thursday; Immanuel Lutheran Church in Alton, Illinois, Friday. Free Tchaikovsky with some of the best string players anywhere. And on a Monday afternoon for a moment when the elevator door slides open.
An ensemble of about a dozen St. Louis Symphony musicians were not done with their music-making day after the Lindenwood University concert on Sunday afternoon. They made their way to Ferguson and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church for a Symphony Where You Worship concert. Featured on the program was music by Symphony violist Chris Woehr, who gives more and more of his time to composing each season.
The evening included two pieces from Woehr’s growing body of work, the premiere performance of The Five Seasons, featuring Jennifer Nitchman on flute, and The Bartholomew Concerto, featuring Phil Ross on oboe and a storyline by Dr. Seuss. Woehr conducted.
The concert also served to celebrate the 50th anniversary of longtime St. Louis Symphony fans Maeve and Dave Horton. They commissioned The Five Seasons from Woehr, a nice 50-year gift to themselves, their community, and to music.