In recent days I’ve seen oboist Phil Ross, percussionist Will James, violinists Wendy Plank Rosen, Kristin Ahlstrom and Jessica Cheng, double bassist Chris Carson, English horn player Cally Banham, and I’ve engaged in email conversations with violists Beth Guterman Chu and Jonathan Chu, clarinet player Scott Andrews, horn player Thomas Jöstlein, violinist Erin Schreiber, and concertmaster David Halen. This means the summer festivals are over and the musicians are beginning to return home to St. Louis–a delightful harbinger of the new season. When they all get together next week for rehearsals they’ll look something like this:
Principal Percussion Will James sends greetings from North Carolina’s Figure Eight Island. “My wife and daughter Cate are at the beach with family this week. Last chance for a vacation before I get back in gear for the season. It’s Cate’s first trip to the ocean and is loving it as you can clearly see.”
The St. Louis Symphony was proud and honored to host the 399th Army Band from Ft. Leonard Wood on Friday. A group of 40+ soldiers arrived for an open rehearsal of the Music You Know: Storytelling concert, so were treated to David Robertson taking the orchestra through Bernstein’s Candide Overture, Vitali’s Chaconne in G minor with STL Symphony violinist Celeste Golden Boyer, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and other popular works.
Before the show a group met with flutist Jennifer Nitchman, who is a veteran of the U.S. Army Field Band. She told them she was more the Private Benjamin type of soldier, a cultural reference that was lost on them. Maybe it streams on Netflix.
After the rehearsal there was lunch from Pappy’s, and then master class with the Symphony’s Will James, percussion, Ann Choomack, flute, and Jeffrey Strong, trumpet, making use of the stage at KDHX and a practice room at Jazz at the Bistro.
Director of Community Programs Maureen Byrne put it all together. Here are some pics.
The Music of John Williams concerts have become big holiday hits at Powell Hall. Part of what makes them special is that with John Williams, mostly you think you know what you’re getting, but then you come to a concert and discover music you didn’t think belonged under the John Williams brand. He’s been making music for a long time and for many different audiences: spiky atonal music for an early Robert Altman film and the soaring Coplandesque harmonies to be found in any number of Steven Spielberg movies–those are both John Williams.
This weekend you’ll be able to hear saxophonist Nathan Nabb play music from Spielberg’s film Catch Me If You Can. He’s joined by Principal Percussion Will James on vibraphone. It is one smokin’ piece, and delightfully unexpected.
Where are the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony? They show up everywhere, in St. Louis, in the county and across the river in Illinois. Tuesday, University of Missouri (Mizzou) students received a master class from Principal Percussion Will James, Principal Timpani Shannon Wood, and pianists Nina Ferrigno and Peter Henderson, both of whom often appear with the orchestra.
In the evening the quartet performs Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion at the Whitmore Recital Hall on campus. Will James braved the Tiger lair in his Duke polo during master class. Not for performance, I’m told.
In Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites, the thud of the guillotine is heard. Principal Percussion Will James plays that thud in the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis production, which began orchestra rehearsals, with vocalists, on Tuesday, with Ward Stare conducting.
Will demonstrates his “thud” technique with Adam Crane, VP for External Affairs. Undoubtedly some of you recognize the “Mahler hammer,” which was last used by Will for the St. Louis Symphony performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony in 2011.