Gypsy Caravan

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You are guaranteed to find something you can’t live without if you go to Gypsy Caravan on Monday. One of the largest antique, craft and flea markets in the Midwest with more than 250 vendors, it’s held at the Family Arena in St. Charles. Members of the Symphony Volunteer Association will be out in force working the event. All proceeds go to the the St. Louis Symphony, so you’ve got all the reason you need to buy that thing you never knew you wanted. As if you needed a reason. Find details in the link provided above.

Gypsy Caravan

Gypsy Caravan

Music at Rest

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Tuesday during a rehearsal break for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis production of Strauss’ Ariadne on Naxos, I took a few photos on the Powell Hall stage. You can find the most curious things when the orchestra is at rest.

Bassoonist Felicia Foland's miniature double-reed repair shop on a small table next to her chair.

Bassoonist Felicia Foland’s miniature double-reed repair shop on a small table next to her chair.

A cello at rest. it even looks like it has a small pillow.

A cello at rest. It even looks like it has a small pillow.

A toy giraffe taking up residence on the piano. I was told one of the vocalists held it during rehearsal, bringing comfort to Strauss' vocal challenges.

A toy giraffe takes up residence on the piano. I was told one of the singers held it during rehearsal, bringing comfort to Strauss’ vocal challenges.

 

The Light at the End

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In a recent blog post, “The Whole World,” I talked about the STL Symphony’s relationship with new arrivals to our city through our Music Without Boundaries program. The MetLife Foundation provides support so Symphony musicians can bring chamber concerts to the International Institute community. The MetLife Foundation support also makes it so that many of the refugees that the International Institute serves can come to Powell Hall for Family Concerts. Video intern Nicola Muscroft and I sat down with Osama Idrees and his son Zaid following the last Family Concert of the season for this video blog. Osama shares what the music means to him–the light at the end of a long tunnel.

Otra Vez

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Last week I posted photos of the activities going on outside of the concert hall for the On Stage at Powell tango night, featuring Cortango Orquesta. This week, thanks to photographer Joe Schmidt, here are pictures of the show.

Claudia Cortes and Mauro Peralta

Claudia Cortes and Mauro Peralta

Cortes and Peralta with the full Cortango Orquesta ensemble

Cortes and Peralta with the full Cortango Orquesta ensemble

Left to right: STL Symphony musicians (aka Cortango Orquesta) Melissa Brooks, David DeRiso, Chris Tantillo, Asako Kuboki, Cally Banham

Left to right: STL Symphony musicians (aka Cortango Orquesta) Melissa Brooks, David DeRiso, Chris Tantillo, Asako Kuboki, Cally Banham

Cally Banham and Adam Maness

Cally Banham and Adam Maness

Cortes and Peralta

Cortes and Peralta

Musicians from that evening who are not pictured: Symphony flutist Andrea Kaplan and Cortango pianist Adam De Sorgo.

Ghost Lights

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Powell Hall lit by ghost lights as seen via backstage monitor. The orchestra has gone following an afternoon rehearsal for the Music of Michael Jackson. The musicians return Friday evening to help vocalist James Delisco to awaken the memory of the King of Pop. A sold-out show, as you’d expect.

Ghost lights

Ghost lights

Tango Night

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The final On Stage at Powell concert of the season was also a celebration of the Hispanic community in St. Louis. With Cortango Orquesta performing, pre-concert tango lessons in the foyer and tango dancers on stage, and a post-concert milonga in the foyer, Powell Hall attracted an international audience from Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Tango party at Powell Hall

Tango party at Powell Hall

Artwork from the Arte Latino Traveling Exhibit helped to make the evening a multi-media experience. Presented by the St. Louis Mosaic Project, the exhibit recently ended its stay at the World Trade Center St. Louis and is now on view at the International Institute.

Colombian artist Alejandra Velasco

Colombian artist Alejandra Velasco

 

The Sun Also Rises

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The rains came down. The sky cleared and the sun rose and so did the circus tent. “Ta da,” as they say after something fantastic happens. Circus Flora is making its home on the east lot.

Ta da

Ta da

 

Everything But

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“The Cuckoo Song” goes “sumer is acumen in.” The Green and Red split blog has been written and posted. Now it’s time for the e.e. cummings’ quotation: “Damn everything but the circus.”

Circus Flora tent in its initial stages.

Circus Flora tent in its initial stages.

Circus Flora takes up the parking lot east of Powell Hall for its 30th-anniversary season, “Pastime.” The rain will pass. The twitchy strains of Verdi’s Macbeth will move from Powell Hall rehearsals to the Opera Theatre stage.

The Symphony staff will take time to pet the circus horses once in a while. “Sumer is acumen in.”

 

Kangaroo Juice

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Barbara Fletcher sits in her hospital room chair with blood flowing into her body through a tube. “My kangaroo juice,” she calls it, because whenever she receives new blood she feels new energy. A short concert has just concluded outside her room, performed by Symphony violinist Silvian Iticovici and Principal Harp Allegra Lilly. Fletcher describes the images that passed through her mind as Iticovici and Lilly played works by Satie and others. Fletcher tells me about warm breezes, trees, a refreshing pond with fish rising briefly to the surface. The music took her far outside the hospital room, far from the tubes and monitors.

Allegra Lilly tunes at SLU Cancer Center's Blood & Marrow Outpatient Transplant facility.

Allegra Lilly tunes at SLU Cancer Center’s Blood & Marrow Outpatient Transplant facility.

Fletcher visits the Blood & Marrow Outpatient Transplant services at Saint Louis University Cancer Center regularly with her husband and daughter. Her daughter was her marrow donor. Nobody likes to come for cancer treatment, but when Symphony musicians are scheduled to perform it becomes a day to look forward to. SymphonyCares and the SLU Cancer Center have been partnering since 2011. Maureen Byrne, Symphony Director of Community Programs, never has a hard time finding musicians to participate.

Silvian Iticovici warms up.

Silvian Iticovici warms up.

On a drizzly Monday morning, Lilly and Iticovici set up in front of a nurses’ station. The doors to the patients’ rooms up and down the corridor are open. Without introduction, the music begins.

BMT-Allegra-Silvian

A doctor dons a mask before entering a patient's room. Video intern Nicola Muscroft documents the concert.

A doctor dons a mask before entering a patient’s room. Video intern Nicola Muscroft documents the concert.

Music therapists Crystal Weaver and Andrew Dwiggins are on hand for whatever may be needed. Weaver tells me that it’s not expected for the Symphony musicians to be therapists, but she and Dwiggins have the training to come to a patient’s or a family member’s aid when the music pulls the emotions intensely. Dwiggins says it’s never a matter of being alarmed that someone may cry, but to make sure that the patient or loved one feels safe to cry, to acknowledge what the music has released.

Allegra Lilly and Silivian Iticovici meet with Barbara Fletcher and her family.

Allegra Lilly and Silvian Iticovici meet with Barbara Fletcher and her family.

After the concert Lilly and Iticovici meet with Barbara, her husband and daughter, wearing protective gowns, gloves and masks. Lilly tells me afterward that the SLU Cancer Center concerts remind her of why she makes music. Iticovici agrees, “It’s about being able to touch someone.”

 

 

Red & Green

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At this time of year each season the orchestra splits. And it is at this time each season I try to explain it.

Green orchestra done for the day.

Green split done for the day.

The St. Louis Symphony is the pit orchestra for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. I won’t offer any Tales from the Pit–they are too numerous and too harrowing–but suffice to say the space is tight. You try and get the above percussion in there, plus the percussionists and the rest of the Green “split.” Our stagehands manage it every year. (We call the two orchestras “splits,” Green split or Red split.)

So the orchestra must divide to conquer the opera rep. Director of Orchestra Personnel Beth Paine coordinates with musicians and with Opera Theatre as to who goes on which split. Let’s say a conductor wants a certain principal player for his or her production. Beth tries to make that work. Or let’s say a couple in the orchestra wants to be in the same split, or maybe they don’t because one needs to get the kids while the other is playing Strauss. What are the orchestral needs of each production? As you can guess, they usually don’t break down evenly. And then who plays David Bowie and who plays Paul McCartney for the Live at Powell Hall shows? How to make this all work, fairly and artistically, is one of the many things Beth does.

The Link Up concerts this week featured the Red split. Those same musicians rehearsed Verdi’s Macbeth with Stephen Lord the next day. The Greens were in the hall Friday afternoon rehearsing Puccini’s La boheme with Emanuele Andrizzi conducting, and with vocalists Hae Ji Chang (Mimi), Lauren Michelle (Musetta), Anthony Clark Evans (Marcello), and Andrew Haji (Rodolfo). The sound was as full of life as a story of poverty and tragic death can be.

The full St. Louis Symphony gets back together for the last time this season for the Pokemon concerts on Saturday and Sunday. Then it’s Splitsville.