Powell Hall is all done up like the prettiest holiday postcard, as you can see in this photo taken during a recent rehearsal of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Come see it and hear it in person, Friday or Saturday night.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Kate Lindsey and Nicholas Phan for the Saturday night broadcast of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on St. Louis Public Radio. They spoke about this weekend’s program with deep intelligence, wit, humor, and charm. Kate asked Nic about how he sings a tremendously difficult aria in the second cantata. Nic told us about “ghost breaths.” Kate talked about singing a lullaby as Mary to the baby Jesus. They talked about how smart David Robertson is.
I don’t know how KWMU’s Mary Edwards will edit this. We didn’t want to stop talking. I suggested the two singers start a sit-com: Kate & Nic. I’d watch it.
Here they are in a previous incarnation, performing together in The Marriage of Figaro at the Seattle Opera.
In the midst of rehearsal for Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, David Robertson didn’t cue the flutes. Rather, he said, “Let’s invite the flutes in.”
From Nicolas Slonimsky’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians: Bach, Johann Sebastian, supreme arbiter and lawgiver of music, a master comparable in greatness of stature with Aristotle in philosophy and Leonardo da Vinci in art….
During the Friday mid-day rehearsal for the Thanksgiving Weekend concerts, David Robertson remarked on a passage that may have arrived a tad late in the playing of it: “It must be the tryptophan.”
This season the Happy Thanksgiving cupcake is a Happy Thanksgiving cookie, created by Mrs. Silva.Don’t forget the best way to entertain all those Thanksgiving Weekend guests is with the St. Louis Symphony, Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon concerts , featuring Joshua Bell playing the Sibelius concerto.
The Thanksgiving Weekend concerts begin with two harps, an opening cadenza played by Megan Stout and Principal Harp Allegra Lilly in Smetana’s Vysehrad (The High Castle). Allegra selected this piece as one of her top picks before her first St. Louis Symphony season started. She spoke with me about it following a Tuesday rehearsal for this week’s video blog.
After the ovations, for the stagehands it comes down to getting the instruments in trunks, the trunks on the street and onto the truck bound for St. Louis.
During rehearsal on Friday afternoon, Principal Cello Daniel Lee commented to David Robertson, “So there are swells within each crescendo.” It was an apt observation, not only musically but thematically. What follows are a few swells of memory, interspersed with images from the Friday rehearsal.
–Danny Lee borrowed Lynn Harrell’s cello for the Friday performance. I passed near the stage during an intermission and Danny said, “Don’t I know you?” I replied, “Isn’t that Lynn Harrell’s cello?” Danny: “Why, yes, it is.”
–There were two intermissions at Carnegie, between each act. At the close of the second act, David Robertson set his baton on the stand, and left the stage without acknowledging the audience. It produced a subtle, yet profoundly dramatic effect.
–Yet when David returned for Act III, the Carnegie audience erupted. He could not help but acknowledge the roars of appreciation. He placed his hand on his heart, then took the podium. He waited a few extra moments before he gave the downbeat for the final tragic scenes.
–There were many audience members shedding tears during the final scenes of Peter Grimes, as were a few members of the orchestra and, I’m told, Music Director David Robertson as well.
–The chorus not only sang brilliantly, but it also served as another actor on the stage. The chorus members were the townspeople–scolding, judgmental, cruel. When they turned on Ellen Orford, they did so in voice, in facial expression, in physical gesture. They were a force.
–Chorus Director Amy Kaiser said to me during an intermission: “Chalk up a win for the home team.”
Diana Haskell, associate principal clarinet, told me after the show, there is a certain silence you hear from an audience, from the very start of a show, and you know that they are there with you.
That silence was intense, riveting. I looked around me on the orchestra level, and at the people in the box seats above me, and from the first minutes of Peter Grimes, the audience was leaning in.
It’s a long show, a story of desperation, in which hope glimmers briefly as light on waves. You know how darkly this tale will turn.
Yet it is impeccable art. And at the end, after Peter Grimes has said his last goodbye, and a boat has disappeared into the sea–after all that music, all those voices–the voices from hall called back at the stage, full-throated cries of gratitude and praise. The silence was released, wave after wave of it.