399th Army Band

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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.

399th Army Band

399th Army Band

STL Symphony flutist Jennifer Nitchman meets members of 399th.

STL Symphony flutist Jennifer Nitchman meets members of 399th.

STL Symphony Associate Principal Horn Thomas Jostlein meets a former student, Jeff Spenner. Spenner told me he drives from Ft. Leonard Wood to Powell Hall almost every weekend for a Symphony concert.

STL Symphony Associate Principal Horn Thomas Jostlein meets a former student, Jeff Spenner. Spenner told me he drives from Ft. Leonard Wood to Powell Hall almost every weekend for a Symphony concert.

In the foyer

In the foyer

Soldiers arrive for lunch and master class at the Stage @ KDHX.

Soldiers arrive for lunch and master class at the Stage @ KDHX.

Jazz on the stage

Jazz on the stage

Band members listen to colleagues.

Band members listen to colleagues.

STL Symphony trumpet player Jeffrey Strong gives some instruction.

STL Symphony trumpet player Jeffrey Strong gives some instruction.

Jeffrey Strong and STL Symphony piccolo player Ann Choomack with members of the 399th.

Jeffrey Strong and STL Symphony piccolo player Ann Choomack with members of the 399th.

Principal Percussion Will James talks with 399th drummers.

Principal Percussion Will James talks with 399th drummers.

Hats and sticks

Hats and sticks

 

A Portrait of the Conductor as a Young Man

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David Robertson is a native Californian, born and raised in Santa Monica, which made it easier for him to get to the L.A. Phil when he could. He remembers William Kraft as the Principal Timpani of that orchestra. Shannon Wood performs Kraft’s Timpani Concerto No. 2, “The Grand Encounter,” with the St. Louis Symphony this weekend, Robertson conducting.

Conductor-to-be "Dave" Robertson looks dubious.

Conductor-to-be “Dave” Robertson looks dubious.

On at least one occasion–see documentation above, ca. 1968-69–the young Robertson met Kraft when the timpanist moved to the podium to conduct. The caption reads: “Instructions From El Maestro. William Kraft, head of percussion section of Philharmonic, conducted Sunday’s concert for young people. He’s pointing out part of a score to Dave Robertson, who plays French horn in All-City Honor Orchestra, and Lisa Martin, who plays violin.”

Moving Timpani

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Tuesday morning the special timpani rig for Kraft’s Timpani Concerto No. 2 was moved from Shannon Wood’s Grand Center studio to Powell Hall. The move of a total of 15 timpani–including nine tenor drums that hang from scaffolding–took a number of stage hands, an elevator that was just big enough, and a truck to get it all here. Here are pictures that Symphony staffer Zach Schimpf and I took to document the process.

The timpani set in Shannon Wood's studio

The timpani set in Shannon Wood’s studio

Shannon with stagehands Ron Bolte and Joe Clapper

Shannon with stagehands Ron Bolte and Joe Clapper

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Stagehand Tina *** helps wheel timpani into Powell.

Stagehand Tina Beck helps wheel timpani into Powell.

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Reassembly

Reassembly

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A Few More Days & Nights in the Life

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The St. Louis Symphony goes to audiences all over the region and welcomes audiences from all over the world.

International Institute families come to Powell Hall for Beethoven’s New Groove.

International Institute families came to Powell Hall for Beethoven’s New Groove.

Soundcheck for Stravinsky's "Tango," arranged by Cally Banham, prior to performance of Stravinsky's Mass at Washington University. Left to right: Mike Walk, Gerard Pagano, Andrew Cuneo, Cally Banham, Jelena Dirks

Soundcheck for Stravinsky’s “Tango,” arranged by Cally Banham, prior to performance that included Stravinsky’s Mass at Washington University. Left to right: Mike Walk, Gerry Pagano, Andrew Cuneo, Cally Banham and Jelena Dirks.

IN UNISON Chorus Community Concert at First Baptist Church in Chesterfield with Dr. Jason Ferdinand, and STL Symphony musicians Mike Walk, Susan Slaughter, Tod Bowermaster, Amanda Stewart and Gerry Pagano.

IN UNISON Chorus Community Concert at First Baptist Church in Chesterfield with Dr. Jason Ferdinand, and STL Symphony musicians Mike Walk, Susan Slaughter, Tod Bowermaster, Amanda Stewart and Gerry Pagano.

Guest violinsit Karen Gomyo (standing, center) gave a master class at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Guest violinsit Karen Gomyo (standing, center) gave a master class at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Timpani Preview

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Not long ago at the Kranzberg Arts Center Principal Timpani Shannon Wood gave a preview of his upcoming performance of Kraft’s Timpani Concerto No. 2, “The Grand Encounter,” which receives its St. Louis Symphony debut April 30-May 1.

For that preview concert a camera was positioned behind Wood, and here is one brief clip from it.

 

Purple Mourning

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I did not get a chance to ask guest soloist Karen Gomyo if she wore her gorgeous purple gown in honor of the late Prince on Friday morning, but it was wonderful to see. And her Sibelius Violin Concerto was stunning to hear, soulful, inquisitive, “like the electric word ‘life.'”

Karen Gomyo

Karen Gomyo

By Way of Explanation

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Conductors sing during rehearsal, some of them a lot, few of them well. This week Nathalie Stutzmann makes her St. Louis Symphony conducting debut. She is also one of the great contraltos in the world. When she explained to the musicians how she wanted a phrase in Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 to be played, she sang it, as conductors often do. Only this time, the musicians responded with applause. I imagined a cartoon bubble above the musicians’ heads: “Oh, you want it to sound musical!”

Nathalie Stutzmann. Photo credit: Simon Fowler

Nathalie Stutzmann. Photo credit: Simon Fowler

 

A Trip to Affton

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Members of the St. Louis Symphony brass made a visit to Bayless School in Affton, Missouri, to sit in with young musicians and to play a concert. Video intern Nicola Muscroft and Symphony staff member Zach Schimpf made the trip down with Director of Community Programs Maureen Byrne and the Symphony musicians. Nicola created this mini-documentary out of the experience. The musicians are Principal Trumpet Karin Bliznik, Associate Principal Trombone Amanda Stewart, Julie Thayer on horn, Jeffrey Strong on trumpet, and Gerry Pagano on bass trombone.

Welcome, World

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The St. Louis Symphony welcomed families from the International Institute to Sunday’s Family Concert. A small yellow bus delivered families from all over the world to Powell Hall to hear Beethoven’s New Groove. Whatever brought them to St. Louis–and I spoke with people from Somalia, Sudan and Iraq–International Institute is their entryway to a new home and a better life. In the process, St. Louis becomes a better place for everyone. The St. Louis Symphony regularly visits the International Institute to play chamber concerts as part of the Music Without Boundaries program (underwritten by MetLife Foundation and Daughters of Charity Foundation St. Louis), but what better way to welcome new arrivals to our city than with a visit to the Symphony’s home?

off the busbig kidsfamily in foyerenteringcellopercussionhis chairfather & sonMany kudos to Anita Barker, VP Director of Education of the International Institute, and Maureen Byrne, Director of St. Louis Symphony Community Programs, for helping to make Sunday such a joyful event.

 

Inside Out

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Sometimes to make things right you just have to turn them inside out.

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