“Do You Spend Time with Your Family?”

Share

With The Godfather in our midst, it’s hard not to say out loud classic lines and do bad imitations. Second violinist Becky Boyer Hall, playing mandolin for those Nino Rota-made Italian folk phrasings, brought along a Godfather motif rather than muttering “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” during rehearsal break. She had an orange with her, because oranges are an ill-omen throughout the film. Watch for it.

Diane Keaton as Kay

Diane Keaton as Kay

Also look for how young these actors were. Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), James Caan (Sonny Corleone), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams, who becomes Michael’s wife)–none of them were stars at the time. They are fresh-faced and new on Powell Hall’s big screen, which makes the performances even more exciting. None of them had developed a film persona as yet. Only Marlon Brando had already been a major star, and reclaimed his career with this performance playing the aging patriarch Don Vito Corleone. Brando was not yet 50.

I specifically chose a still shot of Diane Keaton above, because Godfather is often thought of as being all about the men. But Keaton and Talia Shire are lonely, haunting presences on the screen, most memorable for being powerless, and yet trying to achieve some dignity. They don’t have lines people imitate. Although Kay has one line she says many times to her husband Michael: “Is it true?”

Spreading the Dazzle Around

Share

Many of the St. Louis Symphony musicians who returned from New York on Saturday made their way back to Powell Hall on Sunday. They came to see and hear the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, whom many St. Louis Symphony musicians coach and teach, both as part of the YO Beyond Rehearsal program and privately. They heard Grant Riew and Hava Polinsky perform as soloists (Faure’s Elegy and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, respectively) as well as Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite and Marquez’s Danzon No. 2 for Orchestra. It was a sold-out house. Once again, the YO dazzled.

Hava Polinsky performed Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.

Hava Polinsky performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Many of you have seen the reviews that have already come in from New York documenting the dazzlement the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus left behind at Carnegie Hall Friday night. Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times wrote “the chorus entered, soft and calm yet changeable, like clouds moving past one another” during Meredith Monk’s WEAVE. The women of the chorus sang the third, Sirens, movement of Debussy’s Nocturnes. Woolfe wrote that they “brought filmy subtlety to the hovering vocal mist.”

One of those sirens, Patty Koflon, shared these thoughts of her Carnegie moments: “It was thrilling to sing at Carnegie Hall. I was surprised by the size of it … that it only holds approximately 121 more seats than Powell Hall, and that the configuration was more vertical (think sitting in the KC Royals stadium) as opposed to our more horizontal configuration. The audience was so very responsive to us and, due to what I presume is a huge Monk fan base on top of it, the atmosphere felt almost party-like.

“I loved some of the quirky things such as the sign leading onstage which reads: “Isaac Stern Auditorium Dedicated January 28, 1997 No Eating, Drinking or SMOKING On Stage.”

Sign of another era. No smoking on Carnegie stage.

Sign of another era. No smoking on Carnegie stage.

After WEAVE was performed, Kofron writes, “…as the chorus came off stage after performing the Monk, Ms. Monk was standing backstage and an impromptu receiving line formed whereby she greeted us individually as we approached her, shook our hands and made conversation. She is an extraordinarily kind and down-to-earth woman.”

Dazzle and down-to-earth is a nice descriptive pairing for the YO, St. Louis Symphony and Chorus. A final example, the dazzling down-to-earth chorus manager Susan Patterson, keeping her cool in a Carnegie rehearsal space.

Chorus manager Susan Patterson, standing, keeps her cool.

Chorus manager Susan Patterson, standing, keeps her cool.

Ear Candy

Share

Home again home again jiggety-jig. At least for some. Many musicians are staying the weekend in NYC. And why not? You can find quite a bit of nourishment in New York. Some are taking in a matinee of the Metropolitan Opera, because they truly live for music, or, possibly more accurately, music has become their lives.

The St. Louis Symphony provided its own nourishment to the Carnegie audience. Many raves are coming in via social media and elsewhere. First review I’ve seen. Click.

A horn-section view of Carnegie rehearsal.

A horn-section view of Carnegie rehearsal.

A few perspectives from those who played the music. From Principal Timpani Shannon Wood: “The talent, subtle musical nuances and the heritage of sound that this orchestra has cultivated over the years never ceases to amaze me. Audiences hear/notice the difference. Guest conductors say how unique and rare it is to hear an orchestra with such tradition and character in  sound.

“It’s vital that we continue to share this institution with other audiences. We have something special to share.”

Second violinist Lorraine Glass-Harris, playing her last Carnegie, that is unless some smart orchestra brings her in as a ringer in seasons to come: “My thoughts, yes, always many of them … First, personal, this was my last concert with the St. Louis Symphony in Carnegie. An understandable telescoping of past and present, all the way back to the Susskind performances of the early ’70s, my entry to the professional world of orchestral sports.

“Of greater interest, even to me, however, is the pure pleasure of performing in the fine acoustics of Carnegie. The absolute necessity of the players to be performing not just here but in all the great Halls of the world, not just once, but often in one’s career.

“The value of hearing one’s individual contribution and responding to the collective sound Is inestimable. And the best part, of course, is that the group brings this knowledge back to Powell. Recycled for greater clarity and a fuller sense of the whole.

“Learning how to listen and how to contribute has been among the best accomplishments of my 43 years with the orchestra. Carnegie Hall? Ear candy!”

And from English horn player Cally Banham, who got a shout out from the aforementioned review: “It’s always thrilling to hear my colleagues play in Carnegie–so much detail can be heard of color and subtleties in phrasing because of the perfect acoustic!

“I had the pleasure onstage and off last night. I don’t play the Tchaikovsky Symphony so [Associate Principal Oboe] Barbara Orland and I went out into the audience. At the end of the first movement we turned to each other with mouths agape and said, ‘It sounds like the greatest orchestra in the world!'”

The musicians who have arrived home have come back to spring after the snows of Manhattan. In St. Louis the birds are singing songs much older than Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. But both are familiar songs. We cannot live without them.

Let It Be Known

Share

It is not customary for the audiences at Carnegie Hall to leap out of their seats for every concert. They did tonight.

First Spring Snow

Share

More on food: English horn player Cally Banham admired her colleagues’ foodie virtues. “One thing is clear so far,” she told me, “the members of the St. Louis Symphony are extremely refined foodies, pouncing on the NY opportunity, and many seem particularly versed on the subtle variants of each Ramen place!” Ramen, you’ve been informed. Next time you’re in New York, get some.

She also had some reflections on the recent Carnegie renovations: “Last year was a bit of a shock to see the backstage renovations. I mourned the loss of those hallowed halls of tiny dressing rooms, but the expanded backstage areas have been appointed to capture that old Carnegie charm!”

To give you some idea of the charms, Megan Stout shared this photo of where she and Principal Harp Allegra Lilly warm up. This is a two-harp show.

Nice place to warm up the harp if you can get it.

Nice place to warm up the harp if you can get it.

And here is a view of that divine layer cake that is the Carnegie auditorium, a chorus-eye view from Patty Kofron.

A chorus-eye view of Carnegie Hall.

A chorus-eye view of Carnegie Hall.

Snowing heavily in New York. A good omen for a Russian symphony.

Oh, the Places They Go

Share

The night of arrival is a blog-free zone on the Carnegie tour. It’s impolite to lurk when musicians, staff and fans have a night to themselves in the Big Apple. But here are some of the places they visited.

Food: Le Pain Quotidien, Plaza Hotel (for tea), Cocotte, Yakitori Totto, Pret a Manger, La Loteria. Ramen is big in NYC these days. Not the little packets we boiled in college. The real stuff, freshly made and full of subtle flavors. At least two ramen joints were hit: Totto Ramen and Ivan Ramen.

Entertainment: Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, Neverland, Beautiful, It’s Only a Play, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. There might have even been a Lion King in there (children are making the trip too, which fits right in with the St. Louis Symphony baby boom).

Work: The Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony (Timothy Myers, Amanda Stewart, Jonathan Reycraft and Gerry Pagano) gave a workshop at the Juilliard School. Lucky low-brass students.

A Symphony fan took this photo of Carnegie at night.

A Symphony fan took this photo of Carnegie at night.

Proof

Share

One of the traditions of the Carnegie tour blog is the “proof” photo. My colleague Adam Crane got to NYC a day before most of the gang and snapped the St. Louis Symphony poster. Proof: we’re at Carnegie Hall again.

carnegie posterThis edition features David Robertson along with Katie Geissinger and Theo Bleckmann, who will perform Meredith Monk’s WEAVE with the orchestra Friday night. Monk has been celebrated throughout the 2014-15 Carnegie season. She especially wanted the Symphony to perform WEAVE, which it premiered at Powell not so long ago. Monk titled the work just before it was played the first time.

As the applause began after WEAVE‘s finale in St. Louis, I remember following Monk down the steps of the hall at breakneck speed–she was so thrilled at the performance that she wanted to thank Robertson backstage before they went back out for their bows.

Looking Ahead to a Friday Night in NYC

Share

Tuesday afternoon, when most of St. Louis was turning greener by the minute on St. Patrick’s Day, the St. Louis Symphony was completing its final Powell Hall rehearsal before heading to New York City and Carnegie Hall.

One Symphony daughter of Erin said to me on her way out the door: “It’s amateur night, you know. So I’ll be home eating my own corned beef and cabbage and sipping my own whiskey and my toes close to my own fire.”

The orchestra and chorus have a day off on Wednesday. The violins are snug in their case.

Violins waiting to go

Violins waiting to go

A Shape-Shifting Symphony

Share

Last week I talked to double bassist Sarah Hogan Kaiser about  the Carnegie concert, coming up this Friday night, March 20, in New York City. She talked about the famous Carnegie acoustic, without in any way denigrating the acoustic in Powell Hall. Powell has a great sound too. But one of the biggest differences, she told me, was the acoustic on stage. At Carnegie, she will hear instruments she has not heard before. During Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, for instance, Kaiser usually is seated behind the cellos, but on the Carnegie stage she will hear a lot more than the celli–the oboes, perhaps, or even the triangle. It makes for different choices in her own playing, different ideas about blending, or providing contrast or support. It makes for a different Tchaikovsky 4, because music is a living thing, changing, shape-shifting, taking different forms wherever it goes, whether in mid-town St. Louis or mid-town Manhattan.

Sarah Hogan Kaiser in the background among the basses

Sarah Hogan Kaiser in the background among the basses [Photo credit: DILIP VISHWANAT]

Remnants

Share

With Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 on tap for rehearsal on Thursday afternoon, percussion from James MacMillan’s Violin Concerto remain upstage right. Remnants of 21st-century beats to haunt Tchaikovsky’s timpani, bass drum, cymbals, and triangle.

percussion