Big Screen


The big screen is up in Powell Hall for Pirates of the Caribbean. A historical note: big screens are what people always watched motion pictures on before they watched them on their phones or tablets. The big-screen experience is amazing. If you haven’t tried it in a while, this is a great opportunity. Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley: two of the prettiest people on the planet HUGE on the big screen.

Imagine Johnny and Keira BIG

Imagine Johnny and Keira BIG

Plus, for films at Powell Hall you get the St. Louis Symphony playing the score live, which sounds so much better than on your phone.

Timpani Are Up to No Good


There are some astonishing timpani parts to Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable.” The final movement includes a timpani duel, kinda like a classic rock guitar duel. You gotta hear and see it live, with Shannon Wood and Tom Stubbs performing Friday and Saturday.

I caught Shannon during some quieter moments in the symphony. As the baseball great Branch Rickey used to say, you can learn a lot about baseball by just watching one position player during a game. You can learn a lot about how the timpani fits in with the orchestra by watching Shannon Wood.

Sports Analogy for the Week


As submitted by a member of the brass: “Being in this orchestra right now feels like you’re on a team that just made a big trade with great new players and you’re running on all cylinders.” Or some sort of mixed metaphor like that. Anyway, the orchestra sounds amazing.

Brahms at the Ready


The orchestra rehearsed Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable,” on Wednesday afternoon. Next up: Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, with Yefim Bronfman, Thursday morning. David Robertson had the score at the ready in his office.


A Sunday Evening in Ferguson, Missouri


Music brings people together. With music people laugh, they sing, they dance, they sway. Woody Guthrie used to say that he didn’t sing songs to bring people down or to feel bad about themselves. He sang songs to lift people up. Woody would have felt right at home at the #HealFerguson concert Sunday night, which included St. Louis Symphony string players performing a work written specifically for the concert by the multi-talented Adam Maness. Maureen Byrne, Director of Community Programs, put together the string ensemble. Brian Owens, the hardest working man in show business, put together the show for his hometown, and for the world.

Here are some pics.

Ferguson strings wait to go on stage

Symphony strings wait to go on stage

Ensemble performs Adam Maness' "Divides That Bind"

Ensemble performs Adam Maness’ “Divides That Bind”

Brian Owens

Brian Owens

Everybody dance now

Everybody dance now



Brian Owens and Christine Brewer sing "The Prayer"

Brian Owens and Christine Brewer sing “The Prayer”

Sea of Tranquility glows over Ferguson

Sea of Tranquility glows over Ferguson




LouFest Alternatives


The Symphony weekend calendar is full and the season hasn’t even officially started. Saturday morning was the first St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsal of the season, beginning with an orientation that included a scavenger hunt. The musicians broke into groups–each given the name of a composer (Beethoven, Berlioz, Bernstein, Dvorak, etc.)–and followed clues around Powell Hall, thus getting to know their home away from home. Here one group found the Music Library and took a selfie.

YO scavengerAlso this weekend: a St. Louis Symphony chamber ensemble performs at the Saint Louis
Zoo Saturday afternoon, and 12 Symphony string players join the #HealFerguson Concert for Peace and Unity on Sunday evening. Click for details.

If you want a break from LouFest for a short while, these shows are awesome. And they’re free, like Woodstock was.

Engaging Our Hands


Brian Owens is not only an amazing vocalist, performer and recording artist, he serves as IN UNISON® Artist in Residence and Program Manager. I usually try to avoid titles, but I think Brian’s is pretty cool. Not only does he help make the In Unison program better each year, he works as a mentor to the In Unison scholars, music students who attend UM-St. Louis and McKendree University with support from In Unison. He gives them practical tools to go with their artistic vision.

Brian Owens Photo: Jerry Naunheim

Brian Owens
Photo: Jerry Naunheim

Brian lives in Ferguson, and as the events that made international news this summer transpired, he kept himself directly involved in helping his community any way he could.

Not that long ago he started calling up his friends with an idea. One of those friends (and colleagues) was Maureen Byrne, who directs the St. Louis Symphony Community Programs. A free concert, he told her, in Ferguson. He was going to make it happen. Let’s get the Symphony involved. Music, it’s what we do.

Brian has said, “Music has an amazing ability to bring people together in peace and at the same time enlighten our hearts to experience something even greater. This experience is about engaging our hands, lifting our spirits and looking forward to a new and even better Ferguson community and city.”

Maureen called on 12 very willing Symphony string players to perform a new work, “The Divides That Bind,” composed for the event by Adam Maness, a multi-talented musician who plays in the Erin Bode Band and the 442s.

Christine Brewer Photo: Christian Steiner

Christine Brewer
Photo: Christian Steiner

Brian recruited guest artists J.R. (a Grammy-winning producer from St. Louis), Mike Hicks (plays keyboards with Keb’ Mo’), vocalist Nao Yoshioka (Brian performed with her on tours of the U.S. and Japan), and soprano Christine Brewer (the world-renowned opera star from Lebanon, Illinois).

The responses to all the asks were immediate and enthusiastic. Let’s do this.


Sunday, September 7 at 5:30pm

Ferguson Church of Christ – in the parking lot

1239 N. Elizabeth Ave.



Let’s do this!

Brian's Concert InviteMore details to come.

To the Core


Melissa Brooks, associate principal cello: “Fight it as I might, in certain moments there is absolutely nothing, outside of the people in my life, that effects me the way classical music does. It makes me smile one second, and breaks my heart the next. I might cry and want to throw it all away and then be so moved that I cannot imagine a life without such incredible beauty. Nothing cuts to the core so quickly and permanently.”

Melissa Brooks Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim

Melissa Brooks
Photo credit: Jerry Naunheim

Cat and Mouse and Liszt


There are a lot of reasons to like Lang Lang. He’s one of the most exciting musicians on the planet to hear and see live. At the keyboard he appears to be just on the edge of control, like a great downhill racer. It’s hard to believe he’s over 30 (just barely), since many of us remember him as the impetuous teenager playing with all the panache of Horowitz. He’s also a sweet guy and works to do a lot of good. He plays Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 for the St. Louis Symphony Gala on October 18, with David Robertson conducting the orchestra.

Lang Lang © Peter Hönnemann

Lang Lang
© Peter Hönnemann

But on top of all that, he includes among his first inspirations the Tom and Jerry cartoon “The Cat Concerto.” That’s how he first got acquainted with Liszt.