St. Louis Symphony, KETC Partner to Create New TV Series 'Night at the Symphony'

Categories: Classical Music

Dilip Vishwanat
Music director David Robertson leads the St. Louis Symphony.

Sesame Street was right: Cooperation really does work.

That long-held lesson from the famous children's television show on PBS is being brought to life by the St. Louis Symphony and KETC-TV, the Gateway City's own PBS affiliate, as they join forces for Night at the Symphony. Launched on Channel 9 just days into the new year and continuing monthly, the series solidifies a partnership between two of St. Louis' cultural pillars and brings viewers a symphony experience unlike anything they'd seen on television previously.

"I think we're just at the beginning of a really exciting journey," says Patrick Murphy, executive vice president of production at KETC, also known as the Nine Network. "After all this time, I'm still amazed by the magic and potential of television."

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St. Louis Symphony Earns Two Grammy Nominations for City Noir Recording

Dilip Vishwanat
Music director David Robertson leads the Grammy-nominated St. Louis Symphony.

Everyone knows that the St. Louis Symphony is one of the premier orchestras in the world. The latest Grammy nominations simply seal the deal.

St. Louis' globally renowned ensemble is up for two Grammys centered on its Nonesuch Records recording of John Adams' City Noir, a piece about Los Angeles in the '40s and '50s that the composer describes as "jazz-inflected symphonic music." During the February 8 awards ceremony, SLSO has the opportunity to take home prizes for "Best Orchestral Performance" and "Best Engineered (Classical) Album."

"It is wonderful to be recognized for what we are doing all the time, in the concert hall and in the community," says music director and conductor David Robertson. "People who have known the orchestra for decades have been writing to tell me they have never heard the group sounding as good as it does now. It takes a whole team to produce such results, and I could not be more proud to have this nomination as proof of the blessing we have with the SLSO."

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That Time the St. Louis Symphony Dressed Like a Motorcycle Gang: Photos

via @adamcrane | Twitter
These St. Louis Symphony bassoon players were born to be wild.

Thanks to pop culture, we're all familiar with plenty of weird motorcycle gangs, like the demons that ripped apart the Buffybot or the macho guys who became Pee-wee Herman's best friends after a little "Tequila."

But an orchestra's bassoon players wearing leather chaps and acting like badasses? Really?

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St. Louis Symphony's "Music You Know" Series Draws Inspiration From the Familiar

Dilip Vishwanat
Music director David Robertson leads the St. Louis Symphony.

Have you ever really thought about where you hear classical music? No, really thought about it? Once you know what to listen for, you'll notice that orchestral pieces are everywhere, from video games to cartoons to presidential inaugurations. It's kind of scary how often we're surrounded by beautiful scores, and it's even scarier how often our brains take them for granted.

A new program from the St. Louis Symphony aims to change that, though. Through a series dubbed "Music You Know," the symphony will lead music lovers through famous classical pieces they may have heard outside of a traditional concert event. Music director and conductor David Robertson will further enhance the audience's surprise by explaining the historical and cultural origins of the music and why the pieces lend themselves so well to everyday use.

"We have a huge repertoire of pieces that the audience isn't necessarily going to know by the title," Robertson says. "That's part of the fun of these concerts — the joy of actually discovering, 'Oh, that's what that is!' and saying, 'Wow, that's really cool!'"

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Celebrated Conductor Kenneth Woods Pens Piece on St. Louis Symphony Protest

Benjamin Ealovega
Kenneth Woods
Kenneth Woods, artistic director and principal conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra in Worcester, England, recently penned a piece for his popular A View From the Podium blog on the subject of the protests that took place during Saturday's performance by the St. Louis Symphony at Powell Hall. Woods, who got his start in the United States, has worked with a plethora of well-known orchestras during his career including the Oregon East Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra and more, receiving accolades from publications such as the Washington Post as well as the respect of many of his peers.

"I wasn't there, obviously, but I'm inclined to say the protesters did the right thing," Woods says in the piece. "Certainly that their actions, to me, seem both justified and appropriate."

See also: Ferguson Protesters Lead Demonstration During St. Louis Symphony Rendition of Brahms' A German Requiem

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Ferguson Protesters Lead Demonstration During St. Louis Symphony Rendition of Brahms' A German Requiem

Screenshot from the YouTube video.
Singing protesters display banners at Powell Hall.

By now, much of the country is talking about the musical protest in honor of Michael Brown that occurred during the St. Louis Symphony performance at Powell Hall on October 4. But what people haven't fully grasped are the themes and symbolism in the SLSO piece, Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem, that powerfully connect the musicians with the demonstrators.

Four days before the performance and protest, the St. Louis Symphony had posted a Facebook update about the overarching theme of A German Requiem. "This moving requiem was written to console the living, rather than memorialize the departed," the post had said. It's not a far leap to speculate, then, that the people who had organized Saturday's demonstration had pointedly chosen this particular work of Brahms' both to promote Brown's legacy and to help heal those who loved him.

Read our complete coverage on Michael Brown and Ferguson here.

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St. Louis Symphony Receives Critical Acclaim from the New York Times for Carnegie Hall Performance

Categories: Classical Music

YouTube screenshot.
The St. Louis Symphony made an appearance at Carnegie Hall this past weekend, performing Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes on what would have been the composer's 100th birthday. Critical acclaim followed an extended standing ovation upon the close of the performance, with the New York Times calling the event "as involving as any production you could imagine."

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Philip Glass Makes You Look Old

Categories: Classical Music

Steve Pyke
The classical music of 75-year-old Philip Glass occupies an unlikely place in pop culture. It still attracts the same age group it did when the composer first performed his minimalist works more than 40 years ago.

This audience is ever present for the renowned artist's recent performance at the Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City's futuristically handsome new complex whose scallop-like frame of steel, concrete and glass curves elegantly to join Downtown's eclectic skyline. Here, a young set of cool, bespectacled 20-somethings have made a collective effort to shower, show up and Instagram the sunset.

After all classical music performances provide ample reason to unironically wear fur and suspenders. And, like, everyone they know is here.

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The Chess Piano Makes Its Second U.S. Appearance in St. Louis

When it comes to chess, St. Louis actually does have room for two sheriffs in town. (And a piano.)
According to the ticker on its website, the World Chess Hall of Fame is six days from opening in its new home in the Central West End across the street from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center. This news should be accompanied by the same level of enthusiasm you'd assume it lacks. (You'd be wrong.) In addition to showcasing the game's most prized possessions, the World Chess Hall of fame straddles the divide between art and science with its attention to chess. And on September 13, it will focus firmly on music.

In the days around its opening, the World Chess Hall of Fame will cover solid but expected terrain: hors d'oeuvres, ribbon cutting, an induction ceremony and a tour through the art, rare chess sets and other memorabilia on display in the three-floor, 15,000 square foot building. The official activities will transition to experimental on September 13, however, with a visual art performance of the world's only chess piano.

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Can You Tell Real St. Louis Symphony Pops Concert Gimmicks From Fakes?

The St. Louis Symphony has announced a handful of new shows for its 2011-2012 Live at Powell series. They are unapologetically pop-centric, which is nothing new for this series or indeed for symphony orchestras nationwide. As it gets harder and harder to attract audiences to classical music, some of the world's best musicians are reduced to playing gussied up versions of three-chord pop songs. We get it.

Still, the programming is a little eye-popping. It's hard to believe some of these concerts are real, which is why we've invented a few of our own. Of the ten shows described below, five are actually going to happen at Powell Symphony Hall in 2012 and five are not. Can you tell the difference?

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