By Eric Dundon
Nearly 18 months after its last full orchestra performance in March 2020, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is on the cusp of a new season.
The orchestra announced full programming for the 2021/2022 season on September 9, 2021—and it’s a season packed with orchestral music, choral performances, film presentations, exciting guests, community partnerships, and more ways than ever to connect with music outside of Powell Hall.
Music Director Stéphane Denève, who recently extended his contract to lead the SLSO through 2026, cannot wait to welcome audiences back to Powell Hall, to the orchestra’s annual concert in Forest Park, and to performances throughout the St. Louis area.
“This season is a tribute to the irrepressible St. Louis energy as we gather again to reflect, listen, learn, heal, and celebrate through music,” he said. “St. Louis is my musical home, and this season is a celebration of the St. Louis spirit that I love.”
The core of the season is its 22 classical programs, held at historic Powell Hall, the orchestra’s home since 1968. There are beloved favorites: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4; Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”; Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5; Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1; Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, “Reformation”; Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1; Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet; Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and many more.
Denève programmed music that spans genre and time, with familiar and beloved pieces alongside works that spark curiosity and adventure, continuing the SLSO’s longstanding tradition of identifying and performing music by composers of today. Each classical concert presents at least one work to St. Louis audiences for the first time.
There is music by living composers including James Lee III and John Adams, Valerie Coleman and Gabriella Smith, Carlos Simon and Caroline Shaw, plus the U.S. premiere of Anna Clyne’s PIVOT. Denève leads four world premieres: the fully-orchestrated version of Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst, Stacy Garrop’s Goddess Triptych, Nathalie Joachim’s Family—featuring the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus in its first classical concert in more than ten years, and Stefan Freund’s Horn Concerto, performed at the New Year’s Eve Celebration with Principal Horn Roger Kaza as the soloist.
Classical concerts include some of the most celebrated musicians of our time. Conductors leading the SLSO include John Adams, Elim Chan, David Danzmayr, Kirill Karabits, Nicholas McGegan, Gemma New, Dmitry Sinkovsky, John Storgårds, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress, and Conductor Laureate Leonard Slatkin. Pianists include Yefim Bronfman (Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3), Jeremy Denk (Adams’ Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?), Ingrid Fliter (Schumann’s Piano Concerto), Kirill Gerstein (Adès’ Piano Concerto), Víkingur Ólafsson (Grieg’s Piano Concerto), Awadagin Pratt (Montgomery’s Piano Concerto), Jean Yves Thibaudet (Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5, “Egyptian”), and Lars Vogt (Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4).
Violinists include Augustin Hadelich (Barber’s Violin Concerto), Concertmaster David Halen (Bolcom’s Violin Concerto), Simone Porter (Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy), Akiko Suwanai (Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1), and Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider (Sibelius’ Violin Concerto).
Other guests include cellist Inbal Segev (Clyne’s DANCE), mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke (Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Heggie’s The Work at Hand), and percussionist Martin Grubinger (Dun’s The Tears of Nature). Several SLSO musicians also take center stage as soloists throughout the season.
Live at Powell Hall
Live at Powell Hall concerts return, featuring a variety of artists and genres to appeal to all music lovers. Two postponed concerts will take place this fall: The Music of Motown (September 18, 2021), conducted by IN UNISON Chorus Director Kevin McBeth, and Revolution: The Music of The Beatles: A Symphonic Experience (October 22, 2021), led by Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress.
Two boundary-pushing artists also collaborate with the SLSO this fall: Kishi Bashi, a multi-instrumentalist and singer (September 17, 2021) and Irish American singer-songwriter and Grammy Award winner Aoife O’Donovan (October 23, 2021).
Film presentations with the SLSO playing the score live return this season, with Disney’s The Muppet Christmas Carol in Concert (December 11-12, 2021), Disney and Pixar’s Up in Concert (January 2, 2022), and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in Concert (May 12-16, 2022), plus previously scheduled films including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 in Concert (January 21-23, 2022), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (February 18-19, 2022).
Holiday concerts resume at Powell Hall with the popular Gospel Christmas concert (December 9, 2021), which features members of the IN UNISON Chorus and gospel singer and pianist Oleta Adams, led by Kevin McBeth. The Mercy Holiday Celebration presents seven concerts of holiday music with conductor Bob Bernhardt and jazz singer Denzal Sinclaire: two at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri (December 15-16) and five at Powell Hall (December 17-19). Denève leads the surprise-filled New Year’s Eve Celebration Concert, with both a matinee and evening concert (December 31, 2021). These concerts include the world premiere of a new horn concerto by Stefan Freund, performed by Principal Horn Roger Kaza. The SLSO also performs its annual Lift Every Voice: Celebrating Black History Month concert with the IN UNISON Chorus (February 25, 2022).
The entire SLSO family is back in action on the Emerson Concert Stage. The St. Louis Symphony Chorus, led by Amy Kaiser in her 27th and final season as director, performs W.A. Mozart’s Requiem (March 4-6, 2022) with the SLSO and conductor Dmitry Sinkovsky. On the penultimate classical program, they sing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony with the orchestra and Denève (April 30-May 1, 2022). In addition to its annual Gospel Christmas and Lift Every Voice concerts, the IN UNISON Chorus gives the world premiere of Nathalie Joachim’s Family with the orchestra and Denève (May 6-7, 2022). The IN UNISON Chorus, which performs and preserves music from African and African American traditions, is supported by Bayer Fund. The St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, the region’s premiere training orchestra, performs three concerts at Powell Hall under the direction of YO Music Director and SLSO Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress.
Education and Family
Committed to nurturing the next generation of musicians, the SLSO celebrates 100 years of its education programs. With concerts for schoolchildren starting in 1921 under Music Director Rudolph Ganz, the SLSO is one of the first orchestras in the country to institute an education program.
Each year, the SLSO serves tens of thousands of students and teachers throughout the St. Louis region. The SLSO offers a robust library of education resources for families and teachers, including downloadable activities, the interactive Instrument Playground Online, SLSO SoundLab video/activity series, plus other programs and special events. For more information on the SLSO’s education programming, visit slso.org/families or slso.org/schools.
Family Concerts return in the 21/22 season, a welcome complement to online family programming. These 45-minute concerts engage the entire family with music and activities. Family Concerts include Peter and the Wolf (February 20, 2022) and SLSO SoundLab Live (April 24, 2022). Both concerts will be led by Assistant Conductor Stephanie Childress.
Access to music
The SLSO remains committed to providing broad access to music for people of all ages through a variety of resources, including media broadcasts, education tools, online programming, and more.
The SLSO continues its partnerships with two of the St. Louis region’s most important media outlets: 90.7 KWMU St. Louis Public Radio and Nine PBS. St. Louis Public Radio broadcasts and live streams the entire SLSO Saturday night Classical Season for a 12th year, with live broadcasts resuming the opening weekend of classical concerts. This year, all live broadcasts will be simulcast on Classic 107.3, adding an additional way for audiences to hear SLSO concerts live. Hosted by SLSO Creative Tim Munro, St. Louis Public Radio and the SLSO introduce two new co-hosts of the live radio broadcasts:
Maria A. Ellis, a music educator and host of the Bach and Beyoncé program on Classic 107.3 and former SLSO IN UNISON Scholar
Alicia Revé Like, an actor, singer, songwriter, performer, and host of SLSO SoundLab, a digital education resources for teachers and families
Concerts are available to stream for 30 days on slso.org after broadcasts air live.
If you prefer to watch concerts, the SLSO continues its new tradition of making full concerts available to stream on slso.org. Using the orchestra’s high-definition camera system, concerts offer a new perspective on the SLSO experience and its musicians. A new slate of digital concerts available to stream will be announced at a later date.
There are many untold stories about the orchestra and its musicians waiting at the orchestra’s digital magazine, SLSO Stories. This companion site of slso.org features stories, photos, program notes, and videos about the various aspects of the SLSO—including concerts, community programs, education initiatives, special events, and more.
Starting September 15, audiences can explore various facets of the SLSO and orchestral music in engaging, hourlong discussions with Denève, SLSO musicians, and special guests through monthly SLSO Stories Live events. Previously known as Lunch & Learns, these monthly events have engaged 3,000 people since the first event in May 2020. The SLSO also offers these live events as on-demand streaming audio episodes. Podcast episodes are available on most major listening platforms, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts, as well as on slso.org.
The orchestra also continues its $15 ticket offers to all classical concerts, begun during Denève’s inaugural season, and Stéphane Seats—a partnership program where Denève hosts community groups at classical concerts.
What else to expect
The SLSO resumes two-hour concerts with full capacity. Valet service returns, as does shuttle transportation to and from select concerts. Concessions also return, with drinks permitted in the auditorium with an SLSO Keep Cup.
As it returns to regular programming at Powell Hall, the SLSO will maintain its operating plan that adheres to the highest standards of health and safety for patrons, musicians, and staff. The SLSO will follow the most up-to-date guidelines from the CDC and the City of St. Louis. The SLSO continues to collaborate with a team of medical experts on safety protocols and is committed to providing patrons with a safe and welcoming environment to experience the power of music.
Beginning September 13, 2021, the SLSO will require all audience members be fully vaccinated to attend events at Powell Hall. All audience members will be asked to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test: either a negative RT-PCR taken within 72 hours before the performance or a negative antigen test within 24 hours before the performance. The entire SLSO family, including musicians, staff, volunteers, ushers, and bartenders, is also required to be fully vaccinated. This policy is in effect through December 1, 2021, and will be reviewed and updated.
Learn more about the SLSO’s health and safety protocols here.
Tickets for all classical concerts begin at $15. Subscriptions and single tickets for all concerts are on sale now. To purchase tickets, visit slso.org/season or call the Box Office at 314-534-1700.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Manager.