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Project Preview: Songs of America

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

As the nation and St. Louis region observe Independence Day, the SLSO is sharing a new project, "Songs of America," to showcase the spirit that makes St. Louis unique and offer an opportunity for the St. Louis community to connect through music during these challenging times. SLSO Music Director Stéphane Denève and musicians of the SLSO are joined by St. Louis-area partners including singers, artists, and videographers for this series of videos, which will be made available through a variety of platforms and at no cost to viewers.

The project is a collection of videos featuring SLSO musicians performing moving works celebrating the breadth of voices in American music. It strives to inspire dialogue and celebrate the many voices in music, a bedrock of Denève’s Music Directorship and the foundation of the SLSO’s 2020/2021 classical season.

In addition to SLSO musicians and Music Director Stéphane Denève on piano, performances feature other St. Louis artists, including:

· Kennedy Holmes, vocalist and finalist on NBC’s The Voice (2018)

· Brian Owens, singer, songwriter, and community advocate

· Malena Smith, vocalist and SLSO IN UNISON Fellow

· The 442s, genre-bending instrumental ensemble

Filming for the SLSO’s “Songs of America” video project took place at key St. Louis landmarks, including:

· Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, East St. Louis, Illinois: Park overlooking downtown St. Louis dedicated to the memory of Malcolm W. Martin, a veteran and staunch community advocate

· Scott Joplin State Historic Site, St. Louis: the one-time home of Scott Joplin, composer and pianist, and the father of ragtime music

· Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, St. Louis: Downtown St. Louis facility honoring St. Louis-area military service members, veterans, and their families

· Kiener Plaza Park, St. Louis: Downtown St. Louis park, overlooking the Old Courthouse, site of the infamous Scott vs. Sandford case, in which Dred Scott, an enslaved man, unsuccessfully sued for his freedom in 1857

· First Baptist Church-St. Louis: The oldest African-American church west of the Mississippi River

Videos will be posted daily on SLSO Stories and the SLSO YouTube page from Monday, June 29 to Saturday, July 4.

These SLSO small ensemble performances were recorded between June 18 and June 20 at the orchestra’s home at Powell Hall and were filmed at notable locations throughout the St. Louis region. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of "Songs of America."

A nine-piece ensemble plays at the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum.

Vocalist Brian Owens and The 442s use the St. Louis Old Courthouse as a backdrop for their performance.

SLSO violist Michael Casimir records at Powell Hall for a Songs of America segment.

Malena Smith sings a new arrangement of "America the Beautiful" created for the Songs of America project. She sings at the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis.


Special thanks to the Centene Charitable Foundation, the Steward Family Foundation, and World Wide Technology for their support of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.


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