By Caitlin Custer and Eric Dundon
Photos by SLSO Staff
To start off the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's fall 2020 season, musicians are meeting audiences where they are through SLSO On the Go. This series of limited-capacity, outdoor pop-up concerts features chamber music and solo performances throughout the region several times per week, from parks, to medical centers, to your neighborhood.
In all, the SLSO performed 56 events (38 one-on-one concerts, 18 on-the-go chamber concerts) in a span of about four weeks.
Monday, October 12
An SLSO string quartet gave a short outdoor performance at Mercy Hospital for an audience of medical staff and visitors. Music Director Stéphane Denève marked his return to St. Louis with a few remarks for those who stopped by to listen, and spent some time chatting with Mercy staff and catching up with SLSO colleagues.
Sunday, October 11
Violinist Andrea Jarrett performed a program of Bach for a family and passersby near Francis Park.
Saturday, October 10
Associate Principal Flutist Andrea Kaplan was welcomed with open arms to Bonnie's home in Chesterfield. Her family, nearly all of whom are musicians, even created a welcome bag for Andrea. The kids in attendance were wowed by Andrea's speed and accuracy during her encore, "Flight of the Bumblebee."
Meanwhile, double bassist Brendan Fitzgerald visited Richard's home in Lebanon, Ill. Richard invited the SLSO to help celebrate his wife's birthday. No stranger to the SLSO, Richard has been a member of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus nearly since its inception in the 1970s.
And violist Chris Tantillo visited Mina's home in St. Charles. Mina is a director with the Steward Family Foundation, the SLSO's 2020/2021 classical season sponsor.
Friday, October 9
One of the bedrocks of the SLSO On the Go concerts is to provide music to people who have been impacted particularly hard by COVID-19. Nowhere else is that more true than at hospitals. It was with great pleasure that four SLSO double bass players gathered at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis County to perform for the doctors, nurses, and staff.
Aleck Belcher, Associate Principal Double Bass, expressed his thanks to frontline medical workers in his introduction to the concert. The quartet, comprised of Aleck, Brendan Fitzgerald, Christopher Carson, and Ronald Moberly, delighted the audience with a varied program that included Baroque music, one of Brahms's popular Hungarian Dances, and two arrangements of ragtime pieces by Scott Joplin.
Tuesday, October 6
Violist Michael Casimir visited Andreas with his family and friends at Covenant Seminary in Creve Coeur. There, he performed works that spanned from Baroque to Camille Saint-Saëns' "The Swan" from Carnival of the Animals.
Regular SLSO-goers will recognize the familiar face of usher Ruth Luzecky. Clarinetist Diana Haskell visited Ruth, along with her sister and friends, for a one-on-one concert near Lindenwood Park.
Saturday, October 3
Caroline’s mother Joann was celebrating her 90th birthday and family had gathered from St. Genevieve, Mo., Chicago, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The SLSO helped celebrate with a one-on-one concert for the family. SLSO Principal Oboist Jelena Dirks explained how one of the pieces she performed for the group was inspired by impressionist paintings.
Joann, who is a big fan of impressionist art, was thrilled. Everyone pulled out their phones to see the paintings that inspired the music.
Thursday, October 1
Tod Bowermaster brought a collection of instruments to Suzanne and Charles' home for a backyard concert, which he themed "The History of the Horn in 30 Minutes." Tod started his concert by explaining the horn's role as a signaling instrument, demonstrating this first with a conch shell he bought while living in Hawaii.
He also brought his Alphorn, speaking to its use in Switzerland as a tool for shepherds to signal each other and their herd. As he closed his concert with a natural and modern horn, two cyclists stopped by. Proof, perhaps, of the horn's innate ability to signal and call us together.
Wednesday, September 30
Thomas Jöstlein visited the DeMun neighborhood, just west of Forest Park, to perform a concert of horn selections for SLSO fan George, along with neighbors and friends. Thomas brought two horns along, one modern and one natural—that is, without valves—and gave a description of how they work before playing a piece on each.
Meanwhile, Principal Second Violin Alison Harney played a porch concert for Bill and Helen, who were celebrating their anniversary along with a few other family members.
Tuesday, September 29
Jonathan Chu, violist with the SLSO, reprised his program of Bach's Chaconne (and switched to his violin) for a family and their neighbors in Webster Groves. Listen to St. Louis Public Radio's story on this concert here.
Monday, September 28
Asako Kuboki, SLSO violinist since 2001, visited local legend, orchestra teacher, and Director of Music at Gateway Music Outreach James McKay, along with his wife, Angel, and daughter, Sky, in Florissant. Sky was starting violin lessons the next day, and their excitement at seeing a violinist up close filled their air.
James paid close attention, asking Asako if she preferred Bach's sonatas or partitas, and following up with a question when the first piece concluded: "Was that a half cadence?" By the end of the concert, he let it slip that he studied bass and earned his degree from the world-renowned Eastman School of Music.
The live music was a treat for Angel, too, who was capping off a weekend birthday celebration and was especially excited to get dressed up for the occasion. "It was magnificent, I literally had to close my eyes. I felt like there was a piece of heaven right here."
Sunday, September 27
Violinist Angie Smart shared a program of violin music through the ages, and in the audience was the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra's very first concertmaster. Learn more about this SLSO On the Go story here.
Meanwhile, SLSO newcomer Ryan Toher gave a clarinet concert in Kirkwood, for resident Tom and his neighbors. The audience welcomed him with a sign reading "Welcome Ryan Toher," taped to their garage windows.
Tom later wrote to the SLSO: "Thank you again for arranging to have Ryan play for our neighborhood gathering. We very much appreciated the time he spent with us. His presentation was excellent—not only in terms of his performing ability, but also in the information he shared about himself and his selections. It was an impressive performance."
Saturday, September 26
Flutist Jennifer Nitchman traveled to Belleville to perform for Allan and Sally. Flute music was a special request from the audience, as their daughter also plays flute.
Friday, September 25
The Missouri History Museum served as a beautiful backdrop for our latest SLSO On the Go pop-up concert last Friday. An SLSO brass quintet consisting of Tom Drake and Mike Walk, trumpet; Victoria Knudtson, horn; and Amanda Stewart and Gerry Pagano, trombones played pieces by Scott Joplin, Leonard Bernstein, Sousa, and others for an engaged crowd who gathered in front of the museum.
This SLSO On the Go concert came complete with an appearance by the iconic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
Thursday, September 24
Residents at Crown Center for Senior Living in University City gathered on the facility's parking lot for an SLSO On the Go chamber concert on September 24. Residents cheered, tapped their feet, and nodded along as an SLSO string quartet played works by Mozart, Dvořák, and Florence Price.
The concert was a welcome event for the seniors who have been living mostly in isolation for months. Nikki Goldstein, Executive Director of Crown Center, said, "Everyone can participate in music, and this concert makes us feel like a community again."
Just a few miles west of Crown Center, violist Chris Tantillo gave a concert to longtime SLSO fan Mary Jane and her friends.
Wednesday, September 23
Ann Choomack, piccolo/flute, and Jelena Dirks, Principal Oboe, both gave one-on-one concerts on this "Woodwind Wednesday."
Ann shared selections for piccolo as well as flute for a family in a wooded setting in central St. Louis County. Jelena performed on the steps of an apartment building for a couple—plus several passersby and one entranced pooch—not far from the Washington University Campus.
Monday, September 21
Silvian Iticovici, violinist and 40+ year member of the SLSO, gave a concert at Kay's home in University City. Kay has been an ardent supporter of the SLSO's education programs for years, advocating for children's access to music.
Sunday, September 20
A string quartet comprised of violinists Hannah Ji and Wendy Plank-Rosen, violist Leonid Plashinov-Johnson, and cellist Bjorn Ranheim appeared at St. Louis' treasured Tower Grove Park for a Sunday afternoon pop-up concert. They reprised their program of Mozart, Price, and Gershwin previously performed at the Lewis and Clark Branch of the St. Louis County Library. The park came alive as St. Louisans passing by slowed to take in live music as a community.
Local resident Brigid wrote to the SLSO afterwards: "At a time when so many of us in St. Louis are facing challenges we never imagined, it was truly a moment of inspiration to be treated to a surprise performance by SLSO members in Tower Grove Park. I especially enjoyed hearing the piece by Florence Price, and can't wait to learn more about this composer. No matter how tough times get, hearing humans make music together never fails to bring hope."
Saturday, September 19
SLSO musicians took SLSO On the Go to a neighborhood in west county on September 19. Neighbors of Associate Principal Clarinetist Diana Haskell brought out chairs and snacks to hear a work for clarinet and cello by composer David Baker performed by Haskell and cellist Bjorn Ranheim. Then, a septet of SLSO musicians joined together for a Romantic-era work by Swedish composer Franz Berwald. Haskell and Ranheim were joined by violinist Angie Smart, violist Leo Plashinov-Johnson, bassist Brendan Fitzgerald, bassoonist Felicia Foland, and French horn player Thomas Jöstlein.
Friday, September 18
A string quartet performed at the Lewis and Clark Branch of the St. Louis County Library as part of SLSO On the Go, the second chamber music concert in a series of performances at the start of the SLSO's 20/21 season. In this concert, played on a mobile stage generously loaned to the SLSO from the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department, violinists Hannah Ji and Wendy Rosen, violist Leo Plashinov-Johnson, and cellist Bjorn Ranheim gave performances of works by Mozart, Florence Price, and Gershwin.
The concert was held in tandem with the library's regular food distribution event for people living in the north county area. People receiving food were surprised and delighted to hear live music for the first time in months, with many pulling over and getting out of their cars to listen to the concert.
Thursday, September 17
Assistant Concertmaster Erin Schreiber paid a visit to SLSO fans Walter and Jenny. Both members of the Symphony Volunteer Association—Walter is also a member of the Board—they are fixtures at Friday morning Coffee Concerts during the classical season. They were joined by their son-in-law for Erin's program of Bach and Kreisler.
Wednesday, September 16
Each September, the SLSO opens its season with the most anticipated concert of the summer: a free community performance on Forest Park's Art Hill. Although the 2020 concert looked a little different—the small audience wore masks, the program was shorter, and a brass quintet stood in for the full orchestra—the tradition carried on.
Performed each year in memory of Mary Ann Lee, the Forest Park concert is a treasured tradition. Mike Walk and Austin Williams on trumpets, Victoria Knudtson on horn, and Amanda Stewart and Jonathan Reycraft on trombones performed a suite of music from Bernstein's iconic West Side Story to kick of the SLSO's reimagined fall season. Audience members and passersby alike enjoyed the impromptu SLSO On the Go concert.
Tuesday, September 15
Bassist Brendan Fitzgerald marked the beginning of his second season with the SLSO by performing for Margaret and Charles at their home in Ladue. Both longtime symphony-goers —Margaret is also a member of the Symphony Volunteer Association—they came dressed for the part in vintage SLSO t-shirts.
As Brendan began to perform selections from Bach, neighbors gathered on their porches to listen. Afterwards, Charles and Margaret shared stories and asked questions about Brendan's instrument and path to the SLSO, which he recounted eagerly. Charles expressed his delight that they were able to celebrate their 25th anniversary early with the evening of music. Brendan later commented that "The joy and importance of connecting so personally with our supporters through the sharing of beautiful music with them at their homes cannot be overstated."
Friday, September 11
Assistant Principal Violist Jonathan Chu switched to his violin to perform for Vivian at her home in Ferguson. Vivian is a member of the IN UNISON Chorus, an usher during SLSO concerts, and a "wonderful human," according to Vice President of Marketing David Nischwitz. Jonathan performed what many consider the pinnacle of violin repertoire for Vivian, Bach's Chaconne from Partita No. 2.
SLSO On-the-Go is supported by the Silk Foundation.