By Eric Dundon
When the final notes of Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango reverberated through The Hub, a new community resource center in the north St. Louis Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood, a grateful audience rose to its feet in a rousing ovation. The audience was a mix of local residents and people who traveled from outside the community near Fairground Park for the free community concert. All shared a love of music.
The December 14 concert featured tango music and holiday tunes performed by SLSO musicians in Cortango, a tango/classical/jazz fusion ensemble that includes Cally Banham (English horn), Asako Kuboki (violin), Chris Tantillo (viola), Melissa Brooks (cello), and David DeRiso (double bass). They were joined by fellow SLSO musicians Allegra Lilly on harp and Will James on percussion.
The Hub opened earlier in 2021 and serves the community by providing health resources, offering office space for start-ups, creating access to education and financial resources, and bringing the community together through events like the SLSO concert.
Pastor Andre Alexander of Tabernacle Community Development Corporation, which owns and operates The Hub, said the concert is exactly the type of programming important to the community.
“I think this concert is significant, not only because of the amazing music and the gifts of the artists, but because it says to the existing community that the arts are very much attainable and accessible for everybody. They’re welcomed,” he said following the concert. “But it also says to artists that they can come into this community and the people here will embrace you and receive you.”
Alexander’s words rang true, as members of the audience bobbed their heads, tapped their feet, and hummed along with the concert, which included several tango numbers, and original arrangements of holiday tunes including “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella” and “In dulci jubilo” (Good Christian Men, Rejoice). An arrangement of “Little Drummer Boy” with a distinct Spanish flavor reminiscent of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero received an especially enthusiastic response.
“We love being able to use the power of music to bring people together whether it’s at Powell Hall or in wonderful community spaces like The Hub. Music speaks to and connects all of us on such a fundamental human level,” said Maureen Byrne, SLSO Associate Vice President of Education and Community Partnerships. She worked with Alexander and others at The Hub to make the free community concert a reality.
Community engagement is at the core of the SLSO’s mission to enrich lives through the power of music.
“It is our privilege to meet people where they are to share the power of music. We appreciate all of our community partners, including our new friends at The Hub for helping us to build relationships throughout the region,” Byrne said.
The free community concert at The Hub is one of several community connection programs of the SLSO. For many years, SLSO musicians have shared music in schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities, higher education institutions, and other public spaces. The IN UNISON program—a multi-pronged program that includes a church program, resident chorus, and academic support arm—is nearing the 30th anniversary of its founding in 1992. Most recently, musicians performed more than 60 SLSO On the Go concerts throughout the community, connecting with people where they lived during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information about the SLSO’s community programs, visit slso.org/community.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Manager