By Eric Dundon
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s 2023 European tour is in full swing, visiting the capital of Belgium, Brussels, on March 26. Cellist Jennifer Humphreys discusses how the orchestra has evolved so far on tour, and her thoughts on her very first European tour.
The tour continues with concerts in Eindhoven and Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Madrid, Spain.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.
Eric Dundon: Tell me about your experience on the tour so far.
Jennifer Humphreys: This is actually my first European tour ever, so this is all brand new to me! I had done some previous tours in the Midwest—to Nebraska, Illinois, and Indiana—but this is all brand new territory for me. It's very exciting. Everything has gone very smoothly so far.
ED: The SLSO played its second of five concerts in Brussels. What was your perspective on the concert? Anything change from the first concert?
JH: I think the concert was fantastic. The crowd was very enthusiastic, and Stéphane was very excited to be here. I feel like the things felt more settled this time. Prior to our concert in Vienna, it had been almost a week since we had played together. In Brussels, I felt like the orchestra was ready to go and that things felt secure and solid.
ED: You mentioned Stéphane’s connection to Brussels, and we just performed in Vienna. What is it like to be in these cities that have such deep cultural history?
JH: Oh, it's incredibly moving and inspiring and almost overwhelming. To be able to visit Mozart’s apartment and a cafe where Beethoven wrote chamber music and to visit the graves of Schoenberg and Johan Strauss and Beethoven and Mozart and Ligeti. It's mind blowing to get a sense of who these people were and where they lived in real life and not just have them as this abstract musical creator.
ED: Is there a greater sense of responsibility towards the music since you're in these cities?
JH: I’ve wondered at both of our concerts in Vienna and here in Brussels if the audience is more familiar with these pieces and if they have a more of a sense of ownership of these composers that we're playing. Perhaps they do, but it also then made me also proud to play the Candide Overture by Bernstein. This is something as an American orchestra that we can contribute to this program as well.
ED: Speaking of contributions… in playing this program so often are you discovering new things about the music each time you play it? Does your individual contribution evolve with each performance?
JH: I am picking up on new things, because when the orchestra plays in new spaces, you're able to hear the sound in new ways. In Brussels, I heard the French horns way more than I ever had before and noticed a lot more of their parts. It's almost like playing in different halls is like shining different spotlights on different parts of the orchestra, different instruments and bringing the pieces that you think you know to a different level.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Director.