Last Thursday evening I attended a free concert played by the St. Louis Symphony. It was held in Forest Park. The temporary bandstand was erected next to the Grand Lagoon at the bottom of Art Hill. The audience set in their lawn chairs or on blankets on the hill. Many brought picnic suppers to eat. Some even went so far as to bring tables as well as their lawn chairs.
I packed a picnic supper and drove to the park. I found parking behind the Art Museum which was a little farther away than I had hoped for but not an unbearable distance to carry my supper, my chair, my sweater, and a large iced tea purchased at McDonald’s on my way to the park. I found a spot at the top of the hill where the ground is basically level. I ate my supper while listening to the music just as others did. It wasn’t long before I put on my sweater. I was glad I had grabbed it on my way out of the door because the evening turned chilly. Most folks had a sweater or jacket with them.
The program consisted of numbers from upcoming concerts in the new season which starts this weekend. It is intended to give people a taste of what they will hear if they come to Powell Hall. The conductor for the evening was the new resident conductor who works primarily with the youth orchestra I believe. Between each piece he talked a bit about it and about the program it was a part of in the upcoming season. At one point in the evening he mentioned that the orchestra has a lot of guest conductors. He asked if anyone wanted to conduct the orchestra in the next number. One man raised his hand and was called to the stage. “I think I know this man,” the conductor said. He did. He was David Robertson, our main conductor, who did, in fact, conduct the next number.
The concert ended with about a 15-minute fireworks show. They were fired off from the golf course across the street from the end of the Grand Lagoon. Because they were shot over the water, they reflected in it, adding an extra dimension to the fireworks. It made a fitting end to what had been a pleasant evening.
Today was one of the Senior Seminars I’m attending. This one featured ragtime music. I’ve never been sure what exactly determined that a piece of music was ragtime. It is the combination of polyrhythms in the piece. Normally, the left hand plays a straight 4/4 rhythm while the right hand plays a syncopated rhythm (if you’re playing a piano). This rhythm pattern came to the U.S. from Africa. It was a ragged rhythm and that’s where the name, ragtime, came from. Rather to my surprise, I learned that St. Louis was a major center of ragtime music. It was known for that in the late 1800s and early 1900s much as New Orleans is known for jazz. The lecturer today had video clips and recordings to illustrate his talk. He did make a point of telling us that ragtime was a performance, not recorded, music during its popularity. The sale of sheet music spread the various rags from one person to another. People would gather around the piano at home and play this new music.
I want to learn to play ragtime piano. I wonder if it’s too late for me to master that ragged rhythm.