Grand Center Is the Place

Last weekend the place to be was Forest Park. This week the place to be is Grand Center in St. Louis.

There’s a heavy musical overtone to my weekend. It started Thursday evening when I went to a Town Hall meeting held by the St. Louis Symphony. Information concerning finances, programming and such things were given to us. After the meeting, there was a small reception with munchies.

Friday night was the opening night of the Symphony’s 130th season. The St. Louis orchestra is the second oldest in the U.S. Only the New York Philharmonic is older, I believe.

The season’s opening program included Azul by Osvaldo Golijov. I’d never heard of this composer. The piece was a very contemporary number which featured a cello solo played by the Principal Celloist of the orchestra, Daniel Lee,  and an assortment of percussion “instruments” played by two guest soloists plus yet another guest playing a hyper-accordian. I’m not really sure about the accordian bits. As I understand it, the instrument has a chip in it that can make it do “something” to the music. Frankly, I didn’t really hear it do much of anything once the program started. Before the program when all the players are practicing little bits, I heard the guy with the accordian playing some runs on the keyboard but he never played those during the featured piece. I saw him do some bellow shakes.  The two percussionists had a variety of drums and things to strike them. Two of them looked like whisk brooms … not a “normal” drum brush at all.

After the intermission the full orchestra played Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor. I’d never heard this. It opens with a wonderful trumpet solo, played by our principal trumpeter, Susan Slaughter. She has held that position for 40 years and plans to retire this year. You’d never know she had been doing it that long if you judged by her performance tonight. She nailed that solo! At the Town Hall meeting her retirement was mentioned and the conductor/music director pointed out what a rare thing it was for a woman to have such a position and then to hold it for 40 years.

The orchestra will repeat the program tonight. It will be broadcast live on KFUO-FM and streamed, I believe, on their website.

But music isn’t all that’s going on in Grand Center this weekend. There’s a dance festival called Dancing in the Streets. According to the publicity I’ve heard, there will be live performances on four different stages as well as in a small park and then literally in the streets. Grand Boulevard is closed for several blocks for the festival.

In addition to the dance activities, there’s a gallery tour of 14 art galleries, the Earthways House is having some kind of event having to do with ecology, you can take a tour of Powell Hall, home of the Symphony, and hear the Youth Orchestra practice.

Yes, Grand Center is the place to be this weekend.  I won’t be there today/tonight because I have a three-hour choir practice, preparing for the General Conference of the United Pentecostal Church International which is being held in St. Louis this year.  The Conference opens Wednesday night and ends Sunday night.  The choir which is being pulled together — 300 voices strong from several local churches — will sing in the Friday night session.

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