The St. Louis Symphony held its traditional free opening concert on Art Hill in Forest Park on Tuesday evening, September 17, 2013. It was an exciting, energetic, and inspiring performance by new Assistant Conductor Steven Jarvi and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Excitement was in the air! So many people were picnicking on Art Hill and waiting expectantly before the performance began, in spite of the rain shower that started around 6 pm. There was a kind of beauty in the array of umbrellas that could be appreciated if you were prepared with your own rain gear. My friends and I got a little bit wet, but we were determined to stay if the concert was on, and, miraculously, the rain stopped at just 7 pm, when the stirring drum roll announced it was time to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.
St. Louis is such a great city for music and art. The huge audience assembled for the concert joined in singing the national anthem, and it was moving to be a part of it.
Also exciting was the new Assistant Conductor, Steven Jarvi, previously with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. Jarvi is young and energetic, in his mid- to late thirties. He mentioned that his wife, in the audience, is expecting their first child. Jarvi’s enthusiasm for life and for the music was contagious. It was fun watching him sway and jump at the podium.
The program was also perfect for an outdoor concert. I’ve attended this season-opener once before. It begins with light classics and finishes with movie music. This year’s pieces included Berlioz, Britten and Beethoven (the first movement of his Pastoral Symphony, #6), as well as the popular Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin (Wagner), and the lovely Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana by Mascagni. These pieces were colorful and, as one of my companions put it, short enough that if you didn’t like one of them, it was almost finished!
But we liked them all. Even the second-half selection of movie music was interesting and, I thought, innovative. The only Disney, for one thing, was Dukas’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, from Fantasia. After that, we listened to a medley of tunes from Casablanca, including a moody, sophisticated version of “As Time Goes By” on the piano; another medley from Mel Brooks’s The Producers (it was funny to see Jarvi swaying to the lyrical “Springtime for Hitler”); and then part of John Williams’s Star Wars music. Young Jarvi seemed especially excited by this piece, introducing it by saying, “Nerd-o-rama!” He said he was born in 1978 and thus especially enamored of this music. Even though I couldn’t relate, I got into it because of his enthusiasm.
When the evening ended with Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, everyone was on their feet clapping and cheering, as I said a huge, enthusiastic crowd in front of the lit-up St. Louis Art Museum. I felt close to every one of those people-even though I’m not a St. Louisan, and we had a two-hour drive ahead of us to get back home.
Drive or no drive, though, we stayed for the fireworks-which were fabulous! They burst up high in the sky over the lake, eliciting cheers from everyone. I felt like a kid. I did.
What a wonderful night at the St. Louis Symphony! I’m looking forward to more.