This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: By the time you read this, Scott Parkman should be packed up and setting off for Boston, where he’ll begin a new phase of an already quite successful career as a conductor and composer.
At Powell Symphony Hall, the St. Louis Beacon’s neighbor here in the Grand Center neighborhood, Parkman was assistant conductor of the St. Louis Symphony and music director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. His most profound and enduring legacy lives with hundreds of young men and women who worked with him and for him in the Youth Orchestra.
Parkman directed this orchestra for the past five years. Those who were regulars at the Youth Orchestra’s concerts were beneficiaries of performances from a broad and demanding range of the musical repertory. At the Parkman finale on Friday (May 2), for example, the music was of Faure, Mozart, Richard Strauss and Johann Strauss the younger.
Although, over the years, there were times when one section or another strayed from the course the maestro set for them, at no time could you raise serious question of relative competency. In fact, musicianship often rose to the level of professionalism. Many a middle-size city would be fortunate to have the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra as its resident ensemble. St. Louis is fortunate to have it as a jewel in its musical diadem.
The Youth Orchestra’s prowess is, of course, a product of hard work on the part of the young musicians, of the rigorous instruction of their teachers (many of whom are members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra) and, for the last half a decade, a product of dedication on the part of Parkman. At the conclusion of his final bow on Friday, the musicians expressed their enthusiasm for him with a resounding stomp-athon.
That sort of appreciation is routine, however, and sometimes perfunctory. The real payoff for Parkman appears to have come not at the conclusion of the concert but during its first half. *
The woodwinds form a particularly strong section of this orchestra, and one of this section’s singular strengths is an 18-year-old artist, Andrew George, a senior at Parkway Central High School. George is principal clarinet of the Youth Orchestra, and he was soloist for Mozart’s Clarinet concerto in A major, K. 622 from 1791, written shortly before the composer’s death that same year.
George’s interpretation of this haunting marriage of solo instrument and orchestra was, well, awesome, played with an emotional quality many musicians achieve only after years of performing, some of them never.
The second movement, the adagio, weaves one of the most affecting musical, intellectual and emotional tapestries of Western art. George played it with grace and authority, making the melancholy transitions from the lower to upper register demanded by the score with seamless virtuosity. At the conclusion of that second movement, the audience interrupted with spontaneous applause, then leapt cheering to its feet at the conclusion of the piece.
Moments of such thrilling achievement come to us rarely in life, and there was, I suspect, a shared sense of good fortune spread across the audience for having been in the hall on this special evening.
Parkman, one hopes, will recall it with a singular sense of pride and accomplishment, as should young Andrew George, as should all his colleagues, so full of vigor and promise, for the beauty they summoned as individuals and as members of such a varsity musical team.
So, for the maestro, Godspeed. For his young orchestra players’ performance Friday, bravos all over the place.
THERE ARE MANY THINGS I have not seen in this world, but as of Saturday there is one fewer of them, and that is a trained-goat act. These goats are under the sway of a very funny man named Carlos Svensen, and he and his band of bleaters are star attractions the 22nd season of St. Louis’ very own homegrown Circus Flora. Svensen was in the riding arena at Three Creek Farm, a little bit of heaven in Weldon Spring, where a preview of the 2008 show was put on, along with a picnic luncheon. Besides Svenson’s act, I saw death defying bareback riding stunts performed by a talented band of young St. Louis equestrian acrobats vaulting off and on two gypsy horses, Dixie and Trixie, who are lookers, let me tell you.
Every year, ringmaster Ivor David Balding and his colleagues concoct a story for the amusement of circus-goers. This year, Flora’s tale is about Sherwood Forest. The merriment begins June 5 and runs through June 22. Tickets are available at all Metrotix outlets, at the Circus Flora office in the Centene Center, 3547 Olive Street, or by calling Circus Flora at 314-289-4040. For more information (and some Internet circus fun) click here .