The Gateway Festival Orchestra was founded in 1964 by Washington University Music Professor and concert pianist William Shatzkamer along with a number of musicians and community leaders. Its motivation was to fill a void of summertime classical music in the St. Louis region. At that time, the St. Louis Symphony season was only six months long, so the Gateway Festival Orchestra’s summer season of outdoor concerts provided an opportunity for Symphony and other professional musicians to practice their craft while providing St. Louis audiences with high quality, free concerts.
In the first season, the Gateway Festival Orchestra concerts were performed on the riverfront before the two legs of the Gateway Arch were completed. In 1970, the concerts moved to their present location in Washington University’s Brookings Quadrangle. The orchestra performs in an open air shell while the audience members sit in chairs or on blankets on the lawn.
Shatzkamer retired as Gateway Festival Orchestra Conductor in 2002. Interim Dean of the University of Missouri – St. Louis College of Fine Arts and Communication James Richards is now Music Director and Conductor. He will lead the Gateway Festival Orchestra in the opening concert of the 50th season on Sunday, July 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Richards explained to Cityscape host Steve Potter how the July 7th program was assembled. The concert opens with Ron Nelson’s Jubilee Overture in honor of the Gateway Festival Orchestra’s jubilee season. Then the orchestra will present the world premiere of a work it commissioned from University of Missouri – St. Louis Music Professor Barbara Harbach. One of the orchestra’s goals is to encourage young musicians, so 14 year old violinist John Li will be the soloist in the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 3. The final two works are Franz von Suppe’s Light Cavalry Overture which was performed on the very first concert in 1964, and a medley of Beatles tunes, recognizing the group’s first album which was released in the Gateway Festival Orchestra’s inaugural year.
The Gateway Festival Orchestra’s season continues on July 14, 21 and 28. Featured soloists include violinist Takaoki Sugitani, soprano Gina Gilati, flutists Jan Scott and Carolyn Hoyer and bassoonist Peggy Bumb. A pre-concert series, Notes to Munch On, begins at 7:00 p.m. each Sunday which gives audience members the opportunity to meet the artists and learn more about the music.
James Richards and Gateway Festival Orchestra Board President Raymond Taylor were Steve Potter’s guests on Cityscape to discuss the history of the orchestra and its 50th season.
James Richards Conducts the Gateway Festival Orchestra
Sundays, July 7, 14, 21 and 28, 2013
Washington University's Brookings Quadrangle
Gateway Festival Orchestra Website