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St. Louis Symphony will spend another season away from Powell Hall

Music Director Stéphane Denève conducts Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances
Eric Dundon
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director Stéphane Denève, seen here conducting at Powell Hall in March 2023, will lead his sixth season in St. Louis.

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra will continue to perform in other venues next season while Powell Hall undergoes an expansion.

The orchestra will add the 560 Music Center at Washington University to its list of temporary venues. It will return to the Stifel Theatre in downtown St. Louis, the J. Scheidegger Center for Performing Arts at Lindenwood University and the Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

The 2024-2025 season will include at least 20 pieces the orchestra has never before performed, including three world premieres. The traditional season-opening concert at Forest Park will be Sept. 19.

Among Music Director Stéphane Denève’s engagements will be a performance of John Williams’ score for “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”

“There is this famous line, ‘E.T. phone home.’ And the question of home — what is the meaning of home? The whole season will explore that with a lot of epic journeys and return to home,” Deneve said.

Denève will lead St. Louis Symphony’s first performance of Mason Bates’ “Nomad Concerto” and a semi-staged performance of Edvard Grieg’s opera “Peer Gynt,” adapted by composer-director Bill Barclay. Denève also will conduct two weeks of concerts examining Mozart’s evolution as a composer, and favorites from the repertory by Berlioz, Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Ravel.

Stéphane Denève, St. Louis Symphonic Orchestra music director, rehearses James Lee III’s “Visions of Cahokia” ahead of its world premiere on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, at Powell Hall in Grand Center.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Stéphane Denève, St. Louis Symphonic Orchestra music director, rehearses James Lee III’s “Visions of Cahokia” ahead of its world premiere last year at Powell Hall in Grand Center. The orchestra is performing around the St. Louis-region as Powell Hall undergoes an expansion.

Another season away from Powell Hall

Midway through the orchestra’s first season splitting concerts among the Stifel Theatre and other venues, Denève said its musicians have adapted well.

“I’m impressed how quickly they can adjust. It’s difficult, but they are up to the challenge,” Denève said.

Depending on a particular venue’s size and other factors, some musical pieces work well on one stage but won’t translate to another. But the unusual scheduling this season has helped the organization build its audience.

Thirty percent of St. Louis Symphony’s current subscribers are new, SLSO President and CEO Marie-Hélène Bernard said. At a typical classical concert this season, newcomers to St. Louis Symphony have made up 48% of audiences. First-time concert goers have filled more than half the seats at special events such as film screenings alongside a performance of the score.

“Our audience is following us, and showing their love and support and that means the world to us. Without them, there’s no music,” Bernard said. “One of the great surprises is that we see a lot of new people, which makes us very happy.”

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra leaders hope to re-open Powell Hall for the 2025-26 season.

Dilip Vishwanat
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
The St. Louis Symphony's IN UNISON chorus performs.

Other events and partnerships

Next season the orchestra will continue its chamber-music series Live at the Sheldon, which it inaugurated this season. Orchestra musicians curate the programs, which have included work by student composers at the University of Missouri. The Live at the Pulitzer series will continue for its 21st year, with concerts curated by St. Louis composer Christopher Stark.

Other concerts will feature the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON chorus with director Kevin McBeth and the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra.

St. Louis Symphony will also continue its partnership with the Big Muddy Dance Company, which will perform next month alongside an orchestral performance of Adam Schoenberg’s “Picture Studies.”

“It's always incredible to collaborate with the orchestra. For the audience that we have, that doesn't necessarily come to the symphony, and vice versa, I feel like it brings a whole new experience to both aspects,” said Big Muddy Dance Company Artistic Director Kirven Douthit-Boyd. “The audience development part of it is, it's really important for us, we are trying to get our name out to as many folks as we possibly can.”

The program for a January 2025 concert featuring Big Muddy Dance Company has not yet been settled.

St. Louis Symphony’s 2024-25 season will be its 145th, and the sixth with Denève as music director. His tenure has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and now a second season away from the orchestra’s home at Powell Hall.

“In a way, yes, it has been disrupting. I had some some projects that have not yet been completed. But I'd had to reinvent myself as well. I think I matured as a as a musician, because I had time to ask myself what we do and why we are doing it.,” Denève said. “That makes me look to the future with even more eagerness, to do many things that we have not done yet. I have plenty of projects that I could program many more seasons with.”

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.