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Adam Maness’ new composition, ‘The Delmar Wall,’ aims to ‘hold a mirror up’ to St. Louis

Dana Hotle and Adam Maness joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the Chamber Project St. Louis' upcoming concerts.
Mary Edwards | St. Louis on the Air
Dana Hotle and Adam Maness joined "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss the Chamber Project St. Louis' upcoming concerts.

The 442’s pianist and composer Adam Maness is a lifelong St. Louisan and, with that, he has something on his mind: socioeconomic and racial divisions in the city of St. Louis. He recently composed a piece called “The Delmar Wall” to address those issues.

This week and next, his composition will be played as part of the Chamber Project St. Louis“Essence” performances, taking place at CRAVE Coffeehouse and the Vino Gallery.

“I was asked by the Chamber Project to write something that means something to me about St. Louis,” Maness told St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter. “I don’t know how I couldn’t write about the social issues we are facing in our community. They are, by far, the most defining aspects of our community in the 21st century. Besides, perhaps, the Cardinals being so dominant … but is that as important? No. So, yeah, I had to write about this.”

The piece was written for clarinet, violin, viola and cello … but features an unusual performance setup. The cellist begins the performance alone, physically separated from the clarinet, viola and violin.

“The whole premise of the piece is to bring together people over ‘the wall,’” Maness said.

Dana Hotle, a clarinetist and co-artistic director of Chamber Project St. Louis, said this kind of work was a good fit for this round of performances, which are themed around the idea of “essence,” which is meant to evoke the idea of ‘home’ in composers.

The Chamber Project plays six to seven mixed chamber concerts throughout the year with a different group of musicians and different kinds of music on stage. The group often mixes new and old music, which is the case with these upcoming concerts which mix new works, like Maness’ composition, and the old, such as Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B minor.   

The concerts are frequently held in non-traditional places, like bars and coffee shops, to give people a more intimate and relatable feeling in regard to chamber music.

“With themes, it gives context to new listeners or people who are not familiar with classical music,” Hotle said. “We want you to come and hear what we do. We very intentionally set the tone so it is inviting to all kinds of people to come to our concerts.”

Another unique thing the chamber project does is hold open rehearsals. Last month, the group rehearsed Manness’ piece at the Dark Room, a wine bar across the street from the St. Louis Symphony. This allows people to give feedback on the piece before its final performance.

Maness said that feedback from that open rehearsal informed some of how he structured the performance of his piece.

“As we’ve been rehearsing it, what I love is that it is a conversation,” Hotle said. “The way I look at it is: ‘how do we overcome these cultural divides in our community that can be so damaging?’ This kind of approaches it in a day-to-day way. What can we do every day? The way Adam has staged it and the music is put together, it inspires me about what we can do every day to watch our community grow.”

"It is the advantage we have as musicians: we don't have to say everything. People will add their own history to it."- Adam Maness

Maness said he was inspired to compose the piece “just by being a citizen of St. Louis. It is on my mind every day.”

The piece meshes Maness’ background in jazz with a respect and knowledge of classical music. Hotle described it as “refreshing” and “soulful,” saying that there is real authenticity and originality in Maness’ composition.

Maness said purposefully kept the piece, and it’s commentary on the ‘Delmar divide,’ less heavy-handed.

“I wanted to hold up a mirror to the situation,” Maness said. “It is the advantage we have as musicians: we don’t have to say everything. People will add their own history to it. It’s not about that street as much as the attitudes we have toward one another.”

Related Events

What: Chamber Project St. Louis Presents "Essence"
When: Friday, October 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: CRAVE Coffee House, 3500 Caroline St., St. Louis, MO 63104
More information.

What: Chamber Project St. Louis Presents "Essence"
When: Tuesday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Vino Gallery, 4701 McPherson Avenue St. Louis, MO, 63108
More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.