malena smith

Malena Smith sings a new arrangement of "America the Beautiful" created for the Songs of America project. She sings at the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis.

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra recently announced the launch of its “Songs of America” video project, a collection of performances that celebrate the breadth of voices in American music, framed against a backdrop of St. Louis landmarks.

SLSO Music Director Stéphane Denève and musicians of the SLSO are joined by St. Louis-area partners including singers, artists, and videographers for this series of pre-recorded videos, which will be made available through a variety of platforms and at no cost to viewers. These SLSO small ensemble performances were recorded between June 18 and June 20 at the orchestra’s home at Powell Hall and were filmed at notable locations throughout the St. Louis region.

The inaugural phase of the “SLSO Songs” project includes six video installments. Performances will be released daily, beginning on Monday, June 29, at 7 p.m. on the SLSO’s YouTube page, digital magazine SLSO Stories, and on social media. The final two videos, one featuring SLSO Music Director Stéphane Denève and the other with vocalist Kennedy Holmes, will be released on Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4. 

The SLSO shares these musical portraits to showcase the spirit that makes St. Louis unique and to allow the community to connect through music during these challenging times. The project strives to inspire dialogue and celebrate the many voices in music, a bedrock of Denève’s Music Directorship and the foundation of the SLSO’s 2020/2021 classical season he programmed.

In addition to SLSO musicians and Music Director Stéphane Denève on piano, performances feature other St. Louis artists, including:

  • Kennedy Holmes, vocalist and finalist on NBC’s The Voice (2018)
  • Brian Owens, singer, songwriter, and community advocate
  • Malena Smith, vocalist and SLSO IN UNISON Fellow
  • The 442s, genre-bending instrumental ensemble

Filming for the SLSO’s “Songs of America” video project took place at key St. Louis landmarks, including:

  • Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, East St. Louis, Illinois: Park overlooking downtown St. Louis dedicated to the memory of Malcolm W. Martin, a veteran and staunch community advocate
  • Scott Joplin State Historic Site, St. Louis: the one-time home of Scott Joplin, composer and pianist, and the father of ragtime music
  • Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, St. Louis: Downtown St. Louis facility honoring St. Louis-area military service members, veterans, and their families
  • Kiener Plaza Park, St. Louis: Downtown St. Louis park, overlooking the Old Courthouse, site of the infamous Scott vs. Sandford case, in which Dred Scott, an enslaved man, unsuccessfully sued for his freedom in 1857
  • First Baptist Church-St. Louis: The oldest African-American church west of the Mississippi River

The SLSO has partnered with videographers Jason Pippi and Austin Ratanasitee for this project.

"Songs of America" Schedule

The following installments of the SLSO’s “Songs of America” video project will be released daily at 7 p.m. on the SLSO’s YouTube page, digital magazine SLSO Stories, and social media.

  • Monday, June 29 — BATES/WARD (arr. Maness) “America the Beautiful," filmed at the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, East St. Louis, Illinois.
  • Tuesday, June 30 — JOPLIN (arr. Abeling) “The Easy Winners," filmed at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site, St. Louis.
  • Wednesday, July 1 —  WALKER Lyric for Strings, filmed at the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, St. Louis.
  • Thursday, July 2 — COOKE “A Change Is Gonna Come," filmed at Kiener Plaza Park, St. Louis.
  • Friday, July 3 — W.C. HANDY “St. Louis Blues," feat. Stéphane Denève on piano.
  • Saturday, July 4 — TRADITIONAL (arr. Maness) “Amazing Grace," Filmed at First Baptist Church - St. Louis.

The SLSO rebroadcasts previous concerts on St. Louis Public Radio each Saturday at 8 p.m. on 90.7 KWMU and stlpublicradio.org. Hosted by Robert Peterson of St. Louis Public Radio and Tim Munro, SLSO Creative Partner and Grammy Award winner, the concerts include interviews with artists during intermission. Full program listings can be found at slso.org/radiobroadcasts. On the first Sunday of the month, the Nine Network of Public Media televises a previous SLSO concert. Broadcasts are at 5 p.m. on the Nine Network (Channel 9) and later posted to its website.