A New Sound at the Symphony
Photo Provided By The St. Louis Symphony
Written By Carrie Edelstein
She is not new to conducting, but the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's Resident Conductor, Gemma New, is certainly new to the idea of being swept off her feet... live at Powell Hall! At the close of the phenomenal concert Friday of "A Symphonic Night of Hip Hop Featuring Wyclef Jean," the singer/producer lifted New from her conducting post and carried her, like a new bride, off the stage, quite literally sweeping her off her feet.
"It was definitely a first," New says of the surprise gesture. But perhaps it just went with the flow of the show. After all, Jean nearly crowd surfed by running through the rows of guests, even making it upstairs to the fans singing along from the balcony.
"It was a spontaneous moment and an extension of the fantastic musical chemistry Gemma New and Wyclef developed during the rehearsal earlier that day," says Anthony Kiekow, Public Relations Manager of the SLSO.
Kevin C. Johnson was spot on with his review in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wyclef Jean did not disappoint, opening with a tender almost lullaby at the piano, as the orchestra accompanied him while he sang his rendition of the French tune "Ne me quitte pas." But there was another woman who eventually joined Jean on the stage, who also stole the show at times that evening: Moira Mack.
Jean said he met her at an audition at USC. Mack's instagram says she sang for Jean at USC's Thornton School of Music in early January and then joined him on tour. When she came onstage, she looked like an average college student, wearing a simple black dress with tights, casual shoes, an oversized jacket/sweater with a single iPod earbud in her ear, the other dangling next to her necklace. It was during Jean's third song, "911," which featured Mary J. Blige on the original recording, that Mack stepped in with her angelic vocals, later producing a sound so magical it led to the first standing ovation of the evening.
Simply put, Jean said, "Remember her name."
Expect more "New" happenings at Powell Hall. As the current director of the youth orchestra in addition to her resident conductor role, Gemma New is also looking forward to the new beginnings she will encounter while conducting three SLSO subscription concerts March 24-25.
"The program evokes the beauty, the brilliance and the wonder of the outside natural world, and I am hoping to bring this message to our audience through our music," New says.
More about New:
Sought after for her insightful interpretations and dynamic presence, New Zealand-born conductor Gemma New was appointed the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's Resident Conductor and Director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra to begin with the 2016/2017 Season. She also holds the position of Music Director for the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Ontario, Canada, and enjoys guest engagements this season with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Helsingborgs Symfoniorkester, Filharmonia Szczecin and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne in Europe, the Omaha, Albany and Berkeley Symphonies in the USA, and the Auckland Philharmonia and Christchurch Symphony in New Zealand.
In St. Louis, New leads education, family, community and Live at Powell Hall performances, covers for Music Director David Robertson and guest conductors and leads the Youth Orchestra. Robertson said of her appointment, "I’m very happy that Gemma New will be joining us in St. Louis. She stood out as a musician of great insight when we worked together a few years ago at Carnegie Hall. From the first moment in our audition, New opened a clear line of deep communication with our musicians, who responded to her clarity and passion. Her dedication to music education will be a true gift to the organization and the St. Louis community.”
New moves to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra from her successful time with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra as its Associate Conductor. In recent seasons, New has guest conducted several orchestras, including the Atlanta, San Diego, Grant Park, Toledo, Orlando and Long Beach Symphonies in the U.S., as well as the Christchurch Symphony and Opus Orchestras in New Zealand.
Gemma New holds a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Institute, where she studied with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar. She graduated from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, with a Bachelor of Music (Honors) in violin performance.