A heavenly sound

By Charlotte Beard

Saint Louis Cathedral Concerts at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis has delivered a wide array of musical talent to the community since 1992

One building of distinction whose main structure was completed in 1914, has been hosting sacred music from local, national, and international artists since 1993. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis located at 4431 Lindell Boulevard in the Central West End is not only a church home to its parishioners, but it is home to the idea that was birthed in 1992 to create the Saint Louis Cathedral Concerts.

“Monsignor James Telthorst was the rector of the cathedral and he really wanted to open the place up to the community,” shares Scott Kennebeck, Executive Director of Saint Louis Cathedral Concerts. “So, when he hired the new music director, John Romeri, they came up with the idea to have some concerts in the cathedral. We’ve grown for the past 27 years since that modest beginning with three concerts.”

To date, St. Louis Cathedral Concerts has entertained more than 225,000 audience members through its performances and educational programs. The concert series has experienced overwhelming tickets sales for performances such as The Ambassadors of Harmony (St. Louis men’s a cappella chorus), The Four Tenors (talent direct from Rome, Italy), The Vienna Boys Holiday Choir Holiday Concert, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, just to name a few.

Kennebeck shared that most of the artists that come to perform are those of which he is aware, some artists are referrals from the management of artists, or interests come from those who are aware of the St. Louis Cathedral Concerts program. Kennebeck states that the artists who come to perform are known around the world. The ticket costs and/or donations and sponsors cover the costs of bringing performances to the cathedral. The Missouri Arts Council and the Regional Arts Commission are a couple of those sponsors, along with others.

“We are an independent 501(c)(3) from the cathedral parish itself and the archdiocese,” stated Kennebeck. “We do consider ourselves a community outreach program of the cathedral and the archdiocese. We are completely self-funded. We don’t provide any funding to the cathedral or the archdiocese, nor do we get funding from them for the program. All the ticket proceeds and our donations from our very generous donors and sponsors allow us to bring these groups from all over the world right here to St. Louis for live performances at Cathedral Basilica.”

Last year the St. Louis Cathedral Concerts program began its free admission Joyous Jubilee Concert Series. This year the three-concert series took place in January and February at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

“This is the second year we’ve done our Joyous Jubilee series which is a series of free concerts (open to the public) that feature spiritual, gospel, and other sacred music,” stated Kennebeck. “This year we had the North City Deanery Choir, which is made up of singers from Catholic churches and other denominations from north city that came and sang for us. We also had The Sheldon’s City of Music All-Star Chorus, which is made up of select singers from high schools around St. Louis. They came and did a fabulous concert. (Also), New Sunny Mount Baptist Church Chancel Choir and the Gospel Symphonic Choir came to do a concert for us. We’re going to do that again next year with some different groups. We also, have another series of free concerts that we (host) – our Chamber Music Series. Those are done at various churches around the St. Louis area in September.”

The next ticketed performance in the St. Louis Cathedral Concert series will take place March 29 at 2:30 p.m. at the Cathedral Basilica. The Organ Plus concert will feature organist Andrew Peters whom Kennebeck shared is the Music Director at Second Presbyterian Church in the Central West End. He will be accompanied by violinist, Hannah Frey; flutist, Jennifer Gartley; and harpist, Megan Stout. Tickets are available at the door the afternoon of the concert, daily in the Cathedral gift shop (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) or for purchase online at cathedralconcerts.org. Those interested may also call 314-533-7662.

Kennebeck shared that the Cathedral Concerts program is currently exploring other ways to expand its reach in the community and connect people to the Cathedral Basilica. 

“We’re expanding our education and community engagement program – Cathedral Arts Academy” stated Kennebeck. “The first step in that is developing our own choir, the Cathedral Arts Chorale, with development of that choir and voice lessons at the cathedral. The auditions for the Cathedral Arts Chorale are on Saturday, March 21 and Saturday, March 28. People can go to the website to sign up for an audition time (https://cathedralconcerts.org/cathedral-arts-chorale). The audition process is easy. We are just wanting to hear people’s voices (while) having them sing ‘Amazing Grace’ in their own style and their own key to see how their voice ranges. There is one classical piece by Thomas Tallis called ‘If You Love Me.’ We’re asking people to prepare, come in and sing their voice part. The music links are on the website [with] practice videos for their voice part that they can click on to go to YouTube. We want to make it as easy as possible for people who are interested in joining this new community choir. Its purpose is to perform major sacred works with orchestra in the Cathedral Basilica. It will be fun and a chance to open up the cathedral for more people in the community to come and sing.”

The director for the choir will be Michael Engelhardt, and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis will be home to the new chorale where choir practices will take place. 

Kennebeck also shared another plan for the Cathedral Arts Academy is to have mosaic art classes given the collection of mosaics found in the Cathedral Basilica. The classes will explore how stained glass is created and the history behind it and mosaics, along with practical application and art classes.

“We’ve had some conversations with (Emil) Frei & Associates in Kirkwood,” stated Kennebeck, “(Who are) well-known around the world for their stained glass application. Just about any church in St. Louis that you go in will have Frei & Associates stained glass in them.”

Details for when and where the mosaic arts program may take place is still being determined. For more information and the latest information on St. Louis Cathedral Concerts and its programs visit https://cathedralconcerts.org.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos An audience attends a performance of Saint Louis Cathedral Concerts at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.