For the majority of the last 30 years, the Philharmonic has hosted the event at Queeny Park, which helps the all-volunteer group raise money in order to continue providing free classical music to the St. Louis area.
"For many arts organizations in this present climate, it's difficult to accomplish funding goals because the money available for the arts is being spread more thinly," said Robin Weatherall, who is the timpanist and principal percussionist with the Philharmonic.
This makes the Pops concerts that much more important with theme's such as Friday's "by request" marquee helping attract a wider audience. As such, the concert included numbers by classic American performers such as Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra, as well as a medley that most any moviegoer would recognize; scores by composer John Williams covered music from films such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and the finale from E.T., all of which rounded out a well-known but beautifully executed Pops presentation.
Conductor Robert Hart Baker showed some restraint as the Orchestra paced through the concert, which he characterized as a "potpourri" of classic, enjoyable favorites. Looking ahead, Baker noted the Philharmonic will take on Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in March of 2012 at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Performing Arts at Lindenwood University.
"It's going to be a big season for us," Baker said. "We are proud to be one of only three true civic orchestras, with Chicago and Boston being the other two, and among those three we are the only fully-independent orchestra."
Membership to the St. Louis Philharmonic is available, which guarantees four tickets to the five regular- season concerts the orchestra performs beginning in the Fall and ending in the Spring. The performances are free, however, with tickets issued on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition to leading the St. Louis Philharmonic, Baker also conducts leading community orchestras in Ashville, NC, and Philadelphia. Although Baker’s personal library and inspirations guide the repertoire of regular-season performances, the by-request theme Friday was assembled using questionnaires sent to members and attendees following the close of last season.
The St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra opens its regular season on October, 21 at Logan College's Purser Auditorium.