My long-time good friend and bass trombone extraordinaire Gerry Pagano is retiring from the St. Louis symphony next month after 27 years. That’s over 125 in dog years!!
Gerry and I have talked much over the years about the fate of symphony players resting on the cities in which openings happen to pop up for their particular instrument. St. Louis was the city that provided a job and a home for Gerry and his family throughout most of his playing career. But he gave that city and the surrounding community much more than low notes in the back of the orchestra.
Gerry appeared on local St. Louis media channels promoting the orchestra, his low brass collective played throughout the area, and he enthusiastically perform concerts and recorded albums in the area’s halls and studios.
One of the reasons for our decade’s-long friendship is that we share a strong desire to explore more with our instrument than is traditionally done. For Gerry, that has resulted in numerous concerts with his groups, masterclasses throughout the world, teaching each summer in Interlochen, various self-published CDs, and of course our strange projects including Biosphere and our CD, Roads Less Traveled.
So now, as he bids St. Louis farewell for the warmth and southwestern beauty of New Mexico, he will be putting on a concert June 7th at 7:30 at The Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis. He will be joined by some of his low brass colleagues as well as symphony string players that will be performing a variety of great music.
I’ve been helping Gerry orchestrate the multimedia aspect of this event by creating several short videos to be played between staging changes for the different ensembles that will be performing that night. Think ‘palate cleansers’ between sips of fine wine.
The short musical pieces Gerry and I have chosen for these stage setup breaks come from some of my compositions as well as pieces Gerry and I have recorded throughout the years.
One of our most memorable recording session was at Biosphere II, a sprawling earth climate facility in southern Arizona. Generated within a massive spherical dome known as ‘The Lung” was 25 seconds of sette natural reverb. Now, I ask you, how can trombone players resist that?
We couldn’t, so we charmed our way into this odd structure and recorded for several hours. I had written out some duets to record and we each spent time improvising. At one point, Gerry started playing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. I suggested to him that he play the main theme, pausing between phrases to let the notes ring through the reverb. He did a great job so I wrote and recorded a bit of orchestration around his playing and put some dramatic video over the music.
That will give you a sense of the pieces we’ve chosen for the ‘palate cleanses’ throughout the performance.
Gerry will post the concert as individual pieces on his YouTube channel after the performance which I will point you to once they are posted. But, obviously if you will be in St. Louis on June 7th, be sure to check out his concert.
Like Gerry, the concert will be entertaining and full of terrific music. And true to Gerry’s nature, his music won’t stop just because he’s retiring from sitting in that chair in the back of the orchestra.
If you can’t make the concert, feel free to send Gerry a note of congratulations.