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BSO and STL GLD break musical barriers in virtual series

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
BSO and STL GLD break musical barriers in virtual series
(top) BSO musicians, (left) STL GLD, (right, top to bottom) Moe Pope of STL GLD, Thomas Wilkins, BSO. PHOTOS: COURTESY BSO

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has partnered with Boston-based hip-hop group STL GLD to debut a series of online videos exploring the synergy between different genres of music. “Us: A Celebration of Community” showcases performances by and dialogue among STL GLD members, members of the BSO and other guest musicians, illustrating how the power of music and artistic connection transcends genre labels.

Six of the seven sessions are available for free to view at any time on the BSO website. The final program, featuring a conversation between independent lyrical artist Najee Janey and BSO piccoloist Cynthia Meyers, airs on Nov. 13.

In session two, Thomas Wilkins, BSO’s Germeshausen youth and family concert conductor and artistic advisor for education and community engagement, chats with STL GLD members Moe Pope and The Arcitype about their musical influences.

“I think great artists have always been listening to each other. I think about the relationship between the African American composer William Grant Still and George Gershwin. Or Aaron Copeland and Leonard Bernstein,” says Wilkins. “Real good musicians just love music.”

During the talk, the artists swap favorites, from rapper Kendrick Lamar and saxophonist John Coltrane to orchestral composer Gustav Holst. STL GLD member Tim Hall, who serves as the host for each of these episodes, has compiled a Spotify playlist of the music referenced in these conversations. It’s a fascinating way to compare and contrast these influences in real time.

“All of us had something outside of the genre that we normally work in to contribute to the conversation. We had a lot of fun,” says Wilkins. “In the process, what happened was that all the labels got removed, we were just talking about music and life and humanity. And we cemented an even deeper bond as a result of it.”

The project began development a year-and-a-half ago and was originally envisioned as an in-person celebration of music. But even online, the BSO/STL GLD sessions allow Bostonians to see a more casual side of BSO musicians working outside of Symphony Hall. They also break down rigid genre and access barriers that often dog traditional orchestra experiences.

Online and available to anyone with an internet connection, violins riff behind Moe Pope’s bars and artists across genre lines support each other through COVID-19 shutdowns, which have affected performance opportunities across the industry. “It’s important to continue creating these programs, period,” says Wilkins. “It removes labels and it allows us the freedom to have access to each other’s essence.”