Song of the STL

On Saturday, September 4, we tuned in to local musical frequencies in their vast and varied incarnations. What we heard, all day and all night:

Instructor Debra Simpson prefers subtle sounds for her hour-and-a-half-long classes, gentle, unobtrusive chants, world-music instrumentals and new-age soundscapes. Other instructors are strict about silence and the necessity of stillness, but Simpson believes music adds a level of relaxation and serves as a focus point when the mind starts to wander.

Here, at noon, the students are listening to what sounds like a quiet Peter Gabriel instrumental while working the final relaxation pose: lying flat on their backs, legs and arms totally at ease, mind at rest. So quiet is the music that the crickets and frogs overtake it. All is calm. Then Simpson strikes a little bell thrice: ting, ting, ting.

The final tone echoes through the room for what seems like an eternity. Somewhere out there, it's still ringing. -- Randall Roberts

11:35 a.m.: Shelia Ozamoto bangs on her drum all 
Jennifer Silverberg
11:35 a.m.: Shelia Ozamoto bangs on her drum all day.
3:40 p.m.: Yes, Johnny Rose will still perform a singing 
telegram, to the amusement of Steve Jeager.
Jennifer Silverberg
3:40 p.m.: Yes, Johnny Rose will still perform a singing telegram, to the amusement of Steve Jeager.

12:39 p.m.
Apple Store, West County Center
Des Peres

Kim, an eighteen-year-old with a blond ponytail, and nineteen-year-old Rachel, whose dark hair is modeled after Ashlee Simpson, met for the first time a mere ten minutes ago, but already they're operating together like old chums. In the antiseptic white hipness of St. Louis' Apple Store, they share a common goal: a lavender mini-iPod. They've joined forces to conquer their credit card-holding parents.

"And you can play it in your car," Kim explains.

"But I've got CDs for my car," her mom rebuts.

"Yeah, but thieves can steal your CDs. They won't see this."

"Just hide your CDs!"

"But you can't keep as many CDs in your car as fit on this," Rachel puts in. "This holds 1,000 songs."

A sales clerk approaches.

"Does anyone have any questions?" he asks.

"No, she's doing just fine on her own," says Kim's mom. -- Jordan Harper

2:00 p.m.
Backyard barbecue
St. Louis

This barbecue has everything you'd expect: washers (homemade boxes!), beer (High Life!) and bags of meat (the host's a butcher!). And music, wafting out of the garage like so much smoke: Zeppelin follows Bowie and Public Enemy. "Roam" by the B-52's, Nelly's "Ride Wit Me."

The Clash gives way to the Darkness; Tight Pants Syndrome provides local flavor.

A trip indoors brings respite from the heat: a kitchen full of food and a TV pimping Haircut 100 on VH1's Bands Reunited.

"Fantastic Day," indeed. -- Mia York

3:37 p.m.
Greek Festival, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
St. Louis

A troupe of young girls transforms from a line into a circle, sashaying across the stage to the fast-paced tune of "Zorba the Greek."

Two-year-old Isabella Robinson, in her mother's lap, wriggles and claps.

"I have a feeling when she's old enough she'll be joining them," confides her mother, Nadina.

Isabella giggles. She thinks the girls, outfitted in their white shirts, black pants, caps and red sashes, look like pirates.

The audience in the auditorium claps thunderously in time to the girls' moving feet. Faster and faster they dance, winding into a tight spiral. Finally they can't compress any further. A final unison stamp of feet and the caps rocket into the air. -- Noble

3:40 p.m.
Singing telegram
Arcelia's Mexican restaurant, Lafayette Square
St. Louis

In bursts Johnny Rose, clutching a thicket of balloons as black as the tuxedo he often wears. A wide, embarrassed grin creases the face of Steve Jeager, who on this day, his 40th birthday, must endure the playful torment of a singing telegram. Jeager's family has come from everywhere to be here, and they stand smiling alongside his girlfriend, the architect of this wicked merriment.

To the 80-year-old tune of "It Had to Be You," Rose holds forth in song, his syrupy tenor rising above the din of clanking margaritas.

You used to be young, but now you are old
You used to look good, you used to have fun
Your hair's turning gray. Look, you're wrinkled and old
What happened to youth -- to tell the truth, I know this is cold
You're over the hill, you know that you've gone -- way over the hill

The singing telegram has been delivered, and the dining room is filled with laughter and the happiness wrung from a song husbands might still sing to their wives. -- Conklin

4:46 p.m.
Intersection of Vandeventer and Tower Grove avenues
St. Louis

A van idles at a stoplight, a man at the wheel. A woman strolls slowly down the sidewalk, head held high.

The man turns up his stereo, leans out the window, mouths the lyrics:

Some people want diamond rings
Some just want everything
Everything means nothing if I ain't got you

The woman lifts her head a little higher, grins. The light turns green. -- Noble

4:54 p.m.
In front of Busch Stadium
St. Louis

A steady stream of red-shirted fans marches across Stadium Plaza toward the short staircase leading up to the stadium. At the foot of the stairs Andre sits with his trumpet, blowing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Most of the fans hear just a snatch of the song as they trudge past, and maybe drop a coin into his splayed case. Linger, though, and you hear Andre play the song through more than a hundred times.

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