Garden of Song

The Whitaker Music Festival

Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime. While the official start of summer is still a few weeks off, one of St. Louis' favorite warm-weather events gets a leg up this week. The Missouri Botanical Gardens' (4344 Shaw Boulevard) eleventh annual Whitaker Music Festival starts Wednesday, June 1, and runs every Wednesday evening through July 27. Owing to construction, the Linnean Lawn hosts this year's concerts (follow the signs), but the rest of the drill is the same as the previous ten years: BYO blanket or chairs, mood lighting (a.k.a. citronella candles on a stick), picnic basket or backpack, and whatever goodies will trump the delicacies brought by the people on surrounding blankets (you have nothing if you can't leave them salivating over your sauvignon blanc and wild-pheasant-and-rice-filled crêpes). If you can tear yourself away from the portable fondue set and listen to the live music (that's Danita Mumphard, from last year), you might be surprised to hear something truly amazing. The James Matthews Trio starts off the series with jazz piano, but this summer's lineup boasts a huge mix of jazz, bluegrass, rock -- even a harmonica master. For a complete lineup, visit www.mobot.org or call 314-577-9400. Garden admission is free on Wednesdays after 5 p.m. and the music starts at 7 p.m. P.S. Please leave Fido and the turkey fryer at home. -- Amy Helms

Say Grace
The Saint Louis Ballet performs

Cory Weaver

We're not all fortunate enough to have been graced with, um, grace. And no matter how hard we try to have poise walking even one block in the most uncomfortable shoes ever invented, nothing doing. But that doesn't mean those of us who have suffered clumsy concussions are incapable of appreciating the grace of others -- like the dancers performing in Saint Louis Ballet's presentation of Swan Lake at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday (June 3 through 5). At these performances at Washington University's Edison Theatre (6445 Forsyth Boulevard; www.stlouisballet.org), we'll not only love watching delicate movements, but we'll also get to revisit Tchaikovsky's beautiful music. To join us, call MetroTix at 314-534-1111 ($23 to $30). -- Alison Sieloff

Note for Note
Missouri Harmony returns

SUN 6/5

St. Louis has deep ties to rock & roll (via Ike Turner and Chuck Berry), jazz (via Miles Davis) and rap (via Nelly, et al.), but the city can also claim a strong influence on the art of shape-note singing. The old folk music is a form of a cappella singing in which the singers faced each other while voicing the four notes of the scale (fa, so, la and mi, for you Sound of Music fans). Each syllable had a corresponding shape on the page (triangle, circle, square and diamond, respectively), so singers didn't need to be capable of reading music to sing along. Throughout the 1800s the standard songbook for shape-note singers was The Missouri Harmony, introduced in St. Louis by Allen Carden sometime around 1820. Recently saved from obscurity by a new printing (courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society Press), The Missouri Harmony gets a new workout by the Wings of Song Shape-Note Singers at 2 p.m. at the Missouri History Museum (Lindell Boulevard and DeBaliviere Avenue; 314-746-4599). Admission is free, and copies of the book are available for purchase. -- Paul Friswold

Azor Loves Zémir

SUN 6/5

André Grétry's opera Beauty and the Beast begins its run at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this week, and while the story may be a little too familiar thanks to Disney (and Angela Lansbury), this production dispenses with singing crockery but retains all the magic. The show begins at 7 p.m. at the Loretto-Hilton Center (130 Edgar Road, Webster Groves; 314-961-0644 or www.experienceopera.org), and tickets are $38.25 to $101. -- Paul Friswold

 
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