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Friday, April 13, 2012

Save Powell Hall: Concert Marketing Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

Posted By on Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 6:47 AM

Take one last look at Powell Hall, because the weekend performance of the Scythian Suite could literally bring the house down. - CITY OF ST. LOUIS
  • City of St. Louis
  • Take one last look at Powell Hall, because the weekend performance of the Scythian Suite could literally bring the house down.

Destruction isn't something commonly associated with symphonies. But building-crushing sound is at the heart of a particularly eye-catching promotion for the St. Louis Symphony's performance of Sergei Prokofiev's Scythian Suite.

The "Save Powell Hall" campaign has been the St. Louis Symphony's vehicle to promote the April 14 and April 15 performances of the Russian composer's suite. The promotion includes a web site urging St. Louis residents to do what they can to prevent the illustrious symphony hall from crumbling from the force of Prokofiev's music.

"April 14th and 15th, the STL Symphony performs Prokofiev's earth-shattering Scythian Suite," the web site states. "Without a full house to absorb the sound, this thing will bring Powell Hall to the ground."

To emphasize this warning, a web video was created showing the doors to Powell Hall being blown off as a snippet from the suite plays in the background. The site also includes humorous blog posts detailing the history of the composition in St. Louis.

Jonna Robertson, vice president of marketing for the St. Louis Symphony, says the "Save Powell Hall" campaign is an "extension of the work that we've doing to build awareness about the symphony in general." She notes that the symphony went through a rebranding in 2010, which included changes to the entity's messaging and logo. She said the symphony created a television commercial and a series of companion videos raising awareness about the concert experience.

"This year the project I wanted to do is experiment with how much awareness we can bring to one particular concert, not just to the orchestra in general but using one weekend of concerts to do the same kind of thing," Robertson says.

Since the Scythian Suite hasn't been performed in St. Louis since 1977, Robertson says it provided for more freedom for the promotion. The "Save Powell Hall" concept, she says, corresponds with the forcefulness of the suite. "There's moments where it's really, really quiet and then two seconds later it's blasting, knocking-you-down-in-your-chair situation," Robertson says. "Again, the range of emotion that you'll get is dependent upon the conductor. It's sort of known for those moments."

Perhaps the most novel aspect of the "Save Powell Hall" campaign is how it's attaching qualities - such as music powerful enough to detonate a building - not usually associated to symphonies. Robertson says such an approach is a good way to broaden interest.

"If I know very little about classical music, it's sometimes easier for me to relate to a piece that sounds more like rock music or something," Robertson says. "When you can kind of frame it in that context or in a different way, it kind of brings a little bit more accessibility to it. Someone who likes the John Williams concerts, for example, might really love this. They just don't know what it's supposed to sound like yet."

"So the idea was to get people to the site where we have a clip, so you can hear it," she adds. "And [you] can get some familiarity with it and understand just how powerful it can be."

Robertson says she's received "overwhelmingly positive" response both from internal constituents - such as musicians and board members - and from the symphony's social media following on Facebook and Twitter. The Save Powell Hall site features of box monitoring reaction to the campaign on Twitter.

"We're pretty pleased," she says.

By the way, Robertson says there's a $22 special on the Save Powell Hall website. Click here to go straight to the source.

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