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You Say It's Your Birthday 

Well, it's the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra's birthday, too!

Not many turn 125 -- and, on top of that, still play the lovers' rock. But that's the brand of mojo the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra can brag about. The SLSO began life in 1880 and will commence its 125th season with a prodigal son at the helm.

Leonard Slatkin (pictured) takes a break from leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra to conduct the SLSO at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday (September 17 through 19) at lush Powell Symphony Hall (718 North Grand Boulevard). You might remember Mr. Slatkin -- symphony devotees certainly will. He was the SLSO's music director from 1979 until 1996, when he departed St. Louis to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., which he in turn left in 2000 for his current position.

Having Slatkin back for this season's opening weekend is a savvy move on the part of the SLSO, and not only for the obvious reasons (i.e., brilliant, renowned conductor and old bud). With the untimely death of his immediate successor, Hans Vonk, last month and the SLSO still in search of a permanent leader, now is an apt time to reach for a little comfort food in the form of a familiar, popular figure. So welcome back, maestro. Tickets are $12 to $99 (314-534-1700 or

Friday, September 17, also sees the kickoff of Grand Center's arts season at the "Art Lot" at Grand and Lindell boulevards. This daylong inaugural gala dovetails with a few impressive Grand Center birthdays: The symphony, of course, is an august 125 years old; the Fox Theatre's merely middle-aged and, yeah, foxy at 75; KETC-TV is a kid at 50; and Jazz at the Bistro is a be-boppin' li'l 10-year-old. Events begin at 9 a.m. with a live KMOX broadcast of The Charles Brennan Show and continue through 9 p.m. Several of the district's premier cultural venues will host open houses from 5 to 7 p.m. And all events, all day long, are free and open to the public.

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