From Africa to the Oort Cloud

St. Louis Symphony members join WUSTL students to highlight contemporary percussion March 23

A photograph of Comet ISON (Comet C/2012 S1), which originated in the Oort Cloud, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope Oct. 9, 2013. (Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

At the far edge of the solar system, nearly a full light-year from the Earth, lies the Oort Cloud, a vast collection of icy comets representing the furthest reaches of the sun’s gravitational influence.

In “Oort Cloud” (2011), composer Shannon Wood offers a lyrical depiction of Oort Cloud comets, dislodged by the pull of the large outer planets, plunging toward the sun and, occasionally, rebounding along hyperbolic trajectories and into interstellar space.

At 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 23, Wood, principal timpanist of the St. Louis Symphony, will bring “Oort Cloud” to Washington University in St. Louis as part of the of the symphony’s Community Partnerships Program.

Cosponsored by KWUR and Student Union, the evening will highlight a series of contemporary percussive works. In addition to “Oort Cloud,” the program will include compositions by Preston Stahly, Richard Schwarz and CRASH, the trash can drum group organized by WUSTL Beat Therapy Ensemble.

The free performance begins at 7:30 p.m. in the 560 Music Center’s E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall, located at 560 Trinity Ave. in University City.

For more information, call 314-935-5566 or email

An evening of contemporary percussion

The program will open with “Kestrel” (1984), a work for flute, harp and percussion by contemporary composer Preston Stahly. Joining Wood will be flutist Ann Choomack and harpist Allegra Lilly, both also of the St. Louis Symphony.

Wood then will perform Richard Schwarz’s “Brujo” (1981), a piece for solo percussion inspired by the Dagari People of Ghana, West Africa. Next, Wood will join the seven members of CRASH — Rohan Khazanchi, Anu Goel, Graham Day, Jacob Nydegger, Lorraine Kung, Rebecca Yang and Zack Schultz — for “Improvisation for Nontraditional Percussion Instruments” (2014).

Concluding the concert will be “Oort Cloud.” Joining Wood will be Choomack and Lilly, as well as the St. Louis Symphony’s Erin Schrieber, violin; Christian Woehr, viola; David Kim, cello; Timothy Zavadil, clarinet; and Will James, percussion. Conductor will be Steven Jarvi, who leads the WUSTL Symphony Orchestra.

Shannon Wood

Prior to joining the St. Louis Symphony, Wood held positions with the Charleston Symphony, the Naples Philharmonic, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra and the Grand Rapids Symphony. He has toured extensively as both an orchestral and chamber musician and performed with more than a dozen symphonies throughout Europe, New Zealand, South America, Asia and the United States. In addition, Wood owns and operates, a source for vintage mallet percussion instruments and timpani.

WUSTL Beat Therapy

WUSTL Beat Therapy is a community outreach organization serving the Greater St. Louis area through music education and music therapy. Founded in 2011 by Jason Liang and Prateek Kumar, it provides opportunities for WUSTL students and student groups to participate in music-based volunteer programming.

St. Louis Symphony Community Partnerships program

Guest musicians for the performance are sponsored by the St. Louis Symphony’s Community Partnerships program, which presents more than 250 free events, concerts, and classes each year throughout the greater St. Louis area. For more information about upcoming events, or to find out how you can help, please visit the Community and Education section of the St. Louis Symphony website,, or call 314-286-4432.