After welcoming its 1 millionth visitor last year, the Whitaker Music Festival returns to the Missouri Botanical Garden offering a 10-week lineup of free Wednesday evening concerts. Pack a picnic and enjoy the beauty of the Garden grounds in summertime bloom as you listen to the tunes and rhythms of an eclectic rotation of artists from week to week. Concerts will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, May 29 to July 31. Free admission begins at 5 p.m. and last entry is at 8:30 p.m. For more information and complete concert lineup, visit http://www.mobot.org/whitaker.
This year’s artists include:
May 29: Old Souls Revival. From their humble beginnings playing 4-hour cover sets, Old Souls Revival have grown into a solid heartland rock band with subtle nods to roots, Americana, and blues influences. Frontman and songwriter Neil C. Luke spews poetic ramblings in an unexpected juxtaposition to the harmonized guitar riffs of Josiah Joyce and Matt Maher, and the tight rhythms of bassist Dan Ficocelli and drummer Jeremy Reidy.
June 5: Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective. From his expansive work composing the scores for Spike Lee films ranging from the documentary4 Little Girls to the epic Malcolm X and the crime film BlacKkKlansman, as well as his own discography of recordings such as A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), 2018 USA Fellow and six-time Grammy-winning trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard has been a consistent artistic force for making powerful musical statements concerning painful American tragedies – past and present. With his current quintet E-Collective he addresses the staggering cyclical epidemic of gun violence in this country with his new album Live, seven powerful songs recorded live in concert that both reflect the bitter frustration of the conscious masses while also providing a balm of emotional healing. Blanchard returns to St. Louis for the world premiere of his second opera, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which is co-commissioned by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Jazz St. Louis. His first opera, Champion, premiered in St. Louis in 2013 and has since been performed in San Francisco, Montreal, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans. The Garden is proud to host this internationally-known musician with the support of the Whitaker Foundation and partnership with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.
June 12: Tonina Saputo. Tonina is an independent singer/songwriter, bassist, music journalist and poet from St. Louis, who performs her original music along with her arrangements of covers in both Spanish and English. Tonina comes from a family of music lovers that exposed her to many music styles, from funk, soul, and jazz to classical music. She was born in San Diego, California but raised in St. Louis, from black and Sicilian backgrounds. All these components have given her an unparalleled musical scope playing many different genres yet making each her own. Her sense of rhythm, melody, and her extraordinary voice and song interpretation, make her performances a thrilling experience for all listeners.
June 19: River Kittens. In 2013, the River Kittens band was born from the raw rebellion of the talented, harmonious and sassy city gals who drank whiskey, and sang effortlessly and beautifully into the early morning hours. In 2016 they released the first EP, “Trouble.” The release led to bigger and bigger performances, like opening for Pokey LaFarge on New Year’s Eve at The Pageant, booking festivals like LouFest, and even touring. In 2019 they’ve revamped, evolved, and a releasing a new EP.
June 26: The Gene Dobbs Bradford Blues Experience. For over 25 years, Gene Dobbs Bradford has been electrifying audiences with his unique blend of blues, jazz, rock, funk, and soul. A classically trained musician, Gene studied double bass at the famed Eastman School of Music, but the call of the blues was too great. One evening while sitting in his dorm room listening to Muddy Waters, he decided to buy a harmonica and play the blues. That was the culmination of his experience listening to and learning the music and the start of his blues journey. That is what the Gene Dobbs Bradford Blues Experience is all about!
July 3: Mardra and Reggie Thomas. Mardra and Reggie Thomas are a husband-wife jazz team. Mardra Thomas is known for her realistic portrayal of Billie Holiday in concert and on the theatrical stage. You will hear a true jazz vocalist with a voice well suited to showcase Holiday’s sculptured phrasing that stamped a signature style on jazz singing. Reginald Thomas can be seen fronting his own groups (Mardra/Reggie Thomas Ensemble; OGD) on both piano and Hammond organ. Reggie also leads the Northern Illinois University School of Music’s Jazz Studies Program.
July 10: Boomtown United. Boomtown United have burst onto the scene and quickly turned into St. Louis’ premier ska collective. With horn driven and harmony-laced songs, their catalog is overflowing with an innovative sound that is captivating audiences everywhere they play. Compiled of veterans from all over the St. Louis ska and reggae scene, Boomtown United bring an energy that is both refreshing and therapeutic.
July 17: Annie and the Fur Trappers. Annie and the Fur Trappers is a St. Louis traditional jazz band that formed in 2016. The band includes clarinet, trumpet, trombone, tuba, banjo, guitar, and washboard.
July 24: Dave Grelle’s Playadors. Pianist and composer Dave Grelle, a veteran of bands including The Feed and Funky Butt Brass Band, launched his soul-jazz band after surviving a hit-and-run. The Playadors include saxophonists Ben Reece and Rob Nugent, trumpeter Adam Hucke, bassist Zeb Briskovich, drummer Kevin Bowers, and percussionist Matt Henry.
July 31: Starwolf. After traveling as stardust for 13.8 billion years through the universe, Starwolf has morphed into human form in order to satisfy your ears. The critically-acclaimed St. Louis-based synth-pop trio released their first EP, Ti Amo, Stargazer in 2018 and have quickly become one of the most popular bands in the region.
Whitaker Music Festival concerts will be held outdoors on the lawn of the Cohen Amphitheater, just west of the Climatron dome on the grounds of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets. The concert series is the only time of year when picnicking is allowed on Garden grounds. Visitors are welcome to bring their own picnic supper, baskets or coolers; no barbecue grills, fireworks, sparklers or pets. Please limit glass. Picnic fare and bar items will be available for purchase on site. The Garden is a tobacco-free campus; smoking or electronic smoking devices are not allowed anywhere on Garden property, and visitors will be asked to extinguish or discard tobacco items. Soliciting is not permitted. Help us keep the festival green by bringing your reusable bottle to get free water refills at the “hydration stations” located throughout the Garden. “Pledge to Hit a Green Note” by packing a picnic with reusable dinnerware and utilizing recycling stations located throughout the Garden. Wednesday evening admission is free after 5 p.m. Music begins at 7 p.m. and last entry is at 8:30 p.m. The Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden also remains open late until 7 p.m. on concert evenings, with free admission after 5 p.m.
Via Press Release