Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 31, 1997

Mahler's 2nd
Backstage Virtuoso

Linda Goodwin has a recurring nightmare concerning Mahler's sprawling second symphony, known commonly as the Resurrection Symphony.

It's called daylight savings time.

"Our performance date is the day after we set the clocks ahead, and I have this image of all my musicians running in an hour late," says the assistant concert manager of the Peabody Symphony Orchestra. It's Goodwin's job to worry about these things: not only seeing that the musicians show up on time at the correct hall (the Mahler 2 is so big it requires the likes of Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall to perform it), but also that they are appropriately dressed, have the correct musical score and are allocated enough room on stage to play their instruments.

And that's just on a performance day.

Goodwin, who has been with the Peabody since November of 1973, has a staff of two full-time and two part-time assistants whose job it is to do everything necessary to prepare a concert short of actually standing up and conducting the orchestra. And in a pinch she could probably do that as well, since this May she will be completing her graduate performance diploma in conducting, earned over the years while working full time at Peabody.

"Our job is to see to it that all the details are taken care of ahead of time so that when the conductor steps to the podium the only thing he needs to do is conduct," is how Goodwin describes the function of her office and staff. "The conductor doesn't need to hear 'Where's my mute?' That sort of thing should all be taken care of."

After nearly a quarter century of looking after thousands of students in both the institute and the Peabody Prep, Goodwin has become expert in seeing to issues of this sort. So when the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, the Peabody Singers, the Peabody Chorus and the Morgan State University Choir join forces to perform the Resurrection Symphony April 6 at Baltimore's Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Goodwin and her staff will be more than ready.

In classical music, preparation is everything. Nowhere is this more emphatically true than in a work like Mahler's 2nd, which will feature a 110-piece orchestra, a massed chorus of 177, an offstage brass ensemble of at least a dozen players, two vocal soloists and an organ, all collaborating to produce what is described as "a trajectory of life and death through a graphic musical depiction of the Last Judgment and Resurrection."

A sort of giant puzzle of intricate musical components, it will be conductor Hajime Teri Murai's task to bring everything together into a coherent and understandable whole. Goodwin's job is to see to it that all the pieces are in the box--no small task for a symphonic work lasting over 80 minutes.

"This is a visceral piece," says Murai, who was appointed in 1991 as the Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Director of Orchestral Activities at Peabody and serves as music director to both the Peabody Symphony and Concert Orchestras. "I've wanted to do this piece ever since I came here."

Because of its vast scope and tremendous size, Mahler's 2nd is rarely performed. It was last heard in Baltimore in 1987 when performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with David Zinman at the podium. The April 6 one-time performance comes as a special celebration, recognizing the 100th anniversary season of the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, the bicentennial of the incorporation of the city of Baltimore and the 20th anniversary of the Baltimore City Paper, which has helped co-sponsor the event. Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke has announced plans to attend the concert, along with university President William R. Brody, Provost Steven Knapp and a number of other city and university officials.

Prior to the concert, the Peabody Institute will present its Distinguished Alumni Award to Morgan State University Choir musical director Nathan Carter. Carter, who is currently chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at Morgan, earned his doctorate at Peabody after studying at Julliard.

"One of the exciting things about doing this concert is the chance to work with Dr. Carter and the Morgan State Choir," Murai said. "I've felt strongly ever since I arrived that the Peabody Orchestra should be out in the community performing, and this is a wonderful opportunity to join forces with a Baltimore musical tradition that is internationally renowned."

The Morgan Choir will be joined by the Peabody Singers and the Peabody Chorus under the direction of faculty member Edward Polochick. Soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson, coordinator of the Peabody voice department and mezzo-soprano Marianna Busching, a faculty member since 1991, are the featured soloists.

Before the first performer so much as looked at the music, however, Goodwin and her staff spent considerable numbers of hours making sure that what they had in their first rehearsal was exactly what they needed.

"We're responsible for assembling all the materials necessary for performance at the conservatory and the prep," Goodwin says. "In any performance that involves more than nine musicians we purchase or rent the music and make sure that there is a part for every stand and some extras."

Ordering the music, however, is just the beginning. After the conductor has worked with the score it becomes the ensemble office's responsibility to see to it that any corrections, changes or other notations are carefully copied onto each sheet of music. One thing many concertgoers don't realize is that the bowing--that is, the way in which the stringed instruments are played in a back and forth motion--is carefully coordinated among all the instruments so that all the violins, for instance, are being bowed down and then back up at the same time.

How the instruments are bowed is the conductor's decision. It becomes the ensemble office's responsibility to mark every string score--by hand--so that everyone plays together. "There are five parts that need bowing: first and second fiddle, viola, cello and bass," Goodwin says. "After Teri marks the master score, my office has to transfer all of those markings onto each string part by hand."

Music must not only be marked, corrected and collated, it also needs to be distributed and, when the concert is over, carefully collected and stored away for future use. Goodwin's office, a windowless vault immediately behind the Friedheim Library formerly used to store rare books and manuscripts, features floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with musical scores stored in carefully labeled gray hardboard boxes.

On any given day the outer office just beyond Goodwin's door is a constant flurry of activity as students come and go, checking schedules, picking up scores and sometimes checking out musical instruments from theinstitute's collection. In addition to her duties as assistant concert manager, Goodwin also serves as curator of the Peabody's collection of piccolos, contra-bassoons, bass clarinets, English horns and other instruments. Students wishing to borrow a higher quality instrument than they may own, or beginning to learn how to play a new one, must come to the ensemble office.

"This is the place the students come to talk," says Goodwin of her operation, which is part command center, part drop-in counseling service. "We are here to help students make the transition to working professionals. It's about being on time and not chewing gum at rehearsals and dealing with management and learning to adopt a professional demeanor. These are all things our students must learn in addition to how to play music."

All of the ensemble office's efforts will be on display April 6, when the Peabody Symphony Orchestra takes on the challenge of one of the more massive symphonies in classical music. Goodwin is confident it will be an afternoon to remember. "I just hope we succeed in selling out the house," she says. "Musicians get a special energy when they look out and every seat is full." Audience members too, feel a special sense of excitement in a once-in-a-decade performance like the Mahler. Goodwin offers just one piece of advice for those hoping to truly enjoy the event: "Don't forget to set your clocks ahead the night before."

Mahler's 2nd Symphony will be performed Sunday, April 6, at 3 p.m. in Baltimore's Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. For information call (410)783-8000.

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