The Utah Symphony's final performance of the season took place last night at Abravanel Hall. As Mahler's Symphony No. 1 unfolded around me I sat in my chair on stage and tried to take everything in. That performance may prove to have been my last time in the hall for quite a while.
Before the show on Friday night, I wandered out into the lobby to take some photos. The focal point as one enters the building is "The Olympic Tower": a WILD blown-glass sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly that rises 30 feet up from the floor. It took a while for me to appreciate this massive explosion of suspended glass curlycues, and at first I thought it merely an annoying distraction that sullied the view from the hall's floor-to-ceiling windows. I was also grateful I wasn't the one that had to figure out how to dust the thing! Over the years though it has started to grow on me. It's impossible to deny its ability to mesmerize, and I sometimes wonder how many other people besides me have considered the problem of dusting as they pour over its intricate structure.
Both night's performances were thrilling and well executed by the members of the USO. I wish I could say I contributed more, but it was almost as enjoyable for me just to be in the middle of it all. There were moments on stage when the excitement was so tangible it was all I could do to keep from jumping up and raising my arms in a cheer, or when the sound of the first horn player (whom I sat directly behind) was so penetrating in its tenderness that I couldn't hold back a smile.
I also learned quite a bit. I worked on excerpts from Mahler I for much of my practicing this week and while the rest of the section would be playing I'd discreetly finger the parts or imagine myself as part of the section. I've heard from a few people that this sort of mental practice is actually quite beneficial, but I made sure to avoid playing these parts aloud backstage as playing someone else's music is generally considered rude.
After the concert on Friday, the orchestra was invited to a sushi party held in a nice room on the first tier. As I've been keeping myself on a strict budget these days, I hadn't indulged in raw fish for far too long--it was excellent! I tried to be sociable as well and had some nice conversations with a few of the orchestra members.
Nick Norton, the principal trumpeter, has been my teacher off and on ever since I first worked with him at the University of Utah from 1997 to 2000. Of all the teachers I've had in my life so far, he has been perhaps the most influential. On top of the excellent advice and instruction he's provided me over the years, he's also opened many doors of opportunity and given me moral support and personal encouragement along the way. I was able to play with the USO as a very young student because he stuck his neck out and referred me--though I embarrassed myself, and probably him, by showing up to that first rehearsal only 3 minutes before it began! This is a HUGE faux pas in a world where, (in the words of Joe Alme of the International Music Camp) "early is on time and on time is late". I still remember the disappointed look on his face when I finally walked out on stage that day--I wanted to curl up into a ball and die! I can tell you I learned that lesson pretty well!!! I was a little shy on Friday about asking Nick to take a picture with me, but figured it may be one of my last opportunities...at least for a while.