October 27, 2104
Tomorrow marks the beginning of the second Symphonic runout of the year: Mahler’s Second Symphony “Resurrection” with The Philadelphia Orchestra! While we have been toiling away at learning our 11-13 minutes of glory (pending tempo decisions) for the past two weeks, we had the opportunity to give a sneak preview during the official opening of the Cullen Center last Wednesday.
For those readers who went to schools with student bodies larger than that of a moderately-sized elementary school, the opening of a new building may seem relatively inconsequential. But for Westmisnterites past and present, the historical nature of this new building is epic. Gone are the days of Olympic-speed chair arranging between hourly choir rehearsals. Students in the back rows no longer can hide a family of small mammals at their feet, as we now have glamorous stadium seating.
But, as we learned from the libretto of El Niño last spring, “all delights are tinged with melancholy.” The Playhouse, the original rehearsal space for Chapel Choir, Symphonic Choir, and Westminster Choir has housed innumerable rehearsals since Westminster’s earlier days. From these daily choral rehearsals to visits from guest conductors such as with Leonard Bernstein, Simon Rattle, and Kurt Masur (to name a mere handful amongst legion), The Playhouse has been the setting for creating music and memories for longer than I have been on earth.
In that spirit, it was only fitting that we opened the Cullen Center in the company of the forces who have shaped Westminster, celebrating the occasion with one of the greatest works ever composed for choir and orchestra. As many of our alumni who were present that day sang the symphony during their time at Westminster, the effect that hearing the piece had on them was moving to behold. The Westminster experience is unique, to say the least. Once you’ve experienced it, you share in a bond that decades cannot erase. To get our first taste of this work among those who understand that was a beautiful way to begin this Mahlertide (or, as many students have taken to calling it in light of our performance this coming Friday, Mahlerween).
To add to the experience, Gilbert Kaplan came to campus today to give a lecture on “The World of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony.” Mr. Kaplan has devoted his life’s study to this particular work, and he was able to present us with a wealth of knowledge through Mahler’s correspondences, photographs, and earlier editions of the score. From insights into Mahler’s views on the afterlife to his opinions about standing cues, the information he presented reshaped my understanding of the symphony.
As a mere 12 hours stand between now and our first orchestral rehearsal, I must bid you adieu! The sheer amount of resurrecting required this week will undoubtedly be exhausting, and I intend to be as well rested as any mortal can be.