Symphony of One: A Mother’s Take on Mahler’s Eighth



  • Photo: Courtesy Laurie Davis
Four hundred musicians and singers filled the Schermerhorn this weekend, but for this stage mother, only one voice mattered. It was the voice of my 9-year-old, who has been belting out “Veni Creator Spiritus” ever since the Blair Children’s Chorus was invited to chime in on the Nashville Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony.

For a non-musical parent, watching a child cram for the so-called "Symphony of a Thousand" was a rare chance to see how the symphonic sausage gets made. It started months ago, when my tiny treble brought home a CD to listen to in the car. Then came the endless recitations of nonsense phrases, which, as it turns out, are actually verses of Latin and German, conveying a 9th century hymn and the final scene of Goethe’s Faust.

Tone-deaf but enormously enthusiastic, I played my parental part along the marathon to Mahler. I hemmed the O-scale tuxedo with duct tape and shuttled the talent to practices, between times tables and tennis lessons. For a week of late-night dress rehearsals, I sat outside stage door at One Symphony Place and watched young singers yawn their way toward a waiting fleet of moms in minivans.

This past weekend, minutes before the sold-out premiere, I found my son halfway up a magnolia in my front yard — dressed in black tie. When I yelled at him to climb down, he rubbed residue of tree bark along the satin stripe of his formal trousers. Seconds later, I found him playing with a pet long-haired white rabbit, whose shedding was indifferent to the uniform and the upcoming curtain call.

But when Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero and Blair Children’s Chorus director Tucker Biddlecombe marshaled my son and some 399 other musicians through the grand passages of the Symphony of a Thousand, neither dirt nor dander nor duct tape detracted from the splendor of so many moving parts. The debut of Nashville Symphony’s 2012-13 season was awesome: big, bold and beautiful — times a thousand. I’m not just saying that as a mother.

(If you attended a performance and wonder which kid was mine, he was the adorable child near the middle, with the voice of an angel and the tuxedo coated in rabbit hair.)

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