The day before opening night, Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are in the center of the stage surrounded by National Philharmonic musicians, rehearsing different parts of the 12-movement symphony. In the middle of a song, Marsalis signals Eddins and the musicians to stop. The violins don’t sound right. They should be “scratchier.” A violinist runs her bow over her strings, producing a discordant buzz. “That’s exactly it,” Marsalis says. She smiles and explains how she created the sound. The music starts again. The National Philharmonic players are in awe of Marsalis and the jazz musicians. “I have never seen so many happy orchestra players, and orchestra musicians are notoriously unhappy,” says National Philharmonic principal violist Julius Wirth.
Lead stage technician William Kassman placed the chairs, risers, music stands and piano on the stage.
Eddins keeps an eye on an analog clock on the right edge of the stage. Strict union rules prohibit the musicians from practicing more than 150 minutes a day, including a 20-minute break.
Lead audio technician Caldwell Gray adjusts sound levels.
In the wings, production manager Shari Moxley checks a digital clock. With so many groups involved in this production, Strathmore hired her as a freelancer to coordinate all of them. Petite but authoritative, she’s organized and efficient, with clipboard in hand. She’s tracking times and schedules, talking with Eddins and choral director Damien Sneed, and communicating with the music center’s technical crew.
Shari Moxley was hired as a freelance production manager to coordinate the moving pieces of the show.
More than 100 members of the Morgan State University Choir are set to arrive on two buses. They can warm up in the concert hall seats, Moxley says. Warm-ups also are happening in the Comcast Circles Lounge, off the lobby, where Sneed plays a rippling version of “Amazing Grace” on the piano while the voices of 10 soloists from Chorale Le Chateau soar. Sneed worked with the chorale in New York for four weeks, in addition to making weekly trips to help the other choirs “interpret the spirit of the work,” he says. He coached them to express a tone and feeling that would reflect All Rise’s blend of gospel, jazz, blues, swing and classical music.
The Chorale Le Chateau soloists traveled from New York a few days before rehearsal.
At 7 p.m., it’s time for the run-through, the first time the musicians and singers perform the full piece together. Choir members join the musicians seated onstage and take their places on the risers. At the back of the concert hall, lead audio technician Caldwell Gray sits in the dark behind a massive sound board equipped with hundreds of dials and switches. “We can sweeten the sound a bit,” he says, listening and adjusting the levels. For Gray, All Rise is one of the simpler productions he’s worked on. Unlike rock concerts or theatrical performances, which can require microphones, amplifiers or other tools to project sound, All Rise uses just a few small microphones and the acoustics of the concert hall. “It’s a little unusual to have a jazz orchestra and a symphony orchestra together on stage, but this is a standard large-orchestra-with-chorus arrangement,” he says. “This is what the room is made for. It was built to be all about Wagner and Mahler and Beethoven. It’s a hugely reverberant space.”