Both Andy and I love opera. We attend performances when we can, own recordings, listen often. We both enjoy following along with the score.
A year or two ago, we had dinner with an old friend of Andy’s father. Peter was a life-long opera fan, and an enthusiastic pianist and singer, with a large collection of opera scores. Now elderly and arthritic, he could no longer enjoy playing the piano reduction from the vocal scores, or carrying the full orchestral scores to the Metropolitan Opera to follow during performances.
He gave us the scores, about seven linear feet of (mostly) hard-bound full orchestra scores of dozens and dozens of operas, famous and obscure. I’ve enjoyed browsing through them, especially the operas I knew. Many, though, were unfamiliar to us, and we were unable to find recordings of them.
After much thought, Andy decided to keep only the ones he was likely to see in performance, or listen to on recordings. We piled the rest onto the dining room table, and started brainstorming what to do with them.
We live in Rochester, NY, home to the Eastman School of Music. Eastman is one of the world’s great conservatories, and—like most universities—has its share of starving students. We’ve gotten to know quite a few of them through our jobs as church soloists/section leaders, since the Eastman kids fill quite a few of those soloist slots. Andy has retired, now, but I’m still singing as an alto soloist in one of the best church jobs in town. This large choir, with around 60 volunteer singers, has six paid soloists. Two are current Eastman undergraduates, and one will be entering Eastman’s doctoral program in a year or so (after his wife finishes her Eastman DMA). The daughter of the other alto soloist has just started her vocal training at the College of St. Rose, another excellent music program in upstate New York.
Our decision was easy. We offered the scores to these superb young musicians. The mother of the St. Rose student gave me a list of the works she thought her daughter would enjoy at this stage of her career. The other three came over to our house this afternoon to make their choices. In less than an hour, all but ten of the scores were claimed. Those will be donated to the Sibley Library of the Eastman School of Music, where they will either be rebound and made available to others, or sold as a fundraiser.
Our bookshelves are significantly lighter, tonight. We’ve passed on a marvelous gift, freely given to us, to people who really appreciate it.