September 2011

Building a Gala

Also Known As: What Has Been Driving Your Music Librarian Bonkers

These past few weeks have found me hurrying to finish the orchestra parts for our upcoming Big Night Gala Concert. Galas are notoriously one of a music librarian's biggest challenges. My boss likes to tell the story of how she was on the phone with a colleague, asking for advice about the concert, and that colleague said, "Whatever you do, don't say the word 'gala' in front of your librarian."

What makes it such a challenge? Unlike an opera (or a symphony), where the piece you're playing is ONE PIECE, published and bound, already put together for you, a gala is by its definition a collection of many pieces, from many different sources, stitched together into one evening. For the librarian, a normal opera is as "simple" (haha) as ordering a set of parts, marking them, and giving them to musicians. But for a gala concert, it goes more like this:

1. Wait for the program to be finalized.
2. Reconfirm no fewer than 6 times that this is REALLY the program, right?
3. Figure out what opera the arias are from (if they're not listed) and then whether or not you have parts to that opera on your shelves.
4. Figure out whether you can rent or buy the arias you don't already own.
5. Figure out what to do if you can't rent or buy the arias by themselves. Borrow music from other organizations, if necessary; this likely includes promises of returned favors, brownies, or booze.
6. Confirm again that this is really the program.
7. Pull all the relevant vocal scores from the shelves.
8. Figure out where the arias start and stop, because while often there is a standard performance practice, more often than not there are two or three standard performance practices, and Murphy's Law dictates that if you pick one, inevitably you're supposed to be using the other one.