Mark Gollaher

There's a mystery in the classical music world. A composer is dead. Well, actually, a majority of composers are dead.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to look into this dark phenomenon and investigate the Utah Symphony instruments for any leads.

The Utah Symphony has always performed special concerts for family and children. This Tuesday in Abravanel Hall, the symphony, along with narrator/actor Mark Gollaher, will try to get to the bottom of why all these brilliant music writers have died.

With the music by Nathaniel Stookey and Stravinsky and libretto written by Daniel Handler, also known in some children's literature circles as Lemony Snicket, Gollaher will take the audience through a labyrinth of leads and questions that will introduce younger audience members to classical music.

During an interview with the Deseret Morning News, Gollaher said that the upcoming performance is going to be fun and challenging.

"I've done something like this before with the Utah Symphony," Gollaher said. "I'm a storyteller and an actor. And a while ago, former associate conductor Scott O'Neil saw me in a performance and thought I would be good working with the symphony during the children's performances.

"I was able to write the script and act and collaborate with other actors on those other performances," Gollaher said. "But this one I have only one run-through with the symphony before we perform it in Ogden on Monday. And there's the fact that I'm the only one acting and narrating this time. So, there is no collaborations or even time to collaborate with the symphony.

"The musicians get the music and rehearse it. I get the script and then we do a run-through and then it's off to the performances.

" ... it's a good thing that I love improvisation," Gollaher said, with a laugh. "But these types of performances are right up my alley."

Gollaher is an Equity actor and has performed leading roles with the Salt Lake Acting Company, the Emily Company, the Sundance Children's Theatre and the Pioneer Theatre Company. Last December, he played Captain Hook and Mr. Darling in the Egyptian Theatre Company's production of "Peter Pan."

Before becoming an actor, Gollaher was an artist for a few Saturday morning cartoons. He is also a children's book writer and artist who loves Lemony Snicket's dark and charming "Series of Unfortunate Events" books.

"I got into acting by accident," he said. "My older brother and I are visual artists. And we had worked for quite a while before I started attending the University of Utah. My brother was there before me and declared art his major. I, with an academic scholarship, would show up two years later.

"With my scholarship, my parents thought I would be a lawyer or doctor, but I wanted to follow my brother and do art. When I arrived, he told me not to bother because we had a lot of experience and the required basic art classes were not for us.

"My father thought it would be great for me to major in music, but I only play by ear, and music theory didn't work with me. It was a little disastrous, actually. But then I started thinking about acting."

One requirement for a theater degree was to audition for a production.

"I didn't know if I could do that right off," Gollaher said. "So, I decided to watch an audition."

After mixing up the times, Gollaher arrived just as a performer finished.

"The director, who was from out of town, saw me and asked if I was there to audition. I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Well, come in,' because I figured he was from out of town and I would never see him again if I made a fool of myself.

"I walked on stage and stood there for a minute. He asked if I had a soliloquy. I had no idea what that was and said no. So he had me read cold from the script. He then asked if I had a prepared song to sing. I said no. So he had me sing a Christmas carol. Then he asked if I could do anything else, and I said, 'I can do back flips.' So, he had me do some across the stage."

For some "insane" reason, Gollaher said, the director cast him in the role of Scrooge's nephew Fred.

"That was my first introduction to theater," Gollaher said, "and I've been doing it ever since."

If you go . . .

What: "The Composer Is Dead," Utah Symphony, David Cho, Mark Gollaher

Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 S. West Temple

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

How much: $13-$17

Phone: 355-2787, 888-451-2787


Also: Monday, 7 p.m., Val A. Browning Center, Weber State University, $12, 801-399-9214 or