SALT LAKE CITY — Reva Anderson has feeding 250 people down to a science.
She’s got the coffee measured out precisely in two ziplock bags — one for regular and one for decaf. She knows how many cups of water to put in the pot, how much orange juice to buy and how many cookies, breads and cakes to order. She’s got the napkins and paper plates ready to go.
Anderson, who has been a member of the Utah Symphony Guild for 10 years, arrives at Abravanel Hall Friday mornings at 8 to set up. By 9, most of the guests have arrived and Anderson will be busy for the next 45 minutes. Things typically run like clockwork, although occasionally she hits a snag.
“Sometimes we feel like we’re a little short on our goodies, so we put little signs up that say, ‘Take one only, please.’ But … (usually) you can have all you want,” she said.
Anderson, 77, is in charge of Finishing Touches, an open rehearsal the Utah Symphony puts on four times a season. The morning event allows patrons unable to travel at night or buy a full-price symphony ticket to see the concert program at 10 a.m. for a more affordable price — and with refreshments.
The next open rehearsal comes Friday, Jan. 11, and will feature 23-year-old Canadian piano virtuoso Jan Lisiecki performing Frederic Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The rehearsal will also include Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 under the baton of Canadian conductor Peter Oundjian.
Dreamed up by former music director and violinist Joseph Silverstein, Finishing Touches was created to make the Utah Symphony’s concerts available to a wider audience. As a rehearsal, it also gives people a glimpse of what goes into putting a performance together. Today, the symphony continues to widen its audience through inviting students to attend Utah Opera’s final dress rehearsal prior to opening night, offering earlier programming on select concerts and creating the family pass.
The first open rehearsal took place Oct. 29, 1987, and featured Silverstein performing the Dvorak Violin Concerto, according to an old program. After being discontinued for a time, the event was reinstated by former Utah Symphony & Utah Opera CEO Ann Ewers in the early 2000s. Anderson, who moved to Utah in 2004 and has macular degeneration, appreciates the convenience of the Finishing Touches series.
“I can only go to nighttime things if someone drives me,” she said. “So it gives people who can’t get out at night (or) who can’t afford the full price of tickets an opportunity to … hear the Utah Symphony and to enjoy it.”
Anderson can’t read a note of music, play an instrument or sing, but she’s passionate when it comes to the arts — she and her husband have even taken music appreciation classes together. And it’s through her volunteer efforts with the Utah Symphony — especially with Finishing Touches — that she’s been able to be an active part of Utah’s arts community.
“As a child, I was raised on country. That’s all my family listened to was country music,” she said. “Once I left home and got out in the world, I found out that there was better music, and it was classical.”
Before moving to Utah, Anderson and her husband would visit Park City during the summer months to escape the humid Mississippi heat, where they lived for many years. There, they found the Utah Symphony summer concert series at Deer Valley Resort. It was also in Park City where Anderson met Lona Mae Lauritzen, the bold, energetic woman who was then in charge of Finishing Touches. When Anderson and her husband eventually moved to Utah full time, it didn’t take long for Lauritzen to convince Anderson to get involved.
Under Lauritzen’s direction, Finishing Touches was practically a gala affair.
“We used to set up tables and we had centerpieces,” Anderson said. “Lona required that we wear dresses and hats. It was not as casual as it is today. … But it’s gone on just fine and people haven’t seemed to mind.”
Although Lauritzen is no longer in charge of Finishing Touches, the 90-year-old volunteer doesn’t miss a single event. At her age, her job is simple — stand in one place and pour the orange juice — but Lauritzen still manages to pour a lot of gusto into that mundane task.
“She just greets the people and chit-chats with the people and pours their orange juice,” Anderson said. “She’s 90 and she does what the heck she wants.”
Lauritzen is one of many friends Anderson has made through the Utah Symphony, and while Anderson has cherished her time with the organization, after 10 years of serving in the guild and heading Finishing Touches, she's ready to step down.2 comments on this story
“I’m 77 years old and I’m going to turn it over to whoever wants to do it,” she said. “This is my last year to do it, but it is something I really enjoyed doing. It is something that I have loved.”
If you go …
What: Oundjian/Lisiecki Finishing Touches opening rehearsal
When: Friday, Jan. 11, 10 a.m.
Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple
How much: $15
Phone: 801-355-ARTS (2787)
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated that Reva Anderson is chairwoman of the Utah Symphony Guild. She is a member of the guild and chairwoman of the Finishing Touches program.