Linda Glasgal, who recently announced her retirement as Ars Musica’s accompanist, has the distinction of being the only pianist who has accompanied all four of Ars Musica’s conductors: Joyce Keshner, Italo Marchini, Robert Long, and Kelly Crandell.
Linda started her musical career as a youngster living in New York City. She began piano lessons at the age of four and soon was admitted to Juilliard Preparatory, where she continued piano and theory studies while attending elementary school and Hunter High School. She then went to the Music School at Yale, ultimately graduating with a Master’s degree. She took an editorial job at The Saturday Review, honing her skills as a proofreader and copy editor, later put to good use on various Ars Musica publications. When she settled in Bergen County with her husband and two daughters, she embarked on a career as an accompanist and piano teacher, beginning a tradition of sharing her gifts with the people of Bergen County. She was invited by one of the early Ars Musica members to be a substitute accompanist, and went on to become the full-time accompanist.
Linda enjoyed the stimulation of always having new music to work on and developing her rehearsal skills as an accompanist. She looks back with pleasure on the opportunities the position afforded. The third Ars Musica Music Director, Robert Long, states, “Linda is the most professional, talented and intelligent pianist/accompanist I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I always learned more about the music we were working on because of a book or article that Linda shared with me. I loved our conversations about the repertoire, including discussions about performance practice, soloists, etc., especially when playing four-hand piano repertoire with her−always learning something about the music, composer and/or piano technique through our rehearsal sessions.”
He praises Linda’s tireless work as Vice-president over the years for “not only volunteering her time to organize or assist with administrative duties, but also having been instrumental in helping to ‘place’ people on the board and in other volunteer positions who will continue to benefit Ars Musica for years to come.” He further asserts, “Ars Musica is indebted to Linda for her many contributions to the organization.” Linda has been on the Board of Directors of AMC for more than 24 years, during which she served as president for 3 years and vice-president for 12 years.
Robert sums up their relationship: “Linda is a great friend!” Linda herself states that her dearest friendships have been developed with people in the chorus, richly gratifying on many levels, particularly bonding through a mutual love of music. Robert recalls: It was shortly after we met−probably at one of our first rehearsals together−that Linda informed me she would be happy to serve as my Jewish mother, saying, “Everyone needs a Jewish mother.”
She has enjoyed all the Ars Musica special events, including the overseas tours with the chorale. Her favorite tour was to Spain & Portugal; a highlight being the side-trip to Cordoba with Italo Marchini, Ars Musica’s second music director. On the tours with Italo, she participated as a soprano‒not as the accompanist. Her other non-accompanist activities included hosting an event initially called the “wine & cheese,” the precursor to the current “Songs Under Starlight,” an evening of members presenting a one-hour review of non-classical music (and sometimes, dance). Opening up her beautiful home to the group greatly expanded Ars Musica’s ability to produce musical events and perform in a beautiful space. Linda has edited many of the concert programs and has archived and catalogued all music performed by the group.
When asked to summarize his experiences with Linda, Italo replied enthusiastically, “Linda Glasgal is the funniest accompanist I ever worked with. She not only predicted my jokes before I said them, she continued them to their illogical end. Also one of the most intelligent and talented collaborators. Musically, she was always able to predict what I and the chorale needed and to be there ahead of time. Always a joy to work with, she was altruistic as well and held up AMC musically, financially and spiritually. She’s a mensch.”
When I asked Linda to describe her most amusing experience with AMC, she related this story: “The night we were singing ‘Elijah,’ Robert was on stage talking to some of the instrumentalists. I went up to him and said, ‘Adela (alto) has hurt her back, and Kaat (alto) just called in with a stomach virus.’ Robert responded: ‘What are you doing tonight?’ Linda demurred, ‘I’m a soprano!’ Robert deadpanned: ‘I trust you…'” So Linda retired to the ladies’ room where she turned her black-and-white polka-dot dress inside out to show the black lining, pulled her slip down to cover her lower legs, and successfully sight-read the alto part.
What prompted Linda to retire as accompanist? It became clear to her that the time had come after so many years that she should pursue other things. Not wishing to leave the group without an accompanist, Linda asked Susan LaFever, another very talented, experienced pianist, to take over for her, noting Susan’s successful trial as a substitute. Summarizing her years at the Ars Musica piano bench, she views her volunteer job as Ars Musica accompanist as “perfect for her on a personal, as well as musical level.”