And Now, For Your Listening Pleasure ... Please Welcome ... Professor Larry Garvin
Years before Larry Garvin would ever open a law school casebook he began training his mind in music. Over the years he has studied several instruments. After what he calls “a fruitless run with the clarinet,” Larry began formal piano lessons at age nine. In junior high school, he took up the tuba. Later, he studied piano with graduate students at Michigan State University. In law school, he took carillon lessons. But most of his formal training has been in voice. Larry has studied on and off over the past twenty years with a number of private teachers.
In addition to studying specific instruments, he has also studied conducting with instructors at Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Yale University. All of the training has paid off, leaving Larry with an extensive performance resume. He has performed in thirty-seven productions of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, his particular love, and conducted seven full productions with orchestra. Larry came to Gilbert and Sullivan through piano lessons, in which he played a medley from H.M.S. Pinafore. “When I told my piano teacher how much I liked the melodies, she fortunately told me that they were very funny, too, and that I should look into them. That was more than thirty years ago, and now their works are somewhere between a devoted hobby and an obsession,” Larry says, pointing to his G&S collection of recordings, scores, scripts, and even letters written by both Gilbert and Sullivan.
Larry conducts a matinee performance of The Yeomen of the Guard for the Victorian Lyric Opera Company
Though he has served as a conductor, performer and occasional accompanist over the years, he finds that of the three roles, he prefers conducting. “On the whole I prefer conducting to performing,” he says. “Partly this reflects stage nerves, which afflict me more when I’m visible to an audience than when I’m laboring in the orchestra pit.” He goes on to say, “More important, though, is the pleasure of helping a large number of singers and instrumentalists make music together, particularly when we can spur each other on to unexpected heights.” Although Larry enjoys conducting, he wouldn’t dream of writing a symphony of his own. He says, “It’s much better to be a third-rate conductor than a sixth-rate composer. I’ve limited my orchestral composition to arranging curtain call music for shows I conduct.”
Before coming to Moritz Law, Larry taught at Florida State University College of Law. Not long after moving to Tallahassee, he joined the Tallahassee Community Chorus. “Singing with its music director, Dr. Andre Thomas, taught me much about choral conducting,” says Larry. “Even more importantly, Robert Shaw, the greatest American choral conductor, came twice to Tallahassee after I’d joined the chorus, and I was able to sing in his performances of Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Brahms’ German Requiem, easily the two greatest musical experiences of my life.” Larry has continued with choral singing, including performances with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and the University of Texas Choral Arts Society.
In addition to his performances, Larry has also occasionally stepped behind the scenes to fulfill administrative roles. For example, Larry has previously served as president of the Victorian Lyric Opera Company, as well as the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society. As president, Larry was essentially the executive producer of each show, making sure that all the pieces came together.
Performing as Sir Despard in Ruddigore for the Victorian Lyric Opera Company
Though most of his performances have been out-of-state or abroad, in 2004 Larry found himself a part of the law school’s Trial by Jury performance, in which he played the Usher and directed the music, with Professor Douglas Whaley directing and playing the Learned Judge. Larry also takes part in less formal gatherings of Gilbert and Sullivan lovers worldwide, as they come together to sing through some or all of the fourteen operettas over a weekend – sometimes even as a day-long marathon!
These days, his principal Gilbert & Sullivan activity has been through SavoyNet. SavoyNet is a mailing list of about 700 Gilbert and Sullivan fans worldwide. The SavoyNet Performing Group has produced a show at the annual Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England for the last ten years. Members audition through videotape and audiotape, and directors send selected performers notes before the international festival begins. The casts bring performers together from many nations – England and the United States, of course, but also Canada, Australia, Belgium, and Norway, to name just those from the last show.
“At the Festival, we rehearse for anywhere from four to eight days, putting together a show from scratch. It gets one performance as part of the Festival, and then that’s it,” says Larry. He adds, “The camaraderie is tremendous, with people from all over the world combining their talents with such enthusiasm.” In 2003, he was nominated for Best Musical Director for that year’s selection, Utopia, Limited. The show was judged first runner-up for Best Show.
Larry, as Jack Point, in another performance of The Yeomen of the Guard
“I now serve on the steering committee for the productions, meaning that I help select directors and producers, choose which shows we want to perform, and generally help guide the company,” says Larry. “I hope to go back to music directing or performing with SavoyNet next year.”
Those wishing to get in touch with Professor Larry Garvin can reach him