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Reporter's Notebook: The New York Philharmonic, my grandma and her 'Uncle Solly'

May 10, 2012|By Mike Reicher
  • Eleanor Reicher, 96, of Newport Beach shares stories with New York Philharmonic associate principal percussionist Daniel Druckman backstage Tuesday night at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Reicher's uncle, Saul Goodman, was a legendary timpanist with the Philharmonic, who trained Druckman and legions of other percussionists. The Philharmonic stopped in Costa Mesa on Tuesday night as part of its performance tour.
Eleanor Reicher, 96, of Newport Beach shares stories… (CHRIS LEE, Daily…)

The two strangers leafed through the scrapbook, their memories of a man in common flowing like the airy music that earlier filled the hall.

There they were, backstage at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall after Tuesday night's Philharmonic Society of Orange County concert, my grandmother and the New York Philharmonic musician reminiscing over the late Saul Goodman.

Goodman was my 96-year-old grandmother's "Uncle Solly," but in the world of classical music, he was a giant among timpanists and played with the New York Phil for 46 years. He was also a teacher and mentor to a legion of successful percussionists like Daniel Druckman.

"Saul Goodman was a legend," Druckman told other musicians backstage as they packed their instruments for their next performance in Los Angeles.

At one time, all of the Philharmonic percussionists trained with him, said Druckman, who was awarded the Saul Goodman Scholarship at Juilliard.

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"Now it's just me" — the last of a generation, he said.

A few years ago, I helped my grandma, Eleanor Reicher, compile a scrapbook with news clippings, family stories and photos of Uncle Solly.

"It was just a wonderful section of my life," she said, looking up and to her right — the place where good memories are apparently stored.

My grandmother and her family moved from New York to Los Angeles in the 1950s. She last saw her uncle and the Philharmonic perform in the late '50s at the Hollywood Bowl. So when our newspaper's classical music columnist told me the Philharmonic was coming to town, I arranged for she and I to go.

She adored Goodman, and admired his fame and ambition. Growing up in New York, all her middle-school friends knew about him, she said, and of her permanent pass to Carnegie Hall.

Eleanor would take the ferry from her home on Staten Island to Manhattan, then ride the subway to the great music hall on 57th Street to hear Goodman and the Philharmonic play.

"I was very proud of him," she said. "My mother used to say I talked about it too much."

Eleanor's favorite memory — the one she told to Druckman and the Philharmonic's executive director backstage — was of her grandmother, Goodman's mother, who was "stone deaf." She wanted young Saul to be a doctor, like a good Jewish boy, but instead he won his position at the Philharmonic and skipped medical school.

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