The San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas end their season with the mammoth Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler. They’re joined for two of the six movements by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who says waiting on stage with the orchestra for the hour or so before she sings allows her to be present in the moment. There’s a matinee performance Thursday, as well as evening concerts Friday and Saturday.

There’s more information at the San Francisco Symphony website.

“I’ve often thought, especially with symphony work, the majority of the job is waiting, and how you wait,” Sasha Cooke says. “And how present you are. For me, the secret is being present. Really listening, and being with every note. If you start to worry about your singing, or your breath, or your dress, or your performance, it hinders you.”  So as the instrumentalists play, she goes on the same meditative journey as the audience.  There’s a particularly active and loud section in the third movement, when she says she’ll take the opportunity to hum a little to get a little bit of warm-up in. She will admit that her favorite part comes after her work is through. “I always treasure the last movement, because I’ve finished the mezzo bit, I can sit back and it’s sort of thirty minutes of heaven. It is the best seat, because I feel like I’m vibrating with everybody. And it’s so emotional and intense.  That is probably the most profound thing about the whole experience. Is that energy at the very end that we’ve all shared this together. And it was momentous, and so powerful…. I have a lot of feelings about the third that are hard to put succinct words around, because with Mahler so often, it feels like everything at once. And I think that’s why he’s so beloved. Because we all connect to him on a human level.”