Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

What do you think of classical concerts? September 26, 2010

Filed under: 1D: issues — concerttuning @ 9:39 pm
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Wordle: What do you think of classical concerts?
I asked friends and family what they thought about classical concerts, using these questions as prompts:

* What comes to mind when you think of a classical concert?
* Do people like yourself go to classical concerts?
* If you have been to a classical concert, what was the experience like?
* If you could change anything about classical concerts, what would you change?

You can read their feedback in the comments of this post or look at the wordle that all their thoughts created. Please do add your own thoughts too!

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Looking beyond classical music

Filed under: 1C: Impact — concerttuning @ 6:57 pm
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I have come to the realisation that before I started my Gold Arts Award, my listening habits were very restrictive. I have since  started to listen to a broader range of music.

I grew up choosing to listen to classical music because it was the type of music that I was playing and I also wanted to learn about it. However, this was to the detriment of listening to pop, folk, world, jazz, rock etc.

Attending some alternative concerts, has showed me that not only do I enjoy listening to non-classical music but it is a vital way to invigorate concerts and classical music. See my reviews about jazz and folk at the BBC Proms.

Subsequently, I have started to expand my CD collection.

  • It all started when I went to Exhibition Music Day. There was a large selection of music from all styles and nationalities to sample for free. As well as buying Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal’s CD after hearing them in concert (which I reviewed here), I also very unusually for myself, bought an album by a singer who I heard do an acoustic set at the French Institute. I liked her innocence and simplicity. It reminded me that music does not have to be complex to have an impact. The album is called ‘Inside Over Here’ by Rozi Plain.

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Experienced Animateur gives advice September 24, 2010

I interviewed Kate Comberti, an animatuer and freelance violinist, to hear about her career in music education and her perspective on ‘tuning the concert’.

Kate has worked as a freelance orchestral violinist for over fifteen years with numerous British orchestras and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the early 90s. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music as an Honorary Scholar with the late Manoug Parikian.

Kate was introduced to educational side of music after attending a residential course for orchestral musicians. Though an experienced practitioner, she recently went back to college and graduated with an MMus in Creative Leadership from the Royal College of Music.

Kate’s ideal concert, would be something she could take her 7 year old son to. She is terrified that she could put him off classical music, so she is very selective and careful about what they attend.

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Penguins allowed at the Proms September 20, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 9:42 pm
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When flicking through the Proms booklet, the photo of the Penguin Cafe always caught my eye. The group looked a bit quirky and as it was a Late night prom I expected something a bit different. Even when I mentioned the group to friends, they had heard of the group or had a vague notion of who they were (which is not a usual occurrence when telling friends about a concert I am attending).

My anticipation had not been misguided, as the concert was certainly uber cool. I attended the prom on Wednesday 8 September with my friend Emma (a beginner ukulele player) who is currently setting up a band www.emmadaianwright.com/band/. The Penguin Cafe were different, a bit anti-classical and with their vintage clothes certainly had stage presence.

I excitedly we heard about how the original founder of the band, Simon Jeffes became disillusioned with the rigid structures of classical music and the limitations of rock music. You can read more about his philosophy at http://www.penguincafe.com/. He consequently started to compose a new style of music, which is a cross between folk and minimalism. Interestingly, this shows how my own tiring of classical music is not new, as in the 70s people were feeling the same thing.

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Taking it into his own hands September 16, 2010

Filed under: 1B: research — concerttuning @ 8:25 pm
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I met up with Peter Fender, conductor of Philharmonia Britannica to learn about what inspired his audience development and how he would like to ‘tune the concert’.

Originally a freelance violinist and teacher, he has conducted on and off over the years. However, attending a conducting course 4 years ago inspired him to form his own orchestra, Philharmonia Britannica.

During the set up process, it made him think of all the things he had ever wanted to do. In particular he was interested in mixing different art forms, for example the use of videos with music. It was personal interest rather than audience development that initially spurred him on, as he is also a bit of a Thespian and enjoys chatting to audiences. For example, for a film concert he dressed in a Darth Vader costume to conduct the orchestra!

Thinking about the audience though, he thought that if he combined two art forms, he would have a greater chance of attracting a larger audience. He would be appealing to two sets of people, those who are interested in music and those for example in film. Consequently this broadens the potential audience base. In reality this hasn’t worked quite as well as he hoped, as typically it is the music lovers that attend his concerts. However, he hopes that if someone ever did attend the concert due to being predominately interested in the other art form,they may, in a ideal world, start to also like the music.

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Learning from the master: Ben Haggarty September 10, 2010

After contacting the Crick Crack Club about my project of combining music with storytelling, Kate recommended that I go and see Ben Haggarty perform Gilgamesh at the Soho Theatre on 7th September.

Though I vaguely remember listening to some professional storytellers around a camp fire when I was a child, this was the first time I had been to a performance in a long time. What struck me was the fact that it was one person on stage for the whole show.  You had to be prepared to believe.  It wasn’t acting but then it wasn’t over played. It reminded me of an over-enthusiastic child getting up and telling a big story they had made up to get out of doing a chore.

Interestingly, I noticed a gradual increase in the level of drama throughout the performance. While Ben started by setting the scene using a simple narrative, by the end he was doing silly voices and actions to illustrate the characters. I assume this was planned to allow the audience time to warm up and slowly be able to believe in him. I can imagine that if he had initially started too over the top, the audience could have quickly dismissed him as ‘hamming up’ the story.

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A taster: working with BBC Proms learning Team September 7, 2010

I volunteered over the bank holiday weekend to help with the family orchestra and chorus who performed in Prom 60 on Monday 30 August.

Families from Cornwall and London had been selected to première a BBC commission by Graham Fitzin. The participants ranged from 5 years to 80+ and covered a spectrum of abilities. As well as the performance sounding truly impressive (you can hear it on BBC iplayer), it was very interesting to see how the participants had been taught the music and how it was put together.

There was no music, but instead they learnt numbered themes, which the section leaders indicated using hand signs. For example, theme 1 in the violins was a clenched fist and it was bowed (mimed bowing). Furthermore, there were three conductors as well as the section leaders. This included the conductor for the BBC Concert Orchestra, Keith Lockhart, the workshop leader, Lincoln Abbotts and the composer, Graham Fitkin. The conductors kept time, while the sections leaders told their musicians exactly when to come in, stop and which theme to play. It was a very clever way to build a complex piece with a mixed ability group of musicians.

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