Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

Classical musician wants jazz/rock/pop musicians’ skills November 19, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Impact — concerttuning @ 1:28 pm
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Attending a number of events has highlighted that classical musicians need to have more than technical or performance skills. This has made me realise that my classical training has not equipped me with all the skills I need to work in the C21st.

To run music workshops you need to be able to improvise, play by ear and memorise music. These are skills that come naturally to jazz or rock musicians, but something I feel I am lacking.

Consequently, I would like to develop skills in this area.

  • I have already tried improvising by alternating musical phrases with my brother on the electric guitar.
  • I am not using music notation for my musical storytelling which I hope will improve my musical memory.
  • I am also learning tunes aurally by listening to them on YouTube or by working out familair tunes by trail and error on the cello.
  • I am even performing with a band in December and will need to compose my own cello line.

The Journey: Can classical concerts engage modern audiences?

Filed under: 1D Summary: form and communicate a view — concerttuning @ 1:00 pm
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Having played the cello for over a decade and played in countless concerts I have to admit that I rarely attend concerts. If I don’t go to concerts who does?

I asked a number of people what they thought about classical concerts. Click the links below to read their comments about what they love and/or hate about concerts as well as their idea of a perfect concert:

I developed my view about what makes a good classical concert after listening to other people’s responses and attending events. Click the links below to read the articles:

You can read my final argument here which emphasises the need for concerts to diversify.



The Journey: Concerts in the C21st

Filed under: 1C Summary: research and review — concerttuning @ 12:22 pm

As a cellist and arts administrator, I decided to base my research on concerts: their programming and format.

I wanted to look at how classical music is currently presented to audiences. I looked at a range of organisations from cutting edge to traditional and from professional to amateur. I added links to the organisations that I researched on my blog as well as well following them on twitter.

I reviewed a number of events as well as interviewing the musicians or organisers involved. Follow the links below to read the full articles:



The Journey: Exploring Music Education November 18, 2010

I particularly enjoyed developing the FUNomusica Family Concerts as part of my job working for a professional orchestra.  This prompted me to want to learn more about the role of music education within the music industry whether it is in schools, orchestras or part of outreach projects. I wanted to discover what opportunities there were to enter into this field, looking at the role of the music teacher, animateur and administrator.

I volunteered on a number music outreach projects as well as shadowing music practioneers which came to a total of 9 days work experience:



The journey: Musician turned storyteller

My artistic challenge was to develop new storytelling skills in the attempt to make my delivery of classical music more accessible.

Unless I know a piece of music very well and can anticipate what is going to happen next, I have a tendency to drift off when listening to music. I belive many new comers to classical music feel the same, as the music just washes over them. However, I find it easier to understand music when it has a narrative or is programmatic. For example, in Peter and the Wolf I like the way I can associate different tunes with different characters. If gives me something to focus on and keeps me engaged.

I wanted to build on this idea by using language to help guide what the listener should focus on. For this I realised I needed to improve my storytelling skills. I wanted gain to gain confidence in telling stories and learn any tricks of the trade. My final goal was to be able to incorporate storytelling with classical music.



My issue in the arts: the classical concert experience November 14, 2010

Filed under: 1D: issues — concerttuning @ 10:28 pm
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How do we transform the conventional classical concert experience to make it more engaging for a wider audience?

One word answer: Diversify

Want to know a little more…

Technology has allowed music to step into the C21st but the conventional concert experience is still stuck in the past. We need to diversify the concert experience to give people a choice in the way they interact with classical music.

Want the full picture…

Today, live concert experiences are not the only way we can hear music. Music permeates our everyday lives. At the click of a button we can hear it on an ipod, instantly download it from the internet or even hear it played in public spaces such as London underground stations. The way we interact with music, including classical, is thoroughly modern. The exception to the rule is the concert experience. This tradition has remained relatively unchanged since the C19th.

For the listener who is accustomed to having technology and all its benefits at their finger tips, stepping into a concert hall can either be a welcomed or mystifying step into another world. For the vast majority of the population, their reaction tends to err to the later. If cultural institutions want to attract young and diverse audiences into the concert hall, they need to recognise the way the modern person chooses to interact with classical music.

Problematically, transforming the conventional classical concert experience is not a straightforward task. It is all too easy to criticise the current format of concerts, but it is not so easy to put forward a successful new model. However, I would argue that the main step we need to make is to diversify. We need more variety in the types of concerts that are promoted and more variety in the music played.



Stringfever’s show reinvigorates the concert experience November 10, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 10:17 pm
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I discovered Stringfever on YouTube and on Monday 8 November went to see their show at Epsom Playhouse Theatre.

While the audience mainly consisted of the mature middle-class, there was a notable scattering of ‘young’ people: either teenagers coming with their parents or young professionals coming in groups of friends. I counted roughly 20 ‘young’ people out of an audience of around 300. Their manager Trevor Eyles emphasised the band’s broad appeal as they perform in venues from retirement homes to colleges.

I was struck by the slick nature of the show. The fact that they tour with the same programme has enabled them to produce a highly polished performance, particularly in regards to stage presence. The repertoire was confidently memorised which in turn meant that they were able to play out to the audience with an assortment of facial expressions and stage antics. Though the shiny suits and patent black shoes are not to my taste, their matching outfits turned the performance in a show with all aspects are taken into consideration.

Stringfever also successful communicated with the audience. This was evident in the spoken introductions to the repertoire as well as the musicians’ ability to portray they individual and distinct characters on stage. I think Ralph Broadbent’s dialogues were well balanced between informative and accessible. He introduced the works simply by giving a bit of background information like the piece’s original orchestration and then slowly incorporated any composers’ names or technical terms before giving the full formal name of the composition. I enjoyed how Neal Broadbent helped bridge the music and the dialogue by sustaining a pulse on the cello. Furthermore the false clap was very tactfully dealt with to diffuse any air that it mattered if you clapped in the wrong place.