Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

The Journey: Can classical concerts engage modern audiences? November 19, 2010

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.



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.



Why Hannah Conway’s approach is musical magic July 17, 2010

Filed under: 1B: research — concerttuning @ 9:16 pm
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After being blown away by her performance at Spitalfields Schools concert, I got in touch with Hannah Conway to find out more about her approach.

I thought the concert was so original that she developed the techniques, but in fact I was reminded that arts outreach and education has been going on for the last 20 years so there is a history of practitioners behind it.

I questioned her technique and Hannah explained she chooses to use gesture, movement and language, as for her it makes the most sense. She gets to the bare bones of what is going on and using hooks in the pieces she helps reveal what the composer does compositionally. Furthermore, she explained how one of the most important things is to be passionate about what you are talking about.

When asked the best way to engage children, she thought that it is best to get them ‘doing’ so that they are active as well as throwing them in the deep end.

I asked Hannah is she would do anything about changing the concert format. Her answer surprised me saying she wouldn’t change it explaining that ‘a concert is a concert’, as the basic format of listening to music has been in place for 100 of years so. For her, it is all about the music and the surrounding things don’t really matter, but it best to find a way to be completely absorbed by the music. However, she did suggest the ideas of a having a mobile audience, playing in unusual venues, encouraging the musicians to talk and respond to questions and cross-collaboration with different artists to encourage a wider audiences to attend concerts. Likewise, she argued that family concerts have been running for a while but may in the future develop their use of multimedia and technology.



What would your ideal musical experience/concert be? July 9, 2010

Filed under: 1D: issues — concerttuning @ 9:55 pm
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This is a really personal question and highlights the problem that you can’t programme something that everyone will like. However, out of interest I asked this question to Kevin Murphy at his interview on Wednesday 6 July.

He said that it would probably involve water as he likes the way sound resonates across water. He pictures it taking places at dusk in a beautiful location. Perhaps with music from two sides of the bank or even on a boat. The music would be contemporary so that it would be the first time anyone would have heard it.  A somehow there would be a form of participation so that the audience would go away with the vibrations still going through their bodies and with a smile on their face.

In short the elements of the concert would be:

water, dusk, contemporary, nature, landscape, participation

Kevin Murphy was very surprised on reflecting that in his ideal concert music wasn’t high up on his priorities. Instead the whole atmosphere around how you experience the music seemed to be crucial.


The Conventional Classical Concert: Review May 1, 2010

La Belle France, 29 April 2010

Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford | John Rutter and Catrin Finch


I chose to attend this particular concert, as I knew I could get a free ticket through work, I was free that evening as my boyfriend intended to work, and I liked to sound of the programme with Debussy and Ravel.


I knew I liked Debussy and Ravel as composers – I did a course at uni about La Belle France focusing on music in Paris around 1900. I’ve played a few works by the composers including Debussy’s La Mer with my Youth Orchestra and Ravel’s Piano Trio at University though I wouldn’t be able to hum any tunes now. On itunes, I have an album of Ravel and Debussy’s piano works. Other friends have also commented how they like these composers.

I was also interested in seeing the soloist. It was a harpist, which is a beautiful instrument in itself. Through tweeting at work, I learnt a little more about the soloist, Catrin Finch. A volunteer at work who I invited to the concert also emailed me some You tube links of the soloist playing. I was impressed how she did conventional repertoire as well as fun things in electronic settings with bright lights etc. She has also been on TV.