Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

Rush Hour Concert with Southbank Sinfonia July 9, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 12:10 pm
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Last night, on Thursday 7 July, I attended a Rush Hour concert by the Southbank Sinfonia at St John’s Waterloo.  They are Britain’s orchestra of young professionals and form the country’s leading orchestral academy.

Though in essence it was a conventional concert, they have done a few things to alter the way the concert is presented.

  • Catchy title – the series is called Rush Hour concerts which has a certain ring about it.
  • Early start – starting at 6pm it is meant to suit those on the way back from work. Additionally, it probably appeals to the elderly who do not like to be out late in the evenings.
  • Short programme – lasted 75 mins which is a more manageable chunk of time to sit and listen with full concentration. Though it eliminates the social aspect of the interval, this is suited to single attendees coming from the office.
  • Free drinks – a pleasant surprise especially on a hot day. Creates a relaxed atmosphere and an occupation before the music starts.
  • Introductions – either musicians or the conductor introduced each piece. While most of the information was traditional (historical context or brief analysis of the music), the young musicians used an informal tone and made a few jokes.  

Though they did not revolutionise the concert experience on this occasion, they have certainly considered ways in which to make their concerts more attractive to concert attendees.

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An Alternative Way: Open air live screening June 9, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 4:54 pm
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Last night I attended a FREE screening of Carmen at Trafalgar Square broadcasted from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. This screening as well as those in cinemas across the country are an example of an alternative way to present classical music.

This was my third year running to attend these events and I took the opportunity to bring friends along. As their website  (http://www.roh.org.uk/whatson/bpbigscreens/index.aspx) says:

“The BP Summer Big Screens are the perfect way to introduce friends and family to the Royal Opera House and to world-class opera and ballet.”

The experience is very different from that of attending an opera in the auditorium. While the screen looked pixellated at times, if sitting at the back of the Opera House, you wouldn’t be able to see these details anyway.

  • Flexibility of length – though the opera is very long you could choose how much you watched. My friend came only for the first half, as she had to go back to revision.
  • You can have a picnic during the performance
  • You are in the open air (for better or worse!). Lends a bit of risk and uncertainly to the event.
  • There is a community feel amongst the audience – especially helped by the mass choir sing-a-long beforehand.
  • Presenter and behind the scenes footage about the Royal Opera House.
  • Informal seating  – you can come in any size party and don’t have to book beforehand.

Gareth Malone, noted the rapture of the audience. It was surprising how entranced everyone sat watching the opera with very few people chatting throughout the opera. Perhaps we have a better attention span than thought or was the audience used to watching opera? There were certainly some good singers amongst us!

 

An Alternative Way: The Night Shift May 30, 2010

Some music organisations are already leading the way in presenting the concert in a different format for example the The Night Shift series by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

It still offers a live experience of classical music, but in a slightly altered format. There are some key aspects that make it more appealing to a broader audience.

  1. Late start of 10pm Cooler like a gig. Different event and audience to the earlier one at 7.30pm – high proportion of young people in the foyer.
  2. Could take drinks into the auditorium – this is usually not allowed in auditoriums while it is common practise at gigs, jazz clubs etc.
  3. Pre-concert live band Though some concerts have pre-concert talks and workshops it is quite unusual for a non-classical pre-performance to take place. This acknowledges the fact that classical music fans don’t just like classical music. It makes the evening more a appealing to one who is unfamiliar with classical music as they are slowly introduced to classical instruments in a format that they are probably more familiar (band in a bar) and then go onto the hard core stuff during the main concert.
  4. Spoken word Presenter on stage who introduces the pieces, interviews the musicians and asks for demonstrations = very cool, assumed didn’t know very much about music and nicely broke up the concert with dialogue. Casual way of talking – called people by their first names. Flautist introduced rest of the woodwind section by their first names – felt like a friendly family. Celebrity appearance of Goldie to reinforce the fact that cool people attend classical concerts.
  5. Alternative programme notes Explains exactly what and when everything happens during the course of the evening.
  6. Audience behaviour Presenter informed audience at the beginning when to clap – this helped break up the symphony, as we clapped between the movements. Also had cheering and wolf whistles from the audience. People laughed at the boring bassoon part. Whispers towards end of concert. Encouraged to get up and get drinks during the concert. Problem as hard to leave seat without disturbing people.
  7. Interactive Imaginative feedback forms – had to write one word to describe how the concert made you feel. Gave audience members cameras to document the evening – later shared on flickr. Audience member to be voice for podcasts. Conventional feedback forms -but chance to win free tickets.

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