Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

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!

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Another way: an informal jazz concert June 4, 2010

I heard the Yazz Ahmed Trio perform at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Late Shift events going on in the art gallery.

What I found interesting was the flexibility in the way you could listen to the concert. Audience members came and went as they pleased. They either sat down to focus on the music, or some just lingered or merely walked on past.

This recognises that different audience members will have different attention spans for a multitude of reasons. Conditioned by classical concerts, it made me feel quite awkward to leave half way through the set, as it seemed disrespectful to the musicians. However, I came away with a much more positive memory of the experience having left when I had reached saturation point, rather than forcing myself to listen to it all and get bored.

Perhaps we should try to offer this flexibility in classical concert too? However, this would not be as feasible in a paid concert, as audience members may feel that they had to get their monies worth. Perhaps we could offer an alternative activity if people needed a break from the music i.e. go and get a drink (like during the Night Shift concerts by OAE) or provide paper and pencils for drawing activities.