Tuning the Concert

Gold Arts Award Portfolio

Meeting the OAE team July 1, 2010

Filed under: 1B: research — concerttuning @ 9:25 pm
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I went to the OAE office on Wednesday 23 June to meet Natalie and Natasha who work in the education and marketing departments. OAE is known to be a bit eccentric with their slogan ‘not all orchestras are the same‘, so I went to see if their unique approach attracted a different kind of audience.

Marketing

The orchestra is different in the way it communicates with its audience. It uses very bold eye-catching printed material for which they commission photo shoots of the orchestra. The tone of language is conversational, with simple explanations of who they are why they do what they do.

Future Audiences

Besides the night shift they do a number of things to make the orchestra interactive and accessible. Their next season has a pre-concert event called OAE Extra before each concert including talks, illustrated lectures, insights & performances. There are also post-concert Q&A with the orchestra musicians. Similarly to the Night Shift they have used a presenter, though somewhat more formally, to introduce the works during a concert based on Handel.

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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.

 

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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