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.


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.


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.



Schools Concerts: Spitalfields Music Festival June 30, 2010

Filed under: 1C: Reviews — concerttuning @ 8:51 pm
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I went to two schools concerts as part of Spitalfields Music Festival running from 11-26 June 2010. They couldn’t have benn more contrasting in content, presenters and musicians but there were some key aspects common to both in the way they presented the music to children.

The first concert on Fri 18 June 2010 10.30am at Shoreditch Church was presented by Sam Glazer with students from the Royal Academy of Music where we were transported into the unique sound world of the inspirational composer Iannis Xenakis.

The second concert on Wed 23 June 2010 10.30am at Christ Church Spitalfields with The Sixteen and presenter Hannah Conway was specially-designed to introduce the music of Monteverdi’s music to all ages and attention spans.



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.