Classical music presenters are always looking for new ways to boost attendance at their concerts. Well, the search is over – turns out all you need is skydivers and a soccer team.
On Monday night, I played the American and Spanish national anthems with some colleagues from the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra in front of over 23,000 people, the largest audience for a string quartet performance in history.*
We were preceded by skydivers, who delivered the game ball and an enormous American flag, and our performance (which received the loudest ovation of all time**) was followed by a match between FC Cincinnati and Valencia.
*In keeping with our country’s transition to a fact-free society, I am going to say that this is true until someone proves that it isn’t. So there.
** see above
In all seriousness, there’s a lesson here – anyone who puts on concerts could learn a lot from our counterparts in the sports world. Fans were piling into the stadium over an hour before the game, and they could see the players warming up, get autographs and pictures with them, and, of course, buy lots of stuff. There were also lots of announcements about the club’s work with local organizations, and for at least a half-hour before the game, something was always happening on the field that fans were encouraged to watch and participate in.
In short, there was lots of interaction between the entertainers and the audience, as well as activities to build excitement for the event to come. The “pre-game show” is pretty limited before most classical music concerts. Now some of this stuff wouldn’t work, but just having more going on before concerts, especially involving the players, is certainly worth exploring. Post your suggestions in the comments, and PLEASE, e-mail me if you know skydivers willing to work at non-profit rates.
In concerts, pieces are performed straight through, with (one hopes) little evidence of the challenges the players faced in putting it together. Many audience members have not had the chance to watch a group rehearse, and I think that’s a shame, for a couple of reasons.
I’ve heard many audience members use words like “magical” and “mysterious” to describe an ensemble at work, and though that’s flattering, it’s also a little misleading. Though a great performance will contain both magic and mystery, how that performance gets assembled is really interesting, and witnessing the process makes the players and our work seem less unusual, something I think everyone benefits from. This Friday night, if you’re in Cincinnati, you’ll get the chance to see how it all works.
The give and take of rehearsal is, to me, the most satisfying (and sometimes, frustrating) part of being in a chamber ensemble. Each member may have wildly differing opinions about how fast the piece should go, how long or short the notes should be played, or whose part should be heard most clearly in a given section.
Results may vary.
In all seriousness, the compromise and collaboration that take place in rehearsal make playing chamber music so special. As I’ve written before here, it’s also a great model for human behavior, one which is particularly needed these days, and one which we look forward to sharing with children in our school program next fall (more details on that in the days ahead – we are finalizing arrangements with Cincinnati Public Schools to be the ensemble in residence at a school newly designated as an arts magnet!).
So get some wine, pull up a chair and watch us put together quartets by Haydn and Brahms. We’ll pause from time to time to answer questions, too. Maybe you’re interested in seeing musicians collaborate, maybe you’re thinking about hosting a house concert for us, or maybe you just want to hear some great music – whatever your reason for coming, it should be a lot of fun. Hope to see you there!
Till next time,
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