It just isn’t Take A Friend To The Orchestra week without a patron contribution and this year we have two. First up is from multi-Emmy award winning producer, composer, and director Scott Silberstein; a man who knows more than a few things about presentation and having a good time. In fact, if your orchestra is interested in video production, he’s a good person to know (so…hintidy, hint, hint). But for TAFTO, Scott …
Sometimes you just want to be told what to do. It isn’t that you’re lazy or averse to initiative but having a read to use idea can be the difference between thinking “I should do that” and actually getting it done. If that’s the way you’re feeling the Holly Mulcahy’s contribution is precisely what you’ve been looking for. ~Drew McManus Six Fail-Safe Ways to Get Your Concert On By: Holly Mulcahy; violinist and author …
How can you not be interested in what someone with the title “Chief Happiness Officer” has to say about bringing friends to a concert? To that end, PR consultant and walking, talking, and blogging new media encyclopedia Maura Lafferty offers up a wonderfully personal and captivating contribution. ~Drew McManus When I first met Raul, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into. He checked me out & asked me on …
Going to a classical concert can be an experience that crystallizes a moment in one’s life that, when viewed in retrospect, can be an irrevocably life changing. We hear of these awakenings in our musical circles often and for many, it can be such an intense bewildering occurrence. I remember such an event in my life when I was 12 and my father took me to an opera performance of Verdi’s La Traviata.
There is value in repetition. This was a difficult lesson for me to learn, both as a child when I discovered that I was expected to practice my music lessons every day, and as a teacher when I had to repeat a lecture point because some students didn’t understand what I was saying. This lesson was made easier when I realized that even if the exact same notes were played, or the exact same words said, I made new meaning. I heard new things in the notes or felt new things in my lips and fingers as I repeated Clarke technical studies over and over. My students (hopefully) understand more about suspensions when I say again how to prepare the dissonance, especially if they weren’t listening the first time!
Lucky me! I’m actually paid to take people to concerts. Usually it is to discuss acoustic attributes of various performance spaces with folks about to embark on building their own. These people are already in love with the sound of orchestras. Not a hard sell to get them to a concert at all.
“The Artist came from a musical family”
A sentence like this usually is in the first few lines of most performer bios (that’s when I’m still awake while reading them), and sometimes gives me a twinge of envy.
After all, I didn’t come from a musical family, far from it, and such a statement implies that there needs to be some sort of genetic code for one to understand music at the highest level. That premise can be dismissed out of hand. Then again, TAFTO has made me consider the following, if I didn’t come from a musical family, how did I get hooked?
Toronto, April 14, 2003. The entrance to the large factory space at Cherry Beach Sound in Toronto’s docklands has been renovated with various vintage items of Arctic travel and resembles a museum of exploration as much as an alternative opera venue. The audience (slightly frigid as a result of an unseasonably cold April) passes through the long atrium and arrives at the starkly lit entrance to the performance space as if entering into another carefully constructed reality. The occasion is the premiere of Linda C. Smith’s Facing South, an opera (based on a libretto by Don Hannah) that looks at Robert Peary’s quest for the North Pole, and has been commissioned, workshopped, and produced by Tapestry New Opera Works, an opera company whose mission is to create new works for the operatic stage.
I have a terrible confession to make. When I was 13 or so, I loved to watch chess tournaments on PBS. Shelby Lyman, I believe, was the host of these programs, and they were surprisingly campy. On the particular fateful day that I’m thinking of, for instance, Tim Rice (frequent librettist for Andrew Lloyd-Webber) appeared as guest authority, on the basis of his musical “Chess.” I not only watched, but taped, this program; puberty was wreaking havoc on my judgement. Right afterwards, a Verdi opera, Falstaff, came on; I let the VCR record this too. Of course I didn’t know from Falstaff, but whoa dude! I was entranced, delighted, smitten; I sat, glued, inches from the grainy screen, and watched while my mother yelled at me to vacuum my room or something; and when the final fugue happened and all the characters in the last joyous bars vanished from the stage leaving merely the empty forest landscape, leaving the impression that it had all been a beautiful dream … well, I was beside myself, a happy happy tween. 84-year-old Verdi had come, perhaps in the nick of time, to rescue 13-year-old me from associates of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
What do you love about going to the symphony?
This is the question I asked the readers on my website, Violinist.com, which has a lively discussion board populated with professional musicians, enthusiastic amateurs, teenage students, their parents, teachers and fans of the violin.
Taking a friend to the orchestra is a bit of a tricky matter when you play in the orchestra. Most of my friends either play in the Calgary Philharmonic themselves, or have been coming to concerts their whole lives. And when I do get to know someone from a different sphere, and find they’re enthusiastic about hearing an orchestra for the first time, I’m not always in the best position to guide them through it. I’ll be up on stage, hoping they managed to get there, didn’t feel too lost or bored, and maybe we’ll get an opportunity for a post-concert chat. I don’t get to help them out or answer their questions, at least until after the concert has ended.
A few weeks ago, Kurt Masur returned to conduct The Cleveland Orchestra after an absence of 17 years. I had played for him before, but never with Cleveland, where he had been a favorite for many years before he got his position in New York. From the first moments of rehearsal it was clear that this was going to be a very special week of music-making. Masur appears to be somewhat frail, but his experience and passion for the music made Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony come alive with a tremendous clarity right from the first bars.
The experience of actually seeing an orchestra live is magical. Bows moving in tandem, melodies flitting from section to section, the anticipation of the crowd, the conductor waving his arms–it is a thrill unique to the orchestral concert experience. Audio and video recordings can’t even come close to the feeling of actually being there, hearing music being created in that moment, filling the hall with sound and then dissipating just as quickly.
First off, let me say that I often won’t even try to take an uninitiated friend to an orchestra concert, in part because many of my friends already are enthusiastic concertgoers.
Maybe I find that there is so much less to talk about with those who seem apathetic or antagonistic about symphony concerts…heck, I’ve found that I’m related to some of them.
In Paul Auster’s “The Locked Room” from The New York Trilogy, Fanshawe is missing and presumed dead. Although a prolific writer before his disappearance, he could never bring himself to publish any of his work, and has left his entire unpublished oeuvre to the narrator, his childhood friend, with instructions that he read the collection and decide whether or not it is worthy of publication. Upon reading Fanshawe’s manuscripts, which confirm to him his friend’s literary genius, the narrator decides to pitch the collection to a publisher, singling out a large novel as the most brilliant work, and as a result, the one that should be considered first for publication. When the publisher asks the narrator for a description of the book, he considers the request but then decides on the following course of action:
As an orchestral violinist, I follow a routine before concerts. I usually leave home about an hour before the downbeat and swing by Starbucks for my caffeine fix. Dressed in a penguin suit, violin case in hand, I quickly realize that I am a walking advertisement for my orchestra. Sometimes, it garners a number of unsolicited questions and interest. A woman stops to ask me what instrument is in the case. The man behind the counter enthusiastically tells me that he played the violin in his school orchestra.
The orchestra has become an institution where the rituals of attending a concert have replaced a transcendent musical experience. Unfortunately, with the limited rehearsal time and a long season of uninspired programming it’s easy for a musician to feel that he is not any more special than a plumber. When going to a concert, being a savvy shopper can do you some good. If you look at your concert schedule you have many types of concerts to attend; First Nights, Thursday Masterworks, Featured Soloists, and my current Los Angeles favorite, Casual Fridays. This entertainment oriented marketing approach is akin to putting “old wine in new bottles”.
Recently, I saw Renee Fleming on one of the morning news shows where pedestrians outside the television studio are visible through a glass wall. Svelte in her contemporary hairstyle and pantsuit, Fleming looked nothing like a stereotypical diva. She began to sing and people on the sidewalk gathered to listen, their faces becoming calm and beatific. Almost certainly, some of them would have said they didn’t like classical music and yet all were mesmerized by Fleming’s simple, moving performance.
When people ask me what it’s like to play in a symphony orchestra for a living, I generally respond that it’s just like everyone else’s job, with all the office politics, boring meetings, and meddling middle management, except that the last few hours of the work week take place on stage, in formalwear, with 2,500 people watching to see if you screw up. That having been said, it is a job which a great many people pay to watch us do, and this gives rise to certain, shall we say, specialized areas of concern.
Have you ever run into a member of your local orchestra in the grocery store and actually known their name or recognized their face? Really? Was it because they were still wearing their concert clothes? What if they were in street clothes? Would you still recognize them? Chances are, it might prove to be a little more difficult without the wardrobe assistance.