Euan Murdoch is travelling Around the World in 60 Days and blogging about it…
When you look at what’s on offer around the London classical music scene, it appears that everyone’s experimenting with mixing up the way they present their events in an attempt to bring audiences closer to the music and demystify the whole experience. Pre and post concert activities, a myriad of print and online resources, different performance times, durations and new venues, concert MCs and the list goes on.
Last night I attended The Works at Queen Elizabeth Hall presented by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the OAE. This event was billed as a ‘relaxed concert…giving you a guided tour of selected classical masterpieces’. It featured Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (1736). The evening began with live jazz in the bar and concluded with a speed dating session with some of the musicians. The main courses consisted of an illustrated talk including musical excerpts with a presenter, the music director and added comments from the performers, followed by a Q & A session and then an uninterrupted performance of the work. The MC/presenter closed out the evening by explaining the rules of engagement for a speed dating session with selected musicians on stage. Anything and everything that you’ve ever wanted to ask..now’s the chance!
The OAE are one of the ensembles who are leading the charge. Picking up a season brochure after the concert, I was taken by the rather ‘out there’ cover image and the array of extras available. One extra that caught my attention was The Night Shift, a late-night series and I hope to catch one of these before I leave London.
Back to my opening observation, everybody’s doing it! ….
So, how do we prepare our artists and audiences for this massive shift where they have to communicate before, during and after each concert?
I’ll be visiting music colleges and asking them this question over the coming weeks. However, I had the privilege of attending a performance in a special needs school this week given by Jacquin Trio, a prize-winning young ensemble comprising clarinet, viola and piano. They are part of a fantastic organisation called Live Music Now that has branches throughout UK. In the 2011-2012 year they supported 330 musicians with pastoral care, professional development and performance opportunities, performing to over 145,000 people. Their musicians include many recent graduates of the UK music colleges and all are given thorough training in how to reach their diverse audiences.
Their catchphrase is Inspiring Musicians Transforming Lives. They work with children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, and with older people. They have identified that this work gives their musicians the ability to perform with a deeper level of engagement throughout their careers.
As one of the greatest risks facing classical music today is maintaining its relevancy to life in the 21st century, perhaps the greatest gift for emerging artists is to experience how music can reach out and connect people. Sometimes the concert hall and its conventions gets in the way of this interaction.
– Euan, 26.03.2013