BEETHOVEN CONCERT 20 OF 40: …before the lights dim

A great concert is so much the better if the evening includes a buzzing foyer, excitement at the interval and reliving the night over a drink and catch up with friends after – right? Well for concert 20 of the Beethoven reCYCLE series Victoria Silwood, Chair of the Chamber Music New Zealand Auckland Committee, shares the magic that happens out front and behind the scenes before the music begins…


The audience was charged by Michael Houstoun’s Beethoven recital this evening. There was a fantastic atmosphere at the concert, a flurry of souvenir programme buying both prior to the concert and in the interval, with many saying it was his best performance yet. This all made for a wonderful concert experience.

However, as both a CMNZ subscriber and volunteer my concert perspective is slightly different. Here is a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of tonight’s event – a little of what goes on before the maestro takes the stage.

The role of the CMNZ Auckland Committee is to provide volunteer assistance to our Concert Manager, Ros Giffney, by helping promote the concert, sell programmes and staff the CMNZ courtesy desk.

However, my specific role for this concert, as Chair of the Committee, actually began in January when it was my responsibility to engage a pre-concert speaker. I was very fortunate to secure James Tibbles for this evening’s talk.

Victoria Silwood with James Tibbles

Victoria Silwood with James Tibbles

Tonight, I arrived at the Town Hall at 6pm and helped set up the courtesy desk and poster display. Slightly nervously I rehearsed my introduction for James and waited to meet him at 6.45pm for the sound check prior to his talk at 7pm. Our Auckland audience relishes the pre-concert talk and they are always popular and well attended. Tonight was no exception and over 120 concertgoers listened as James gave us an interesting and insightful glimpse into Beethoven’s era, providing a bridge between our contemporary concert experience and the realities and challenges inherent in Beethoven’s life. 

The well-attended pre-concert talk with James Tibbles

The well-attended pre-concert talk with James Tibbles

Meanwhile out at the courtesy desk a steady stream of ‘customers’ were keeping Ros and the other volunteers busy.  Ticket pick ups, programme sales and a myriad of questions:

“How long is the concert ?” “ Sorry I’ve lost / washed / dog has eaten my season pass” “ Can I buy a  CD? “  and our favourite “can I buy another ticket for my friend!” 

Meeting friends before the concert

Meeting friends before the concert

Regular concert goers stop by for a chat about the up coming events and teachers bring groups of excited students to collect a programme.  We have a number of students from the University of Auckland School of Music, local secondary schools and private music schools who attend almost all the concerts and their energy and enthusiasm has the foyer buzzing.

Music teacher Heather Masefield with students

Music teacher Heather Masefield with students

University of Auckland music students Joyce Lee (L) and Stephanie Hsieh

University of Auckland music students Joyce Lee (L) and Stephanie Hsieh

“Ladies and Gentlemen the doors will be closing in 3 mins” sees latecomers hurry down the stairs anxiously clutching their tickets. 

As quickly as possible I close up the courtesy desk and take my seat.

As the lights dim I can relax and lose myself in Michael Houstoun’s outstanding performance.  The true magic of the night just beginning.

– Victoria, 26.08.2013

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