Larry Sherwood wrote:
>At first I thought Karl Miller was being condescending when he solicited
>the thoughts of people like me for limning a direction for programming
>of a Chamber Music.
Certainly not my intent. I really am having trouble with this subject.
>I find I am treated to an accompaniment of smacking of lips (particularly
>from younger members of the audience) and fiddling with their bottles
>as people quench their thirst. That single policy change has kept me
>from attending a couple of events at the Kennedy Center. Second, please
>don't allow people to enter the concert hall while music is in progress.
Some of our concerts are given in private homes. The audience is therefore
limited to about 40 people or so. No water bottles, but we do offer
free wine at intermission and more wine and food after the concert. With
the programs in such a setting, it seems to deter the noise one usually
associates with usual concert venues.
Our more public concerts are often in places like museums and smaller
concert halls. Happily, audience noise has not been much of a problem.
While our audience is small, they seem to be respectful.
>As for programming, I'm going to assume there is only one concert series
>to work with so that Karl does not have the luxury of tailoring a series
>to specialized interests.
Well, that possibility is one being discussed. Many years ago the
conductor/composer David van Vactor had a Connisseur's Series for his
orchestra. Basically, it seemed like he used that as an excuse to program
American music and other esoterica...nothing 12tone as I recall, but
certainly off the beaten path.
>selecting the standard- or near standard- repertoire (although I'd put
>in a plea for some of the lessor known works of the most celebrated
>masters of the genre).
Indeed, it has frustrated me that when a work of Beethoven is programmed,
it is, more often than not, something more familiar.
>But the contemporary side of the equation can be a morass. As a general
>rule, I'd suggest the Austin Chamber Music Center avoid truly experimental
>music- most of us who cherish Beethoven's and Smetana's quartets just
>don't go for wall scrapings and violinists hanging from helicopters.
>There is plenty of interesting, tonal music from the likes of Aaron Jay
>Kernis, Benjamin Lees, and Robert Simpson that doesn't get performed
>frequently and that most devotees of chamber music would value. Finally,
>a well-informed but non-technical discussion ab out the music before or
>after a concert can stimulate interest.
This is another thought we have had, non-technical pre concert talks.
We did do a piece of Lees a few weeks ago, his Second Piano Trio.
Your thoughts are most appreciated. My concern at this point is to bring
as many ideas into play and provide our new Artistic Director with some
Along those lines, Nick mentioned in his post, serving your audience.
I wonder what we can do to increase our audience while retaining the
Also, I wonder about providing some pedagogical orientation to the
programming. Some writers point to the audiences wanting more variety
in content. Our audiences seem to be dwindling, but I am not sure why.
I wonder if they are looking for some fresh faces on stage, or greater
stylistic variety...or as I sometimes think, a "hook" to bring them
there...something that could generate some pre concert press...that
"recently discovered" work by some composer, or, it hasn't been heard
in 50 years, a lost romantic treasure. What is it that gets someone out
of the house and to a concert when they can have all of the standards
at their finger tips in their CD collection.
I wonder if it isn't a combination of factors. For me, the late Beethoven
Quartets are amongst the most profound and engaging music ever written,
yet when performed by a less than wonderful quartet, they can be turgid
and/or a near death experience.
I guess I am probably thinking of fundamental questions...why do we
do this? Do we do it to keep an audience, perhaps at the expense of
attracting new perspectives.
Ok, so an evening of Wolpe isn't probably going to play to a sold out
house...yet, at our summer series, we got the best applause with the
Dutilleux Quartet. It was played magnificently and with great enthusiasm
by a group of young musicians. There were a few introductory comments
which helped the audience along.
Part of my problem in trying to put this set of guidelines together
is that I find very little, perhaps short of Xenakis, to be a stretch.
What does it take to get an audience excited?
Please do keep those ideas coming.