Pre-Concert Talks: What questions would you like to ask the artists?

By Barry Kempton

Yesterday afternoon the wonderful Schubert Ensemble (from London) performed on our Music in the Park Series.  Piano quartets by Huw Watkins, Gabriel Fauré and Antonin Dvorak, all played with a deep understanding of style and drama – not to mention individual musicianship and ensemble proficiency of the highest level.

One hour before the performance, I interviewed two of the ensemble members for about 25 minutes in front of some of our audience.  They talked about the music, about the ensemble and its history, about commissioning, their commitment to education work and their worldwide touring for the 30+ years of the ensemble’s existence.  It was, I think, both informative and engaging, giving those in attendance some insight into the personalities and backgrounds of these musicians.

Pre-concert talks and interviews are generally wonderful and much welcomed by those who come early to gain the extra perspective, but I regularly marvel at the generosity of spirit of visiting musicians who are both willing and able to participate in these conversations just minutes before we, the audience, expect them to come back on stage and deliver a superlative performance.  It seems that this is increasingly an expectation on the part of us (presenters and audiences,) and I’m regularly impressed at the way so many of our guest musicians take it their stride.  Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to distract from the musical focus we expect.

I confess I enjoy the conversations.  It gives me a chance to ask questions about the music and musicians, and unlike most interviews we see on television, they are completely unrehearsed.  I usually prepare my list of questions in advance but depending on what is said, the conversation can go in a different direction to what I expect. 

I do often wonder if I’m eliciting the kind of information our audience wants to know.  I’ve sometimes wondered whether we couldn’t set up a system of inviting the concert-going audience to post questions online in advance.  I’d be happy to learn more about what kind of background you’d like to find out about programs and musicians in a pre-concert forum.  Questions can be specific to a particular artist or general.  Let me know.  Thanks.


(Image above: David Evan Thomas hosts a preconcert discussion at the Ordway prior to an International Artist Series concert).