Five things I like to see in concert venues – before even a note is heard

By September 19, 2016Commentary

Over the summer I read a blog post of a professional orchestra wind player who wrote up a list of things he didn’t like to see during a concert. Apparently he developed the list initially for student musicians he was coaching.  I agreed with pretty much everything he included, but it got me thinking about what I actually do like to see.  I came up with these five things pretty quickly, all in advance of the actual experience of hearing any music.

  1. Smiling ushers and welcoming box office staff as I enter the venue. If the journey to the venue has been trying, parking difficult or the temperature outside is 20 Fahrenheit below, a warm welcome changes your mood.  It’s nice to think that someone appears to appreciate the effort you’ve made to get there.
  2. A clean and tidy stage or performance area with lights focused on the stage – and also on any special features in the room. For example, a former presenting partner of the Accordo series (Ben Johnson) encouraged us to feature the impressive candlestick at Christ Church Lutheran – and to light the candles.  It was a lovely image which many audience members commented on.
  3. A buzzing, expectant audience. One of the reasons we go to concert venues is to experience music in a community of fellow music-lovers.  So, walking first into the lobby and then into the performance space itself is particularly fun if other people are excited about the upcoming experience too.
  4. Musicians entering the stage with a purpose. It might seem trivial or of little importance to some, but I believe that the way a musician or ensemble enters the stage and engages with the audience from the moment we see them, tells us audience members something about the performance we’re about to experience.  It’s all about the energy projected from the stage.  Audiences (consciously or subconsciously) respond to the energy coming from the stage, they reflect their own energy back to the performers.   And as many artists have told me, they feel that energy from the audience, feed off it and usually perform better because of it.
  5. Well-dressed musicians. I am not a fan particularly of uniforms or conventional concert dress.  I don’t mind it, but I have grown tired of seeing orchestras in tails, evening dress or all-black attire.  Most important for me, is that musicians on stage have made some effort (shirts ironed, shoes polished), that they have thought about style (and some color please!) and that these don’t look like clothes they might have worn on the way to the concert.

Disagree? Or did I miss something important to you?  Please let me know.  Maybe you can help us improve the experience of attending Schubert Club concerts this coming season.    

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