What Makes a Great Place For a Concert?

By October 16, 2017Commentary

One reason (of many) why I find my position at the Schubert Club so interesting is that we present concerts and recitals in so many venues. It means that I am always happy to hear from people about performance spaces they’ve enjoyed. Though I’ve lived in the Twin Cities since 1995 (with a 5-year hiatus in London), and I’ve been lucky to attend many live arts events all over the place, I am still learning about new spaces where Schubert Club might present live music. This curiosity for new venues is especially relevant for our Schubert Club Mix series which got underway for its fifth season last week at Aria in Minneapolis.

Mix (as it is inevitably shortened to) is our concert series designed to appeal to music lovers who prefer live performances with less formality and concert ritual. We’re intentionally informal; artists interact with the audience more; and we go to extra efforts to make the ambiance in the venue more relaxed than it is likely to be in a more traditional concert hall like our wonderful Ordway (home of the International Artist Series) or a church like St Anthony Park UCC (home of Music in the Park Series). 

As we plan future years of Schubert Club Mix, I will always be on the look out for new and interesting spaces. There are three primary criteria in a space which factor in assessing a space’s suitability for presenting concerts: Acoustic, location, & ambiance.

Acoustic: kind of obvious, but not all big rooms with large volumes sound the same. We’re blessed in the Twin Cities with several venues which have truly world-class acoustics for unamplified music – the Ordway and Orchestra Hall are at the top of that list. The recent removal of carpet and other changes at St Anthony Park’s United Church of Christ have made an extraordinary difference, making this church a wonderful place to listen to chamber music. Not all venues can have superlative acoustics though. What I always look for is a balance of resonance and clarity, and the confidence that the sound produced by musicians and their instruments really fills the space.

Location: it’s not only important to present concerts in locations which are convenient for an audience to get to, but also that they have amenities close by like parking, restaurants and bars and that the whole experience of going out for the evening feels safe and enjoyable. 

Ambiance:  slightly more difficult to put one’s finger on, ambiance is, I believe, hugely significant to an audience member’s enjoyment of an event – and thus an important factor in the decision whether to return another time. Ambiance can be created by the look or architecture of a space, its history, the welcome of our staff and ushers, lighting, even an aroma or some kind of association that is personal to an individual. A great example of this is the comment I hear regularly at Aria when audience members nostalgically remember performances by Theater de la Jeune Lune ten or more years ago.

Since Schubert Club has no primary performance space, we will always be on the look out for new possible venues. This nomadic approach to presenting concerts is, I think, a strength and opportunity for Schubert Club.  We can seek out spaces which suit different performers and meet the needs of different audience members. As our new strategic plan calls for the organization to make connections with new communities, we need to pursue our curiosity to find gathering spaces which we haven’t yet come across.  I’ll be pleased to hear from anyone who has venues or community connections they would like to recommend.

 

 

 

 

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