One thing I like about blogging is that I can feel free to contradict myself.
“Concerts matter. We’ve got to deliver. The best way to advance classical music is to give better concerts.”
Thus spake me….
I still believe that, but there are many examples of conductors of great skill who were beloved by their musicians, yet who were unable to translate their great artistic gifts into a vibrant organization.
I recently had the chance to visit with an elderly relative, someone who’s intelligence I’ve always admired since I was a young child. During our visit, I was more than a little surprised to discover that she has become a regular watcher of a TV pundit/screaming-head, who’s views and approach I find (and I would have expected her to find) despicable.
As we discussed the issue, it became clear that what drew her to this particular personality was his very direct way of speaking to his audience, as if he were having a conversation with them every day. What to me looks like rather ham-fisted manipulation techniques can be quite effective over time with an audience. Why?
I can’t help believe that our current social structure has created a very profound sense of alienation and isolation for many citizens- few things are more appealing to audiences than a sense of connection.
Orchestras can offer immediacy by the bucket full, and yet, sometimes, we don’t connect. Our marketing is often a problem- we tend to advertise via platitude. I personally loathe “adjective advertising,” including such misleading ads (real ones) as “Tchaikovsky’s thrilling 6th” and “Mahler’s Exultant 6th.” Truth in advertising???
Artistically, we have to accept that part of what makes a great concert is the impact it has on the audience- musicians, conductor… we all have to connect. A performance is more than just the execution of musical instructions, it is a communicative act, and we have to all be ready to get our hands a little dirty to help make that communication happen.
Making that connection is a powerful tool. Once an audience member feels that there is a bond between them and the orchestra, they can be fiercely loyal friends, but just as with our personal friends, we should always remember to treat there friendship as something of great value, not to be violated.