Recently I was invited to attend a concert at a venue new to me. It was a large space, well lit, with great acoustics, very warm and inviting–like sitting in an incredibly large living room, including plush leather chairs. I noticed there were a lot of microphones set up, and assumed they were making a recording of the evening–which is fine.
However, it seemed that the audience was not really included in the performance. As a classical music performer, I know that it isn’t customary to speak to the audience during the concert. In this case, they started with a selection of art songs sung in German, with neither a verbal explanation of the text nor printed concert notes. The audience never knew what the songs were about, nor when the songs ended–apart from the heavy sigh from the singer as she turned to the next page. At the end of the fifteen minute set, the vocalist–who sang beautifully, I might add–closed all her songbooks, and gave the audience a quick nod, to let us know she was finished.
Next the pianist played a selection of short pieces by a contemporary composer, who then rose from the audience himself, to do 3 more of his compositions. To his credit, the composer did give us the names of each piece as he played them, but again, the audience sat there wondering what was going on, and hoping we would be able to guess when the pieces were over. Overall, it was a puzzling and frustrating experience.
My first voice teacher told me that when you bow at a concert you are bending your head, as if you were allowing the audience to pat you on the head. In this case, the audience felt like the performers flinched out of the way before we could touch them.
I learned in discussing the concert afterwards with one of the performers and the sound engineer that they had been trying to save editing time post concert, by having minimal clapping and speech between numbers as they made the recording. OK, I understand what they were trying to do. But I felt cheated. The audience had expended time and effort and money to be there to support them, but they were shut out of the performance. I don’t understand why they chose to have an audience at all. They were making a studio recording, with the audience as decoration–but they didn’t take photos either, so the audience had no contribution to the process at all. It was a great shame, because the performers really did a great job, and it would have been nice to be able to let them know it.
I once attended a concert at Carnegie Hall, where the guest artist announced sternly at the beginning of the concert that they were recording the evening for an album, and wanted the audience to keep absolutely still, and not cough or turn pages of the program during the pieces, because it would ruin the recording. We all sat there in terror during the first piece, then the audience EXPLODED into fits of coughing when the conductor signaled they had finished. Some people rushed for the exits to escape….At intermission there was a mass exodus…Again, if they didn’t want an audience, why book a venue rather than a studio? I suppose, the income from ticket sales is the reason, but I wouldn’t buy the album afterwards…
Just a thought….