Concert Programming

Concert Programming

I am always looking for ways to improve the concert-going experience. As artists, I think we need to find a better way to attract and retain an audience. We need to think about concert programming and how to put pieces together that will be interesting to the audience and help our students learn about musicality and programming. I have always disliked going to percussion concerts and/or recitals and watching percussionists move equipment in between pieces. For this reason, I generally choose to have three parts on my percussion ensemble programs with minimal (or no) movements in between pieces. This takes some planning, but I think it is a more enjoyable show for the audience.

For my past faculty recital (January 31, 2014), I decided to take this concept one step further and play the entire second half without pause. This is not a new concept by any means. Vocalists combine arias into larger sets. The first time I saw this during a percussion concert was in Spring 2003 at the USC Percussion Ensemble Concert directed by Erik Forrester. All of the students were on stage and they played each piece without a pause. Erik was able to control the pace of the program by selecting pieces that flowed together and worked as a larger set of pieces. (He had also done this at PASIC when his ensemble performed in 2002.) As an audience member for that concert, it made a big impression and I wanted to try and find an opportunity to try it out on one of my concerts. As I was programming my recital, I wanted to bring back some pieces I had done in the past and combine them with some new and recently composed pieces. The majority of these pieces were 4-6 minutes and I didn’t feel the need for the audience to applaud between every piece. Voila! I finally had the perfect situation to try out this concept. The program I played was:

Red Arc/Blue Veil – John Luther Adams
A Minute of News – Eugene Novotney
Pitch Drop – Dave Gerhart
Circles No. 1 – Martin Herman/Dave Gerhart
Warm It Up -Tom Osborne

When selecting music, I tried to put together pieces that would flow into each other. I also wanted the audience to have some time to process what they heard without having to applaud. Overall, I was happy with the outcome. I know it is different to watch this on YouTube verses being in the audience but I would appreciate any feedback on this topic. Do you think it worked? Would you have done something different?