For just a moment, forget about all the doom and gloom you hear about the state of the performing arts in the United States. I don’t really care what the “experts” are saying, classical music is alive and well. What isn’t well, is the way we market engage, and entertain our potential audience. The old ways are headed out the door my friends.
I just played a performance with the Manhattan Symphonie, conducted by Gregory Singer last night. It was an unconventional performance to say the least, and as the rehearsal progressed I became increasingly concerned about how the performance would work. Of course, my concerns came from the incredibly different upbringing in orchestras where the conductor rules with an iron fast.
I was in shock at the level of improvisation and carefree attitude that Greg Singer had, as he depended on his musicians to accurately execute the music. He focused his efforts not so much on the orchestra’s musicianship, but rather played a larger role as audience engager. And he was excellent at it. The audience was literally yelling bravo and applause at the end of every piece. The applause was out of control– I couldn’t believe it.
I have played with professional orchestras in Carnegie Hall, Merkin, and around the world who didn’t get even half as much enthusiasm from the audience. It made me wonder about the role of the conductor and his or her responsibility to interact with the audience.
Many of you may be turning your nose up at the idea of a conductor with a personality for “The People”. But what about Leonard Bernstein? He was a celebrity–an actual bona fide celebrity. Complete with a screaming mob and paparazzi. So was Toscanini.
A core belief of the Tuxedo Revolt is that we as performers must do any and everything we can to bring the audience into our world. That is a cardinal rule for the performer. Many musicians have forgotten that we play not for ourselves to hear, but for others. If you are in it for yourself, you are not really in it.
I was completely impressed by the level of audience participation Greg was able to drum up. I’m in no way undermining the effort of the musicians, and there would be no performance without their skills and expertise. But as stressful as it was at times, I must say that I could and do forgive all of Gregory’s shenanigans because of the wonderful results they produced.
All in all, it was a terrific concert with great friends and the best audience I have played for in months. I look forward to our next performance at The Player’s Club on Gramercy Park South in Manhattan on July 19th. I hope I will see you there!
- Mystery of the maestros: what are conductors for? (guardian.co.uk)
- What the Best Conductors and Critics Can Teach Us (wqxr.org)
- What does a music conductor do? (kottke.org)