Spring is here and with it–Easter. For musicians, the Easter holiday is one of our busiest times of the year. Churches and faith centers will typically spend more for extra musicians and grand performances at this time of year (and also at Christmas).
This year, I will be playing in a full orchestra for a church in Scarsdale, New York. The musicians who have been hired to play for the Easter services are professionals and along with the sacred music to be performed, we will also be playing Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in A Major.
Such a large scale work is somewhat uncommon for church services. However, at the first rehearsal, the music director shared with us that the orchestra’s performance each year is highly requested by parishioners. They ask for it year round, and many have shared with him how the music uplifts them and how it connects to their faith in various ways.
Though this story may be heartwarming, it also provides support to the idea that music is still very relevant our lives. Beethoven’s 7th Symphony is entirely secular. Yet, the great dance-like themes, the soaring melodies, and the brisk tempos have a way of lifting people up and stimulating them. The parishioners of this particular church feel as if the music affirms their beliefs.
Culturally, we’ve nearly always turned to music to help us make a point or emphasize a certain emotion or spiritual concept. That’s why we play music at graduations, wedding, and funeral services. Music helps us to share in an emotional state together.
On Easter Sunday, the church members will share in the joy of Beethoven’s great masterwork together–but Easter shouldn’t have to be the only time of the year when this happens. We need to encourage people to attend concerts and have this great and possibly cathartic experience more often. We should find better ways of sharing emotions with our audience members, we should use our music to create life-changing experiences. Clearly, the support for great music as demonstrated by the members of this particular church suggests that music can still be easily understood and uniquely interpreted by all.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was music filled Easter all year long?
Last Friday, December 7th, I partnered with my colleague Kyra Sims (founder of The Harlem Sound Project) to co-present a concert called Winter Lights. We’d been thinking of collaboration between each of our two organizations for a while, and this concert was the end result. The concert went well, with great music by Schubert, Franz Strauss, and Beethoven. We had some great guest musicians as well, soprano Darla Diltz helped the audience connect the poignant text of Schubert’s Auf dem Strom to the recent tragedy of super-storm Sandy, and Kristi Shade of Duo Scorpio gave us new perspective on the Schubert and Strauss pieces by playing the accompaniment on harp, not piano. We also had a surprise guest of honor when innovative performance guru, Dr. David Wallace, came to hear the concert.
But today’s blog post is about something that had been nagging me since the very beginning stages of planning the concert. As we promoted the event and reached out to partnering organizations, friends, and colleagues, I noticed one question that continued to emerge:
“Why give this performance for free? You are going to lose money on this!”
So, here is my answer to this question as well as Kyra’s. I believe that in order for me to write this blog about innovative performance techniques, for me to doing consulting work for individuals, ensembles, and organizations about how to engage audiences— I believe that I must practice what I preach. I believe that I need to test my ideas and theories about innovative performance by actually implementing them, not just talking about them.
I get so much enjoyment from thinking of innovative performances that I jump at the chance to turn idea into action. It’s FUN! I get to make the decisions, I get to create and design, and perform—it’s a truly authentic process for me. I feel so lucky that I am able to do this, and I enjoyed this opportunity to create a great concert experience and offer it to others, not strings attached.
I asked Kyra the following questions about our collaborative experience and why she enjoyed co-hosting the Winter Lights concert. Here is what she had to say:
Why should artists collaborate?
“Collaboration delves into basic human interaction. Communicating and relaying ideas between one another exists in every branch of learning, be it science, engineering, or medicine. Why should the arts be any different? Together we can create artistic endeavors that are greater than we can do alone- that are greater than us.”
Why give recitals at all? How are they relevant to modern audiences?
“A recital is an intimate look into the music that the performer truly enjoys. Usually when someone puts on a recital, they personally choose the programming. That means that the musician has a personal and likely profound relationship with each piece on the program. That kind of love for an art form is an amazing thing to behold, and in a world of factory-processed pop music, modern audiences need to see that kind of love onstage, so that they can learn to love themselves.”
What message do you have Tuxedo Revolt blog readers?
“Sing. Laugh. Love. Listen to as much music as you can, and as many different genres as you can. Because life is short, and the world is large. Let music help you explore it.”
Why do you love to perform? What about performing makes you feel completely alive and electrified? Don’t be embarrassed by any part of what drives you to perform. Embrace it and share it with others whatever the cost. The rewards to your happiness, your self-esteem, and your spirit to create music will be duly rewarded.