Post Concert Observations

Overall the concert was successful. We had a good crowd, approximately 135 people who were appreciative of the music (it’s nice to have friends in the audience), the music went very much as expected and in the end I learned a great deal both about the music and putting on a concert of this magnitude.

Things that went right

The concert order was right. Some people felt the string quartet should have headlined the event as they were the professionals on stage. Yet, the build from chamber piece, to opera to symphony was right for the night.

Acoustics in the hall were amazing. I spent a lot of time looking for halls that had good acoustics and I am glad I did. I’ve heard orchestras play in a number of other venues and they are muddy and not well defined. The sound engineer for last night was very pleased with how good the sound quality was for the distant microphones. That speaks well for the quality of the hall acoustics.

Sound engineering took a bit to sort out - where to place the microphones so they would get a good sound and yet not be in the way of the audience. In the end, although I’ve not heard the recording yet, the engineer thinks he got a really good take on the music.

Things that I wish had gone better

We did get a good crowd, but so many people that we thought might be there were not. However, that said, I am not sure there is anything we could have done to improve this. None of the press releases we sent out were published. Although numerous posters were put up about town, I do not think there were any who saw the poster and did not know me personally who came to the concert. This is because I am an unknown and not affiliated with any known organization.

Had I been working with say the BBC orchestra and using their media department, or even if Napier’s or Scottish Widows media department had sent out press releases for the concert we did put on, I think we would have been more successful in getting press coverage – and concert goers outside of the “friends” category. In the future, I will make sure to work with an established organization and have their “clout” behind the publicity.

Lighting was huge disappointment. The company I hired touted themselves as ‘providers of the lighting for the National Youth Orchestra’, but I have come to find out they just supply the equipment while another agency does the focusing. Obviously, they know nothing about lighting an orchestra. The technical problems with the lights were never ending and ultimately they could not even be used for the last half of the concert as they were in all the wrong positions.

Mixing concert mediums is not a good idea. Orchestras, operas and chamber ensembles are very different beasts. Even though they are all musicians, they each have a very different set of requirements. Trying to put all three of these types of music into one concert was probably the one idea that I really should not have done. There was a struggle finding a place for all the musicians to have a space prior to the concert and not get mixed up with the other groups, so rather than having one “green room” we needed three. That was very unexpected. The idea that they did not mix well together was surprising. It was as if they each felt the other musicians were an inconvenience and yet I felt we were all there for a common purpose. Obviously, this was not the case. In the future I will limit the focus of performances to a single style of music ensemble.

Things that were not perfect, but as expected

The chorus for the opera struggled with the words. I think they did an admirable job considering they are a college chorus of young, inexperienced voices. Their performance is a real credit to Laurie Crump who got them to sing the music as well as he did; it’s not easy music. The performance was a step up from the rehearsal in the afternoon, so I am pleased with that.

The symphony went well, for the most part. There were a couple of points in the 3rd movement and in the 5th movement when a few players got lost. Getting the orchestra back together was a bit of a struggle, but they kept going and eventually did get back on track. I hate to say I expected this, but after the rehearsals I pretty much thought this would happen. The music is tough and I am still learning as a conductor. I am not sure what could have been done to keep the orchestra together, however, I am pleased with my own performance in not letting it get me flustered and eventually getting them back on track.

There were some intonation problems too, but again, with an amateur orchestra this was expected.


I am pleased with the night. I do not think there is anything I could have done to make it more successful. There are things that I am taking away from this concert that will make the next one better, but for what we achieved, it was right on target.


Derek said…

Just wanted to drop you a quick note to say there was (at least) one person there who didn't know you personally! (I heard about the concert through the Quartet's PR arm, so clearly they did their job.) I thought the quartet did a great job of capturing the rock guitar sound within the string medium, and the symphony was an enjoyable piece which had the necessary weight without being too difficult to listen to - which is certainly important for concert-goers like myself who are unlikely to advance beyond the level of Enthusiastic Listener...! On which note, you've definitely got a point about the acoustic of the hall - I was very impressed by the way the climactic moments of the symphony roared (if that's the appropriate word!) with an orchestra of only 45 players. Opera isn't so much my thing, but Chris Allison's moving human cry did stand out as a definite highlight of the operatic suite for me.

Anyway, thanks for an excellent evening's entertainment, and keep up the good work!

Chip said…

Since I didn't mention the quartet's version of "Rock Sound" I can only assume you are referring to the review in the Scotsman.

Thank you for your glowing comments. I firmly believe the listener is a huge part of music, so the fact you enjoyed the concert means (for me) the concert was a success. I felt this before your comments; you just confirmed the feeling.

I will comment more later in response to the review in the paper. For now I am just glowing in all the positive responses from people I know and those I don't. It's been a good week and getting better all the time.

Rob said…
While I probably contributed ny share, I suspect more of the intonation problems than you might think arose from the lack of cancelling accidentals in the Sibelius-generated parts. Easy enough to sort out with plenty of time to listen to the CD, or with plenty of rehearsals, but remember there were some players who had only made the final rehearsal, and they may not have had the chance to listen to the CD.

Personally I was quite pleased, as my comic turn as "missing string player gone to fix lighting foul-up" meant I didn't actually get to tune up for the concert!

And in fairness to my colleagues, the green room problem for ESO wasn't a case of "doesn't play well with others" but "OMG where can I find somewhere to put my instrument where it won't be stood on"? It's easy to forget that every person you see on stage has very roughly a desktop's worth of instrument case, handbag, coat whatever, to be accommodated. Violins and flutes are small. Bass clarinets and tubas, not to mention double basses and cellos, are not. Tables are good because you can put things on them and under them. When I peered into the green room full of opera cast, the total available space appeared to be enough for roughly six players. Absolutely nothing against the opera people (always happy to set up my instrument surrounded by half-naked ladies.....) but remember also that the orchestra would be getting their stuff out at the same time as the opera cast were changing out of costume. Give us a big enough space and we'll share with anyone. Americans, even.

I agree with you that the night was as good as we could have made it, and you're right to be proud of your achievement.
Derek said…
I hadn't actually read the review at the time I made the above comment, but having now seen it I can see why you thought so. Basically I was trying to say that while the quartet could be heard as purely string quartet music, there were plenty of passages that I could easily imagine hearing a rock guitarist playing. So if that's what you were aiming for, I think you succeeded. Ms Nickalls obviously disagrees!

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