I was talking to a friend and fellow audience member during the intermission of a symphony orchestra concert the other night.
This symphony orchestra likes to have its conductor, and guest conductors, talk from the stage. It also has them interview composers.
My friend and I hate all of the talking. We come for the music, and have read the program notes or attended the pre-concert lecture. Now it’s time to shut up and play, we feel. I know of many others who feel the same as well.
I have mentioned this matter in print as well as in person to key personnel of this symphony orchestra. The response is always the same. The orchestra’s surveys show that many in the audience, perhaps the majority, enjoy the musical chit chat on stage. It helps them connect with the performers and the music.
There doesn’t seem to be a solution to the problem, in other words.
And yet, I think there can be a compromise, which my friend and I discovered during our conversation.
What is most offensive and boring about the talk onstage is that it repeats what we have already read in the program notes, in articles in newspapers and magazines, and, if we’ve attended, what we’ve heard in the pre-concert lecture.*
We’ve done our homework, we’ve come prepared to hear the concert.
Then we have to sit through a re-run of our homework, presumably addressed to those who are the least interested in what they are about to hear, since they haven’t taken the time to learn anything about it beforehand.
This is all sounding rather snobby, and I don’t mean it that way. I am truly pleased to have newbies in the audience at all times.
But what I am saying is that the concert presentation can’t always be geared to the newbies.
Here’s the solution: When you talk on stage at a concert, don’t repeat what has already been said in the program notes, in the press, in the marketing, in the pre-concert lecture. Say something else. Don’t always be “introductory” in your remarks. Further the discussion of the work or composer in question.
That way everyone is served, not just the people who don’t know anything.
*I generally make a miss of pre-concert lectures, for various reasons. One is that I don’t like to hear samples of the music on the concert beforehand. It ruins the meal. Another is that program notes, for me, are a better prelude to listening.