A lot of people want classical concerts — both on stage and in the audience — to be livelier. Here’s some recent e-mail I’ve gotten on this subject, all of it wonderfully written, passionate, and of course quoted here with the writers’ permission.
From Karen Pinzolo:
I’d be very interested to understand, from a historical viewpoint, why I sit as an unembodied soul at a concert where the only hint of life is my chest rising and falling with each unconscious breath. When I listen to any other kind of music I can’t help but sway, bob, and gyrate. At what point in history did we as an audience become outwardly unresponsive?
From someone who’d rather not be named:
Your recent posting on making concerts vital and relevant came at a shocking time for me – I’ve attended two chamber recitals recently where, despite excellent technical playing, I was in severe danger of falling asleep and pitching off of my chair during the entirety of each! I still enjoy the music – yesterday I took Bach’s cello suites along on a long nature walk, but performances played “straight” – reverent silence, tasteful black clothes, quiet public or church spaces full of reverent 60+ audience members, are killing me. The string quartet playing last Friday night in the wine bar was fun, and fab. But sitting like a nice girl, holding my program, listening to technically good but unimpassioned playing (sometimes by musicians who look like they are preparing their taxes) will be the end of me. Perhaps I’ve just caught too many performances that lacked deeper, emotional connection between the artists and repertoire, or excited artists in general, but if this is a widely-known issue (as it appears to be) it’s not good. Modern Americans are running away from the churches and lectures that are “good for them” but put them to sleep – concerts like these are little better!
And from the irrepressible Jennifer Foster (almost every time she e-mails I want to quote her), a glimpse of something better:
I had the pleasure of performing at a music “event” (party? happening?) this past weekend in Virginia with pianist Greg McCallum. People attending had the option of sitting and listening with rapt attention or meandering around the rest of this house on the hill in the Blue Ridge, nibbling on food, emptying wine and beer bottles and chatting. Seven hours of performances ranged from soliloquy with harmonica to bluegrass to classical. When Greg played his “Hymn Quilt” (on his Southern Quilt CD) people felt free to hum along, stomp, exclaim, and “ah” with recognition. Their responsiveness fed him and he fed them right back with one of the most exciting performances of Rzewski’s Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues I’ve ever witnessed. People stomped, hollered and jumped out of their seats when it was over. They gasped audibly as he played.
How wonderful, to be free to express enjoyment during the performances!
For more on Greg McCallum (whom I’ve mentioned in this blog before), go here.