Its a funny thing about audiences. You can probably put the same public in the same hall two nights running, play them the same pieces by the same performers and it will be in some way a different atmosphere, and for some a very different experience altogether. The differences for some audience will be small but for the performers it will probably be quite massive. Scientifically I suppose that the passing of time changes things anyway, and it’s not a scientific experiment, but I’m in a run of 5 concerts here in the USA with identical programmes and the performances, differ widely in feel because of the venues, the sounds of the halls, or the type of town or city we are travelling to. There are many different parameters all to be adjusted to every time. All those adjustments take thought and energy from the performer, whether we realise it or not, let alone dealing with the jet lag….
I remember once deciding to play Oliver Knussen’s astounding Oboe Quartet, Cantata, twice in one concert with the lovely and, on that occasion long suffering, Leopold String Trio. This came about because I absolutely and fiercely love that piece, and feel that it’s beauty whizzes by so fast that on a first hearing some audience members might now quite ‘get it’ as I do. When we came to the end of the second performance we felt that not only did it feel somehow uncomfortable to have played it twice but that it didn’t seem to have the desired effect on the audience either! Sorry Ollie, sorry Leopolds, sorry Oxford. Brave experiment-not to be repeated! Audience members choosing to hear rehearsals though, that can be interesting. I will be programming Jonathan Harvey’s Death of Light, Light of Death in my Festival in Leicester next year (www.musicfestival.co.uk) and I know the open rehearsals will be well attended. Leicester folk like to know what they are getting!
Because of the Country hopping I’m doing this month, Germany, Romania, USA, UK, Russia, I have become aware again how different a Californian American audience is to an European one. I have heard it said that a difference between some European audiences and some American ones is that in Europe you have to win them, in America you have to loose them. To explain, that means that you have to get them on your side or win them over in Europe and in America they start off on your side and losing them will be your own fault! I can see here in California how this is true. I’m playing in my position as Oboist for Camerata Pacifica (www.cameratapacifica.org) and this West Coast based group of life-affirming quality goes on a run of performances from the glamour of LA to the calm luxury of the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and takes in the Temple Beth Torah in Ventura, a dry carpeted venue where for some reason giving a bad concert is simply impossible. My first concert there with the group 3 years ago started with the Berio Sequenza vii. I rather assumed by the look and demographic of the audience and the town that they might find this piece something of a shock, and as I walked on to play I saw there were a large number of older audience members, some looking rather frail. I should have known better-way better. Even though this was only the first piece in the programme and includes a wild flurry of special techniques, multiphonics, glissandi, flutter tounging and an offstage ‘b’ played all the way through, the public in Temple Beth Torah in Ventura brought me back to the stage 4 or 5 times with a standing ovation. This is partly because of the piece, a great masterpiece actually, partly because I probably did it ok, and partly because Adrian Spence, genius Artistic Director of Camerata Pacifica, has built his audience up to trust him and to expect the unexpected through brave, brilliant and uncompromising programming. If they ever don’t get it the Camerata website hums with comment! Spence has also put together a string trio of absolutely star quality in Catherine Leonard, Richard O’Neill and Ani Avnovorian. I absolutely loved their performance last night of Beethoven’s opus 9 number 1 and I’m looking forward to Temple Beth Torah on sunday.