I just read an interesting post on Joshua Nemith’s Cincinnati Pianist Blog about the benefits of scheduling shorter and more informal concerts, like concerts at a patron’s home or other such intimate venue. Josh mentions having participated in these sort of events for different organizations in the past, and he highlights some of the benefits of these events:
1) Audience/donor/musician connections. Today it’s all about breaking down that wall between the stage and the first row. Events like this let musicians get to know their audience members, and audience members get to know the musicians they see week after week on stage. It is also important for musicians (or any other artists) to learn about the people in their communities who can financially support artistic institutions. Those connections can lead to new endeavors or programs that enrich the arts scene of any town or city.
2) Special musical opportunities for working musicians. There are not too many people in our field who would turn down the opportunity to play some chamber music for a small, appreciative audience. Most professional musicians (especially those who play in an orchestra) appreciate the chance to express themselves in intimate settings through chamber music. Orchestra administrations are beginning to address this need in more creative and beneficial ways these days. A good-quality chamber music program that involves many musicians over the course of a season can also be a huge morale-booster. Higher morale = healthier artistic environment.
3) Unique programming. These small, short, informal recitals can withstand a more bricolage-like approach to programming. Formal big-league chamber concerts can get a little stuffy sometimes with their emphasis on lengthy and dramatic string quartets, piano quartets, etc. These private events can feature more varied, shorter, and lighter works, including even some compositions of questionable merit, simply because it is a little more about entertainment than deep structural listening.
Read the complete post here.
I have always found smaller settings to be extremely enjoyable for both audience and musician, having played many such events in the past for both chamber music organizations and symphony orchestra benefits. Often, I am seated so close to audience members in the front row that I am in danger poking them with my bow, and I have to make sure that I didn’t write anything snide in my music because anyone near me could easily be following along with my part (not that I would ever do anything like that…) over my shoulder.
Even though I only play events like this once every few months, I have probably had more conversations with audience members at these intimate venues than I have in all of my larger venues combined. Such environments can’t help but spark conversation, and they really allow for a feeling of interaction between audience and musician.
When patrons are seated in a large hall, they can’t help but feel like they are observing rather than actively participating, leaning back in their chair as if in a movie theater, and passively taking in the experience as entertainment. There is something about small venues that engage audience members, creating an experience quite different from passive movie-watching or other such observational entertainment.
Also, smaller venues encourage audience members to come up and chat with musicians after the concert. Most such events have a reception after the event, and having all of the performers there (rather than a few selected members from a large orchestra) and chatting happily while eating cheese and drinking wine is a great environment for conversation.
Being able to see a concert in a small space and really hear and see everything, with more flexible/fun/oddball/informal programming (like Josh mentioned), then getting a chance to talk to all of the performers after the event concludes is an artistic experience that can become quite addictive for audience members, and it is one of the best ways to establish audience/performer relationships and create strong bonds of patron loyalty.