Grant Park Symphony bassist John Floeter recently wrote a post about the difference in audience and orchestra enjoyment of pops concerts. Reflecting on a summer concert with The Decemberists, he writes:
I’ve played lots of rock concerts in the backup orchestra, and usually it’s a very uncomfortable experience with repetitive parts, deafening sound despite earplugs, and probably worst of all; the feeling that what I play doesn’t matter. But I try to suck it up and go on. I’m a hired gun. Do the job you’re getting paid to do, or just get out of this business.
I can’t exactly cherry-pick the kinds of concerts I’ll play. What I play with GPO is part of the whole package of their season, and my profession for that matter. I try to steer my schedule to the kinds of concerts that I enjoy playing, and on some level, I do enjoy playing “pops” concerts like this one. But when someone asks me a direct question out of the blue about whether I’m looking forward to the concert with the famous rock stars, the first quick answer that comes to mind is “No”. But if I could elaborate: I look forward to you having a good time, and I’d like to invite you to come again, perhaps one of “my” concerts.
Read the complete post here.
I always feel like orchestras are just a part of the set rather than an integral part of the performance whenever I play this sort of event. This situation reminds me of this clip from The Simpsons:
John’s post includes a great comment comparing being a musician to being a plumber, which is a very apt observation. Some musicians may think that they are “selling out” when playing such an even, while others know that they are simply doing the job that they were hired to do, which is to play a wide spectrum of music, from the glorious to the goofy. Do such concerts attract new audience members? Well, that’s more likely to occur than if there was no orchestra up there at all, and there’s something to be said for simply putting an orchestra in front of an audience, no matter what the context.
Will it ultimately help with ticket sales and perpetuate classical art music? Who knows. But it probably won’t hurt.
- Take a Friend to Orchestra
- Angering Conductors 101
- Massive Musical Disaster in the Nutcracker Pit
- Getting a Good Sound – advice from John Floeter
- On Freelancing and Auditioning
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