Making dreams come true: the art and science of putting concert programmes together


Having now put together 7 concerts since we were founded, there are probably a few things to share, especially when going from an idea to a programme, and especially when putting together a programme that include some first performances, and even more so when the first performance is not of works of a living composer but of compositions written some 160 years ago, and then you also have the “simple” task of getting the artists to work well together to literally make that dream come true “on the day”, not to mention overcoming issues like Covid and typhoons that can wreck havoc on everyone’s sanity as well as all the good financial planning you may or may not have done.  

So, for a non-musical, no-musical-score, no-audio-clip post-for-a-change, here’s a snapshot of the discoveries (call it 6 lessons from 7 concerts?):

  1. You will need to deal w foundations, archives, libraries …. (though palaces like this sounds quite good) and Google Translate helps a lot these days!
  1. You need to like being a detective! It is amazing how much we still don’t know about some fairly well-known composers’ works – let alone much less well-known composers!
  1. You’ll have to write your own programme notes … as these pieces have not been performed that much, you’ll have to form your own thoughts about them!
  1. There isn’t that much performance history, so you’ll have to form your own interpretation, which is both an opportunity and a threat!  We’ve enjoyed communicating with the composer when that option is available, but if the piece is from 160 years ago, well, you’ll have to draw on your own resources!  In any case, while we enjoy creating programmes that is a mix of a few much-less-known pieces in a programme with other more well-known pieces, be careful what you wish for: this approach requires versatility and interpretive abilities on the part of the performers and meticulous planning on the part of the producer.
  1. Finally, and perhaps most critically, coming up with the idea that is not the “same old” or too predictable but is inspired is not easy! You’ll have to find pieces that fit with the theme too, so you feel like you are iterating about 100 times before you can land on something interesting. You then have to think artists too – and that requires another at least 10 iterations!  (Here’s some of our what we hope are inspired programmes here and here and a series of highly creative programmes we are inspired by here too).
  1. The artist who “turns up” as appointed even when it’s freezing and the practice time was cut short by some unfortunate reason, and learns to recover and continue playing with a smile even when there was a big memory slip in the 1st movt and a string broke in the 2nd is the one who has achieved some mastery of the art of on-stage performing …The broken string or the memory lapse is not obligatory, but the excellence-minded artist will always “carry” and contribute more than his or her share of the work, will always have the overall outcome and the team in mind, and is the one you’d want to depend on.

Perhaps a most important question to ask is the “why” and the “for what”: i.e. what are concerts for?  What I am trying to do as the producer-organiser?  To me, it is about re-imagining something, it is about sharing an idea.  The concert itself is also about a collective act of attentive listening, a shared joy and wonderment at the amazing works these great composers created, between performers and audience, between composer and interpreter, and between the artists in a concert with more than one artist.

As we asked in an earlier post:

We all need inspirations: doesn’t hearing these wonderful, magnificent, brilliant variations, imaginations, re-imaginations – “dreams” – of the counterpoint bring some inspirations to you?”

Share Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on Pinterest