Concert Peeves & CommentsCutting off the Finale
I can't stand the premature applause that greets the end of EVERY SSO performance. Are you trying to prove you know that the piece has ended? Here's a bit of news: it hasn't. One of the BEST part of a piece is the sound of the last note as it hangs in the hall. Watch how the conductor waits at the end of a performance to let that last note drift off. Please WAIT until he signals the end instead of killing that last note with your clapping!
Now that SARS is over the green light seems to have been given on coughing in public. The problem with the excellent Esplanade acoustics is that all the noise produced by the audience can be heard as clearly as the orchestra. Every time I attend a concert I leave questioning the health of the general population. Are there so many sick people? Does nobody carry cough drops?
Abigail Sin concerts.
I watched her perform twice. In my defence, the second time was because the concert was the first after the SSO summer holiday and I was feeling withdrawal symptoms. My problem with her concerts is not her performance but the crowd she draws. Parents bring their kids along in the hope that seeing an 11 year old play will somehow spark creative genius in their own offspring. The fact is, few 11 year olds have the patience to sit through 30 minutes of classical music. They will act out their frustration at the situation by kicking the seat of the person in front of them. That's where I'm sitting.
Just as an aside, watching her perform isn't very relaxing. You don't go to see her to enjoy a great pianist. This isn't like watching Lang Lang. You go because you want to see what an 11 year old can pull off and to be supportive of a young Singaporean prodigy. So you spend the whole concert rooting for her: "Come on kid, you can do it!" It's fascinating to see that someone like this even exists. You hope that she can find the emotional reservoir in puberty to become really great - but that's an unknown. Half an hour of sitting on the edge of your seat with your fingers crossed is rather exhausting! For the record: she did pull it off. Amazing. Kudos.
It's apparent that one of the major reasons classical music is failing to attract younger audiences is that it seems so inaccessible. On the few occasions I've witnessed interaction between the conductor and the audience, the audience has left feeling a part of something special. They like it A LOT.
Locally we see Yeh Tsung regularly woo the SCO audiences which now has a regular following. He is quirky and humorous and his enthusiasm is infectious. I became a instant SCO convert when watching him conduct.
Despite his very soft-spoken nature, Lan Shui also has a knack for charming audiences with his boy next door persona. Unfortunately, this tends to only be seen in the pre/post concert talks when virtually nobody is around!
I haven't seen Lim Yau talk to an audience although it was relayed to me that there was one occasion when somebody sneezed very loudly right at the beginning of a performance as he was raising his baton. He paused, then turned around and said, "Bless You!" The audience found him quite amiable and were very happy to enjoy this bit of humour. His popularity went up several fold that day just from this small gesture.
I can think of other examples using visiting conductors but the point is the same. In my experience, conductors interacting with the audience ALWAYS improves the concert experience.
Now this may not be considered proper art music. It is not the done thing and I'm sure that many conductors would resist this as NOT music and NOT their job (not to mention that it requires a skill set that many conductors probably lack). It might even be seen as degrading to the sanctity of the concert. But if audiences don't feel that their presence is important to a concert, their numbers will continue to dwindle. People want to know that the orchestra is playing for them - not for some ideal. The idea that they are part of a unique experience needs to be conveyed otherwise they can simply enjoy classical music through a cd player in the comfort of their own homes.
This is the reality of classical music in the modern era. People have lots of entertainment alternatives. If they are going to pay money, they want some pay off in terms of emotion and involvement. I believe it is possible to cater to this and still preserve high standards of performance.