“When you’re artistic director of a
program, you present the music you want to present.” Stanley Crouch
As the academic and concert year winds down, many of you are thinking about next year, if you haven’t already finished your repertoire selections. There are usually some restrictions or deadlines or something you need to consider, but you should at least have a general idea of what your repertoire will be. What will you do?
If you are in an academic setting, you are guided by students you will have, or not have, in your program next year as well as any pedagogical reasons. Those in the community setting may have similar concerns, along with seasonal appropriateness, as do church musicians. Those who direct professional choirs have their own issues, including ticket sales. Our repertoire choices depend on many things.
As I was thinking about today’s blog, many things came to mind. I thought about the truly creative concerts I’ve been to and participated in during the last few years. I remembered several outstanding bits of programming and what it felt like to be an audience member or a participant. There were things which truly excited and touched me as well as a few concerts I attended which horrified me.
Why did those concerts horrify me? I think they were trying too hard to be creative and cutting edge and it backfired. Those concerts were well played musically and the repertoire was interesting, but the music on the concert did not work together. Beyond the music, those concerts appeared to have an agenda, which seemed forced, and not cohesive. Some concerts were old music, some new music and some a combination of the two; but all were not well thought out.
We must all have a theme now it seems; our colleagues and audience expect it. Many conductors and directors force the theme with outrageous repertoire choices, which I will NOT repeat here to protect a few people. Trust me when I tell you they are strange. I have an orchestral acquaintance who actually keeps a file labeled, “bad concert programming” so it is not just me noticing odd programming!
My purpose today, while nothing is written in stone for next year’s repertoire selections, is to suggest you really think. Does the opening piece fit with the closing? Does your theme shine through each selection or are you stretching it with a piece or two? What about the keys; would switching the concert order make it more pleasant for your chorus and the audience so it is not so jarring? Does the music fit the abilities of your ensemble, or did you choose music solely to adhere to your theme and not think about the musicians performing it?
I enjoy new music, both performing and listening but sometimes I need my palate cleansed with standard repertoire. One of the best concerts I’ve attended in recent months could be considered boring; a Mozart overture, a Mozart concerto and a Mozart symphony. Not cutting edge AT ALL and well, Mozart, so no new music but it was well played and perfect. Sometimes, not going out on a limb with programming IS going out on a limb with programming. Something to think about.