Do you ever get that feeling that your professional life has turned completely schizophrenic? That’s kind of what happened to us last week. After a month and a half of regular rehearsals, we played three concerts in what were probably the most insanely DIFFERENT settings we could possibly imagine. Envision this:
Wednesday: The Empty Bottle. A concert entitled HOUR OF POWER, during which we literally took shots of tequila in between pieces. Audience: mostly skinny-jeaned peeps in their 20s-30s with PBRs in their hands.
Friday: The Chicago Cultural Center. A concert on the Juicebox Series, a new avant-garde series geared towards toddlers. Audience: a hundred flailing 2-4 year olds with their moms. Colored floor mats, crying babies, dancing kiddos, general anarchy.
Saturday: The Merit School of Music. A performance for the school’s 300 music students. Audience: middle school and high school aged kids in between lessons and theory classes. You could hear a pin drop.
While it was definitely a bit stressful to put on such different concerts so close together (alcohol analogies that we used to describe Shostakovich’s music Wednesday night suddenly needed to be modified two days later, and rep that worked well in quiet settings had to be rethought to be heard over screaming children), it was actually really awesome to see, side by side, how different each group reacted to each piece. When we played Jaeger on Wednesday, most of the musicians in the audience knew what to expect and were listening for complex rhythms, shades of Baptist hymns, and reflections of communal singing. When we played it on Friday morning, we literally made some children cry. On Saturday, the Merit kids were just in utter awe that a string quartet could do something so crazy.
What I didn’t even realize until after the week was over is that the only audience we didn’t really reach last week was the “standard” classical music audience—the blue hairs, the well-over-65 crowd. And when I realized this, I suddenly became very proud of what we accomplished—for all you hear from naysayers these days about audiences fading away and classical music dying, we managed in 4 days to reach 3 totally opposite groups of YOUNG people. It’s these young people that make a difference because, if we sell them on this stuff now, they’ll be the ones who keep classical music alive well into the future.
So here’s to our schizophrenic week, and to many more like it! Thanks to all of you who came along for the ride and witnessed one or all of these crazy, different, incredible concert experiences.
Top photo by Marc Perlish, www.marcperlishphotography.com