“Do you have 5½ hours to spare tonight?”
“There’s a cellist playing at the Arts Center and I think her piano accompanist is that guy you like on Hahn’s CD you gave me.”
“5½ hours! What’s on the program, for crying out loud?”
“Oh, just some Vivaldi, Shostakovitch and a new guy. It’s not long. I figured we could meet for dinner – it’s been so long since we’ve been to a concert together.”
“Sounds good. What time, and where?”
That is a typical conversation I have about once a month. Various friends call to invite me to a concert they think I would enjoy, but one in particular always starts off with the same question: “Do you have 5½ hours to spare tonight?”
“Why would he say that?” you wonder…
When our schedules can collide, here is what a typical evening’s itinerary looks like:
- 5:30pm – leave home
- 6:00pm – park car, walk to restaurant
- 6:15pm – arrive at restaurant
- 7:15pm – walk to performing arts center
- 7:30pm – arrive at performing arts center
- 7:45pm – take seats
- 8:10pm – concert begins (never on time in the USA)
- 8:50pm – intermission
- 9:10pm – concert resumes (never on time in the USA)
- 9:40pm – concert finishes
- 10:05pm – arrive at car (entire audience heading for the parking garage)
- 10:30pm – finally exit parking garage
- 11:00pm – arrive home
That’s 5½ hours.
Now consider when I recently went to see the Bayside String Quartet perform at my local library:
- 1:45pm – left home (walked to library)
- 1:55pm – arrive at venue, met friend, took seats
- 2:00pm – concert began (on time – no need to wait for late audience members)
- 3:00pm – concert finished, grabbed crackers and wine, socialized
- 3:20pm – left venue to walk home
- 3:30pm – arrived home
That’s 105 minutes.
You might argue stand-up snacks are not the same as dinner, and there is hardly enough time to socialize, but I was one of the last to leave and as this friend and I see each other often at these smaller local concerts, there was not so much to catch up on! We introduced each other to other people we knew and went on our merry ways.
And what if I decided not to hang around after the concert? I would have been home 15 minutes earlier. 90 minutes instead of 5½ hours.
Think of it this way:
- How often would you attend an affordable event that takes 90 minutes door to door? Once a week, maybe?
- How often would you attend an expensive event that takes 5½ hours door to door? Once a month, maybe?
In our quest to build better societies by re-introducing live classical music back into everyday life, a shorter concert in a smaller local venue is a far more sustainable approach.
Don’t be a hog
Do your audiences a favor and avoid hogging their time – they WILL appreciate it. If folk want to hang around afterwards, that is their prerogative, but be wary and conscious of what kind of payment you are expecting from them.
Be generous with your music.
Don’t expect your audience to be generous with both their money AND their time.
Now it’s your turn
How long do you think a concert should be, and do you think it is better to perform locally more often, or centrally less frequently? Should you always include an intermission? Be as specific as you possibly can so we can bring live music back into everyday life and build better societies.
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