The concert, on the whole, was blah, a disappointment, since on home turf this is, from everything I've heard, one of the most imaginative orchestras around.
But they thrilled me with their encore. In which they sang! The entire orchestra stood up, and — led by their music director, Ivan Fischer — beautifully sang a Russian liturgical piece, in a 19th century arrangement.
This would elevate any orcchestra evening. Takes it beyond the usual formatted orchestral program (one masterwork from column A, one from column B), and gives us musicians making music from the heart.
About that half-empty hall…
What to do if you have one: First, play even better than you'd play with a full house. For two reasons. Number one, to keep your integrity. Music matters, no matter how few people hear it.
Number two (and very important) — you want every person there to go home thrilled, and tell their friends how thrilled they were. If not many people came to your performance, than you need everyone who did come to be your ambassador. Your viral, word of mouth marketer.
The other thing you should do
You should do this even in a big space, like the Kennedy Center concert hall. Play the first piece on your program, so that latecomers can be seated in the seats they paid for.
And then invite everyone there to come closer. Speak to them as people that you care about. "We're happy that you're here. And now we want to make this evening special. Please come closer to us! Move to seats that are closer to the stage. And we'll play the concert just for you, our friends."
Maybe, in a big venue, there are fire rules, or union regulations, that appear to forbid this. But I bet they can be circumvented, if a venue really wanted that.
And I'm certain that it's what we ought to do.
One more thing. Do you — if your concert played to empty seats — beg people writing about it, whether in a review or in a blog or on Facebook — not to mention that? Big mistake! Cowardly. If you're not selling enough tickets, own up to it, and fix the problem. Won't you be more motivated, if people know you've got something to fix?
i'm happy to address questions like these in my consulting. If we want classical music to have a future, we need to make it much more human. And part of that is welcoming our audience, and being honest both with them and with our donors.
Original Content: When the hall's half empty…