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Connect!  Connect!!  Connect!!!

2007 Intermission Insights with Yo-Yo Ma

2010 Intermission Insights with composer John Adams

We must do what we can to offer compelling levels of engagement for the diverse interests of our audience – even in the confines of one venue.

More than a decade ago I was faced with doing my first post-concert “Talk Back” with an orchestra that shall remain nameless. I happily came onstage after a performance of Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony and there couldn’t have been more than 10 people waiting to ask questions or comment. When asked, the management admitted that this was the average attendance. It made perfect sense, a fairly late evening conclusion to the performance, a rush to get to the parking garage and possibly the end of a very tiring work week.

The solution was obvious to me. Create an opportunity for patrons to talk back at one of the most fertile moments during the concert, the intermission. Typically, the guest artist will have just dazzled the audience with a great concerto performance and the audience has yet to digest the largest part of the concert “meal.”

The way I handle this is to allow the orchestra to exit the stage and I escort the guest artist back onstage immediately to discuss the performance the audience just heard.  I keep the focus on the performance itself by and large and stay away from the analytical material one may hear in a pre-concert talk. The interview and Q&A last 10 minutes and then the orchestra retakes the stage in preparation for the second half.

When the performance does not feature a guest artist, I have enlisted members of the orchestra to take part, emphasizing the Concertmaster and other principal players the audience may focus on a bit more because of solos, etc.  I also enjoy introducing new members of the orchestra to the community and celebrating those that are retiring at this time as well.

The results could not be more interesting. A majority of people STAY!  Especially when the audience has been particularly wowed.

Some come and go to get their drinks and use the lavatory, but it is clear that more people than one would think are seeking more contact with the artists.

In addition to the obvious pleasure the audience gets from this experience, I get to hone my skills as an interviewer!

-Michael Christie

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