I had the pleasure of attending a Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert last week and witnessed a wonderful way they acknowledged the effort from their stage crew…
Between the first and second pieces, the stage required a good five minutes worth of strike and set work. As such, one of the MSO’s musicians, bassist (and self described historical figure) Roger Ruggeri came out to talk to the audience during what would otherwise be time best described as concert purgatory.
Although having someone come out and talk to the audience during prolonged stage changes is not a new technique, this particular instance was unique because Roger didn’t talk much about the music for that evening’s performance. Instead, he took the time to tie in the choreographed work on stage being executed by the MSO’s stage crew.
The evening’s repertoire was all about concertos (Brandenburg 3, Beethoven Triple, and Bartok’s concerto for Orchestra) and Roger used that theme to set up a narrative about the similar amount of teamwork and coordination it takes to execute an efficient stage change.
It would be great to see more groups using something like this to feature segments of the organization which typically don’t get to enjoy sharing in the limelight. All you have to do to make it work in your group is find a musician who understands what and/or who will be featured, make sure they are comfortable speaking in front of (hopefully) large groups, and are genuinely entertaining. The one thing you want to avoid is making it come across as something scripted. After all, nothing shuts people down faster than pandering to them.
Postscript: The concert itself and the soloists were just fantastic. Their orchestra’s rendition of the Bartok only reinforced my belief that the Milwaukee Symphony performs at a level far beyond their pay grade. It is always a treat to hear this group play the big stuff.