Who Doesn’t Like Timelines And Big Audiences?

I always enjoy it when an orchestra website includes some worthwhile info about their history at their website. Case in point, the New York Philharmonic recently released a fascinating searchable database of their performances going all the back to 1842 (BTW, they performed Beethoven’s fifth but it was only 35 years old at that time). Another recent entry is the Grant Park Music Festival’s (GPMF) interactive timeline that coincides with the release of the 75th Anniversary book…

View from the Pritzker Choral Terrace
View from the Pritzker Choral Terrace

The flash based feature provides a pictorial slideshow of concert events selected from the organization’s entire history. It’s easy to forget just how much impact an orchestras can have on its respective community so having something like online historical resources is always a good idea; think of it as a sort of on-demand economic and cultural impact resource (although you really should have those up on your site as well).

I had the pleasure of attending the GPMF 75th Anniversary concert on Wednesday, 7/1/09 which recreated the very first Grant Park orchestral concert from 1935 (click for the program). Although unusually cool for Chicago in July, the concert was a real delight due to the fact that I had the opportunity to sit in the choral terrace directly behind the orchestra. Although I had been on the Pritzker Pavilion stage a number of times, it was the first opportunity to be there during a live concert. Needless to say, although the views from the fixed seats and lawn are fantastic, the view from the stage is even better.

You don't want to know what happens if you break the rules.
You don't want to know what happens if you break the rules.

Based on how much my fellow patrons were enjoying the experience, I hope the GPMF folks plan on allowing patrons in the choral terrace from time to time. Granted, with crowds in the neighborhood of 10,000+ per concert, you want to make certain everyone knows how to behave and based on the “Rules of the Choral Terrace” sheets liberally posted throughout the seating area, it seems that was something the GPMF folks thought of well in advance.

Overall, the stage’s view was matched only by the acoustics (thanks to the fastidious acoustic design efforts from the folks at Talaske). From my seat (center, second row from the bottom) balance was very good. I didn’t have to strain to pick up any section or player and everything came through clearly which was a bit surprising as I expected my proximity to the percussion would cause that section to bury the orchestra from time to time, but that didn’t transpire.

Here’s a small taste of what it’s like to sit in on a Grant Park Music Festival concert event:

A view to the left...
A view to the left...
A view to the right...
A view to the right...
A view at night...
A view at night...
Another choral terrace patron capturing the moment
Another choral terrace patron capturing the moment
The GPMF horn and (most of the) bass sections
The GPMF horn and (most of the) bass sections

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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