A Reminder About The Value Behind The Live Concert Experience

It never ceases to amaze how much perception can change from one individual to the next and even though it’s no secret that a live concert event is a very subjective experience, we don’t always have a chance to read about it from two very divergent views. Yes, there are music critics but there are few surprises in the traditional concert review format. Instead, I’m talking about the story behind the story, such as all of those off stage elements that intertwine with the music.

Think of it like a Quentin Tarantino film where the scenes are presented in nonlinear fashion and jumbled around to the point where you don’t really get how they connect until the end. Such an event recently took place in two online outlets where the subject matter focused on a recent Mahler 2 performance at The Grand Teton Music Festival (GTMF).

The first article was written by Chloe Veltman and published on 7/19/2011 at her blog, lies like truth. The second article came out on 7/20/2011 and was written by [sws_css_tooltip position=”center” colorscheme=”rosewood” width=”450″ url=”” trigger=”Betty Mulcahy” fontSize=”14″]Full disclosure mode: Betty Mulcahy is my mother-in-law and my wife, Holly Mulcahy, is a GTMF violinist. [/sws_css_tooltip] as a guest author post at Neo Classical.

Veltman participated in the concert as a member of the chorus; Mulcahy participated as a concert-goer. Both articles provide a good amount of back story that allows you to walk a mile in each author’s respective shoes, but both paths arrive at the same destination.

I won’t ruin the surprises for you but suffice to say, Veltman’s article generated a considerable amount of feedback, most of which appears to come from GTMF musicians and even the director of the chorus, the San Francisco Festival Chorale, which participated in the concert [sws_css_tooltip position=”center” colorscheme=”rosewood” width=”400″ url=”” trigger=”(update)” fontSize=”14″]Since this article was published, the director’s comments no longer appear and Veltman’s article has been edited multiple times. [/sws_css_tooltip] .

I will say, however, that both articles do an excellent job at reminding us how easy it is to sell the live concert experience as well as how easy it can become to forget that when you’re so close to the subject.

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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0 thoughts on “A Reminder About The Value Behind The Live Concert Experience”

  1. Glad to hear that Mrs. Mulcahy enjoyed the live performance so much more than her CD experience. However, it is hardly a fair comparison when the latter was whilst driving in a car, watching for traffic and scenery, chatting with passengers, etc.

    I find the distractions at the concert hall– foot taping, program page crinkling, phone texting, extended chatting, etc– far more troublesome than the minor-to-none I experience in MY home listening set up. More times than not I leave the concert hall livid at the rudeness of fellow concert goers.

    The concert industry is advised not to take excessive comfort or encouragement in Mrs. Mulcahy’s post. There are many among us who are increasingly retreating into our music caves at home where, if only for a time, we can keep the terrible manners of an increasingly uncouth society at bay.

  2. Dave, do you expect Radio Orchestras to come back into fashion? It seems you are missing the greater point of Mrs. Mulcahy’s essay. Clearly this is her opinion, but it happens to be many other people’s opinions too, myself included. I think it is nice to have recordings but I enjoy the concert experience more. I like the social aspect of sharing a concert and discussing it over drinks after. Sure, you can do that with a CD in your “cave”, but seriously…people like you probably never donate or support a symphony beyond your $16.95 purchase of a cd. Although judging from your comment I’m going to guess there is a distinct possibility you are downloading free of charge or copying library recordings. And while I agree there are rude distractions at live concerts, the are really in the minority.

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