Sunday, April 29, 2018

Opening Night at the Music Room

Back on 4/13/18 the Rapidan Orchestra played to a full house at the Music Room. It was the first time the Music Room was open to the public, and there were a lot of "old Orange" people (that I've known since being a child) who came to hear the music, but also to see what's happening with the old Gill Hardware building there on Main Street. Even before the music started there was a pleasant buzz of energy in the room as people greeted old and new friends and looked around to see how the inside of the building has been transformed.

That night and in the days following, the most heard comments from the audience were the wonderment of hearing live music like this in Orange and how well played it was. The most frequent comment from the musicians was the incredible sense of connection between us and the audience - I used the word "electric" and our conductor used the word "palpable".

For me the empirical indicator of that connection was when and how the applause began after each piece. Between the conductor and the players there's a sense of the exact moment a piece ends, and sometimes audiences will applaud a bit before or after that moment. That night it felt to me the applause began in the nanosecond the music ended. 

And the applause felt as though it was erupting from the audience, that they'd been so connected to the music, when it ended they were responding in a way that was in part non-conscious and very enthusiastic. Sometimes applause can sound duty driven, but there was none of that I could hear. I have to say the only times before this I've performed and felt audiences that revved up and connected to the music was when I was playing banjo.

Some of the variables that contributed to all this:

1 - Set and setting - a lot of people there were very happy to see the old building put to new use for the community and were in a good frame of mind to begin with.

2 - The Rapidan Orchestra has come a long way, and our current conductor Benjamin Bergey has done a splendid job of helping us mature.

3 - Robert Carlson the piano soloist, though only a sophomore(!) in college, absolutely wowed the crowd and orchestra with his playing of the Beethoven.

4 - The acoustics of the space are really good. There's a real clarity to the sound, and you can hear everything going on very well (which is one reason Rapidan is playing better - we can hear each other so well in the Music Room). 

5 - Though it's a fairly large space, the audience sits very close to the musicians, and I think that enhances the connection - the audience essentially shares the same space as the musicians, as opposed to being off in the distance, with the musicians up on a stage.

6 - We haven't done anything to the lighting, so the whole room was fully lit, rather that the orchestra under bright lights and the audience sitting in the dark. My sense is that amplified the feeling of us all being together enjoying each other's company, and not the us/them feeling large halls and theatric lighting fosters.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

News Story on the Music Room

This link will take you to a story in our local paper - the Orange County Review - on opening night at the Music Room. Thanks so much to Jeff Poole for the pics and the story.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Music & Peacebuilding

Here's Benjamin Bergey's lecture/recital for his doctorate at JMU that I got to participate in. I sat right in front of the soloists and got caught up in the flow of their singing and Benjamin's conducting. It was one of the most moving musical experiences I've ever had. He started the music at the 31 minute mark with an audience singalong. To get full screen start the video and then click the box in the lower right hand corner.

Opening Night Pics

This past Friday night we had a performance by the Rapidan Orchestra at the Music Room, and, courtesy of Jeff Poole of the Orange County Review, here are some pictures of our first public event.

Before things got underway, Rapidan conductor Benjamin Bergey thanked Karla for all she's done to make the Music Room a reality. As Benjamin said, the Music Room is the new home of the Rapidan Orchestra, as we'll be rehearsing and performing there.

Here's a shot from rear of the room. Besides the audience members seen, there are others sitting to the right of the large opening into the reception area.

This shot shows the back of the room, and one the ladders along the wall dating from when the building was a hardware store with floor to ceiling shelves.

Here are some pics of the orchestra and Benjamin.

Here are some pics of our soloist for this concert, Robert Carlson.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Music Room blurb #1

Here's the text of a little info sheet we gave out at the Rapidan Orchestra performance at the Music Room this past Friday:

 The Music Room

135 East Main Street
Orange, VA


     We are a non-profit looking to encourage more live music making in our community by providing space for groups to learn, rehearse and perform acoustic (non-amplified) music.
    Just last month we received our “Certificate of Occupancy” allowing us to invite the public in, and this performance by the Rapidan Orchestra is our first major event. Thanks for coming!
    To start with we’ll be doing just classical and traditional music. Venues are responsible for paying fees for performing rights of copyrighted music (anything written after 1923) to three different organizations and we’re sorting through whether or not the red tape and expense are worth it. 
    We’ve set up with the orchestra’s back to the front door for acoustic reasons. That stairway with its landing/alcove at the top creates odd acoustic effects. After we hear what the orchestra sounds like with an audience in the room, we’ll move forward on acoustic treatments that we hope will allow us to set up at either end of the space.
    We’re in what we’re calling “phase one” of the Music Room – getting enough done to be able to start using the space, and from there figuring out the best way forward. Besides acoustic treatment of the main room, we want to spruce up the reception area and create a library of books on music and musicians.
    We hope to host various classes and amateur groups, the first of which is being organized by Caroline Baldwin, who plays cello in Rapidan.
    Musikgarten is a leader in early childhood music education offering a sequential music and movement program for children from birth to age nine. This complete multi-year educational program helps infants, toddlers, and children develop a deep love of music and the ability to express it. Classes include age appropriate activities that cultivate a life-long love of music and stimulate the overall development of the child.  In addition to weekly classes, families receive wonderful CDs of the songs sung in class, instruments, and parent guidebooks. These home materials reinforce lessons and involve the whole family in the fun. 
    We’re looking to organize other groups as well, so if you play an instrument at a beginner or intermediate level and want to be kept informed, please let us know via the contact information on the back page.
    We’ll be hosting a few chamber concerts from time to time to showcase some of the fine musicians we’re lucky to have in the area. We’d also like to try some master classes and demonstration/lectures to see if the community might find them interesting. Until we have a web site in place, we’ll be sending out occasional announcements of activities to anyone letting us know they’d like to receive them.

 The Music Room
P.O. Box 269
Orange, VA 22960 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rapidan Program Notes

Here's a link to the FaceBook page where I posted images of the program notes for our recent Rapidan Orchestra concert. 

Why Live Music

In the previous post I talked about some advantages of acoustic music over amplified music, and in this one want to talk a little about live music versus recorded music.

One of the things the neuroscientists often say about what pulls the listener into the music is the unexpected. While we like some sense of structure to give us context, if there are no surprises along the way, we become bored. The thing about recorded music is that once you've heard it, it never changes. The first time or two I hear one of Glenn Gould's immaculately edited, so as to be error free, recordings of Bach, I'm amazed. On subsequent listenings, though, the some of the magic slips away. I often use the word "fresh" for music that I like, and recorded music can never sound fresh on repeated listenings.

Live performances usually mean finger slips along the way, but they also mean that you'll never hear that piece of music played that way ever again, and that in itself adds excitement. Over the years I've noticed some classical critics will point out errors in a performance, while going on to say that's what you get with live performance, and that even with an error here and there, live music is more moving to the listener than recordings.

Another thing about live performance is that the audience makes a difference. Years I ago came across this quote by Hilary Hahn:

The problem is that acoustic performers rely on the audience's attention and focus and can tell when the audience isn't mentally present. Your listening is part of our interpretive process. If you're not really listening, we're not getting the feedback of energy from the hall, and then we might as well be practicing for a bunch of people peering in the window. It's just not as interesting when the cycle of interpretation is broken.

Another aspect of watching live performance is the triggering of mirror neurons. When we see the physical gestures musicians make, we "feel" those motions in ourselves, and often associate emotions with those gestures.