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.

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