Morning after silences


So, I’ve curated my first concert. I’ve contributed something to new music greater than just carping from the sidelines. How does it feel the morning after? A few quick thoughts:

  1. No surprises here, but this stuff is much harder than it looks. Even when you’re going through a professional venue like Kings Place, who handle all the tech, the venue, the front of house and half the marketing, it’s a lot more work than you think. Like putting together a wedding, you find you need to have a definitive view on things that you never thought you would before. (That really sunk in during the production phase, when I had to give a firm number of how many music stands, musicians’ chairs, etc. we would need.)
  2. I haven’t cracked the fundraising conundrum, and I need to if I’m going to do this again.
  3. Am I going to do this again? Two weeks ago, I’d have given you a firm no. Yesterday, a probably yes. Today – not sure.
  4. People came – lovely, lovely people came. A lot of whom I didn’t know, so thank you especially. I hope you enjoyed your afternoon.
  5. How a programme works in your head is really different from how it works on stage. I think my programme showed up a few interesting things, but they weren’t necessarily the interesting things I had in mind at first. Relative proportions are way more important than I’d realised, for example.
  6. Mathias Spahlinger’s 128 erfüllte augenblicke is a great piece that should be performed 100x more often than it is. There was some talk yesterday that this may have been its London premiere. I must admit I didn’t check, given that the piece is 37 years old, but it’s possible. Anyone know?
  7. Working with people is awesome – nothing you can do as a writer quite compares. Especially people as talented as were involved yesterday. Huge thanks to everyone for their skills and hard work: Anton Lukoszevieze, Tom Jackson, Lore Lixenberg, Philip Thomas, Greg Emfietzis, Ben Isaacs and Charlie Sdraulig.
  8. Oh yeah, and work out in advance how you’re going to get a bow in at the end. Otherwise it won’t happen … 🙂

Pic: Philip, Tom and Anton rehearsing Ben Isaacs’ allone.

11 thoughts on “Morning after silences

  1. It may be a London premiere – not UK though as I saw Linda Hirst perform it with ensemble recherche in Huddersfield in the 90s. Agree it should be done more often though – one of my favourite pieces. Well done Tim, and sorry I couldn’t make it.

    1. Ha, it doesn’t surprise me that it’s up your street, James! 😉

      I really like AH’s approach on this occasion – 12 sections chosen in advance, and the sequence decided upon, but Anton cued repetitions of each one, and the pauses between each, on the fly. Which gave the whole performance a remarkable tension. Some bits were repeated 5/6 times, a couple played only once.

  2. Congratulations Tim. I sympathise very much with your point #1!

    Regarding #2 – given that it’s quite a niche and enthusiastic audience for this end of new music, do you think it might work on a “subscription” basis? i.e. you go ahead once you’ve got sufficient people to put up the money for the concert (or ideally a season of some length). I don’t think subscription works for “general” new music but if you are going after a more specific element where there is a definitely enthusiastic local audience, it might work. I don’t know if they are numerous as I’m not really one of them, geographically at least, but I suspect you might have the critical mass required. Just not through Kickstarter etc or you’ll lose >7.5% of your income straight away.

    Money aside, if you have 1 or 2 other people helping you organise and promote things then that makes a massive difference.

    Anyway, great stuff, there should be more of this kind of thing going on. (And elsewhere in the UK would be nice too!). Please do it again. You won’t feel like you want to until the scars of the first one have healed – give it a couple of weeks 🙂

      1. Can I ask how many (paying) people were there or is that too cheeky? And were you selling programmes, if so what proportion bought? (typical figure for that is about 30%, but for an enthusiast audience and a “keep-worthy” programme you can aim for like 40-50% : or higher, consider how many football fans buy matchday programmes… my PB is 63% at the premiere of Emily, which blew the theatre management [and me] away! the subsequent nights were 40% though)

        I think if you can devise some kind of brand to run with, you could sell some merch too.

        I’d pay good money for a tshirt that said “I paid £10 to come to this concert and all I heard was silence” 😀

        (or a tshirt / mug with one of those funky graphical scores!)

  3. I really do enjoy reading your blog, Tim, but I think I love this post the most of any. If I could wave a magic wand over the whole field of new music it would be to bestow a dramaturg on the performances of each and every work written within the past 30 or even 50 years. Of course, a second magic wand wave would be to deal with sponsorship and cash flow. 🙂

    Wish I lived in London and could have come along to the event – sounds fabulous.

  4. Tim – I didn’t do a full headcount, but there were about 80 seats set out, and it was close to full, so 65–70 I’d guess. Programme sales and revenue were handled by Kings Place, so I have no idea how many they sold. 30% or so is probably not far off, looking around the room.

    1. That’s a pretty good number!

      Downside with the bigger London venues is that they want to control your sales of programmes and merch, and take a slice. You might do well to seek out an alternative venue who are cheaper overall. You could look at the Union Chapel? Not sure how suitable for the very cutting edge they are as they might not have a good piano, but if you can get round not having a piano, then the possibilities open up considerably, I would think.

      The best money is to be had on the bar, if you can get control of that … the only time in central London I’ve ever been able to control the bar was in Marylebone church for a fundraising concert. Surprising how much you can raise from plastic cups filled with warm, cheap wine (in “donations” of course, if you’re not licensed!). But I generally hate going to concerts where I have to sit on a hard pew, shiver, and listen to the traffic outside.

      And you might not think it’s very classy but there’s a lot to be said for holding a raffle. Again, not something a bigger venue will allow, in general.

  5. Interesting and helpful comments especially re subscription concerts and merchandising. I am going through the circles of hell known as searching for funding bodies for my own series of concerts I hope to promote next Edinburgh festival fringe Private companies, even traditionally generous ones, run shy once contemporary classical music is mentioned.

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