Monday, March 21, 2005

audiences and orchids

The first lizard orchid of spring appears ....

A few of my readers have been asking if audience numbers make a difference. I can but give you a few examples:

On Thursday, with the Musiciens du Louvre, the hall was half empty and I couldn't find my way in to the music. The audience' response was damp and muffled. However, a nurse who was present said afterwards that music had saved her life, in particular concerts like these. The concert, despite my own disappointment, suddenly took on meaning for me in retrospect and I remembered that touching one person's life is enough.

On Friday we were playing in the Stendhal University which was responsible for commissioning the project. There were thirty Grenoblais brains (apparently Grenoble is famous for huge brains patting around on tiny legs living side by side with ski-hunks) perched on the seats and they didn't seem to understand that we were simply telling them a story. Did they have too much grey matter? Perhaps they couldn't let themselves be innocent enough....? Who knows. Anyway, despite them, I simply loved playing that day. I was in love with Mozart, Haydn and Mirella, with caressing bow-strokes and buoyant bass-lines, and I just put it out there. For whoever.

On Saturday we were in a tiny village in the Vercors. Mirella, having walked, in her concert black, straight to her father's funeral the previous day, had just heard that her mother was in hospital after an attempted suicide. Her beloved project had been getting very little response up until then, even by the bloody Stendhal University, and it was disappointing. On Saturday, however, we were willing it to be taken to the hearts (which, after all, is the organ from whence it was created) of our large audience. Mirella was clearly finding some relief in the musical episodes and when cheering broke out at the end, it meant more than anything to all of us.

Yesterday, in our little trio concert, I obviously touched a priest (!) but more importantly, all through the concert in the first row, a mentally and physically handicapped child was dancing with me - with hands and head moving in a spiky or graceful manner depending on what he experienced in his sound world - and I played all evening for him. (Sorry Ottonello)

In Peter Sellars' extraordinary production of Handel's Theodora at Glyndebourne I emerged after each performance feeling like I had been in a humanist prayer with the audience for four hours. The silence after this production was coursing with the tears that come with the of release of ego; it was stillness itself.

I have had my fill of ostentatious halls full to the brim, and indeed there have been moments I will never forget. In particular with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, where we all seemed to be joined - from the person in the back row of the audience to the timpanist, to the sixth cellist; all sepals on the stem of Nicolaus Harnoncourt's baton connecting us to the rich soil of Beethoven. Real Conducting.

However, playing in churches in small villages with old men and kids wandering in squinting from a sunlit boules game, where the concert is free and the music a surprise are by far preferable to me these days. To be able to be the first person to reach out a hand and offer Mozart to another human heart....what better job could there be?

And so in conclusion, there is no conclusion. There is ego sometimes and at other (better) times there is not. Warmth is certainly preferable to numbers, though numbers can create warmth. Catching the wide eye of a child or seeing the tear of an elderly person can be enough to open the door into the music, but on another occasion I might become self-conscious. Sometimes it's all there and I feel nothing, and at other times there's nothing and I feel everything. Always, if I can touch one person, it is worthwhile.


Blogger Morphess said...

Haven't been able to post to you for a few days Ruth - bloomin' blogger.

Your post is wonderful, you are such an evocative writer. What a beautiful gift to have - the ability to move people to tears with your music and the further ability to move readers to tears with discriptions of how it feels to play your music.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Kimberly said...

Yes, yes, oh yes. This is lovely, Ruth. The lyricism and passion in your writing about this makes me long to hear you play. Reaching an audience - or one person in an audience - is truly magical.

(Have you by chance met Shira Kammen, a vielle and violin player from California? She has been spending some time in France recently - Metz, I think - working with soprano Anne Azéma.)

1:55 AM  
Blogger PTA Mom said...

Ruth, I love going to the Churches here to listen to a concert. There is something special about it.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous SV said...

Thank you for the comment on my blog. Loved the picture and link for the first lizard of spring.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I came over to say thank you for your comment on Real E Fun - and I found a beautifully written, fascinating, moving post. So thank you, too, for that. I'll be back!

6:32 PM  

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