MusicWatch reviews: Less is more

The holiday concert season: Cappella Romana, In Mulieribus, PBO, PSU Chamber Choir, Shanghai Quartet, more...

Portland Baroque Orchestra ended 2012 with three different concert programs.

Portland Baroque Orchestra ended 2012 with three different concert programs.

My mother, who I’m visiting for the holidays, has, like many seniors who live in retirement communities, downsized considerably. That must explain the surfeit of edible Christmas presents she received this year. Most of it is candy. Strictly in the interest of de-cluttering her small apartment, of course, I’m doing my best to help her consume as much as possible. Some of it (especially the handmade stuff her loving son brought from Portland) is really rich and tasty. Much of the rest, though, offers at most fleeting pleasures, and the surfeit actually reduces the pleasure of the best.

I’ve had similar feelings in attending the past month or so of classical music concerts in Portland. Many have been stuffed with musical pleasures, but often, in long programs, the mediocre works have undermined the gems. It makes me wonder whether classical music too often offers too much of a good thing — and whether that discourages audiences from appreciating, or even hearing, the good stuff. And to prove my point that you can have too much of a good thing, I’m going to make it in our longest post of the year!

***

The feeling began creeping in during 45th Parallel‘s November 15 concert, which had a lot a going for it: accomplished orchestral musicians from the Oregon Symphony and other worthy institutions, most with chamber music experience; a good cause (supporting Portland’s all-classical public radio station); a buoyant certified classic (Mendelssohn’s familiar Octet), and a pair of short, dazzling works by one of 20th century’s towering composers (Shostakovich). Because these are primarily orchestral musicians who lack the time to really develop chemistry with each other or interpretive depth in a given piece, we can’t expect the same level of mastery of chamber works you’d see in, say, a Friends of Chamber Music or Chamber Music Northwest concert; one member admitted that the group had spent only a week with one of the pieces, Bruch’s seldom performed Octet.

It turned out to be a pretty thin piece anyway. I’m all for playing more than just the usual warhorses (like the Mendelssohn octet), but the time spent rehearsing Bruch’s octet would have been more profitably used to give the Mendelssohn classic an interpretation with more character than the relatively bland one offered here. Booting the Bruch would also have allowed the concert to last an hour, without an intermission, which in turn would have permitted more time for socializing at the reception afterward. And the audience would have left energized rather than enervated; I spotted several dozers during the Bruch — quite a contrast from the spontaneously explosive applause that erupted for the one really exciting performance — the Scherzo, from Shostakovich’s Two Pieces for String Octet Op. 11.

***

Denise Dillenbeck and Nikolas Caoile performed at Portland's Old Church.

Denise Dillenbeck and Nikolas Caoile performed at Portland’s Old Church.

Violinist Denise Dillenbeck and pianist Nikolas Caoile gave a much spicier performance of music by Stravinsky (an alternately buoyant and caressing performance of his “Italian Suite,” from his “Pulcinella” ballet score, with just the right dash of Stravinskian bitters), Messiaen (“Theme and Variations”), frequent Oregon visitor and New York jazz legend Dick Hyman (the bluesy “Minotaur”), and leading contemporary composer John Corigliano (Violin Sonata). The last, an early work, turned out to be a surprisingly more exciting piece than much of Corigliano’s later work, or maybe it was the performance itself that ignited it. The two Central Washington University faculty members demonstrated a real rapport and I hope to see them in Portland again with a similarly creative program. But again, the intermission seemed unnecessary, at least from the audience’s perspective.

***
It’s hard to blame Portland composer Jan Mittelstaedt for devoting a full length concert to her music on her November 18 at Portland’s First Presbyterian Church — such single-composer showcases are a rarity. She might never get another chance to display the full range of her music. But inevitably, some pieces were stronger than others, and I bet listeners would be more likely to attend a concert of unfamiliar music by an unfamiliar name if they knew they’d only be risking an hour of their time. Thanks to the knotty reputation of much post World War II classical music, some listeners are still afraid, however unjustifiably, of being trapped for too long in a concert of newfangled sounds.

Not that this was a risk at Mittelstaedt’s concert in church’s admirable Celebration Works series. “Maybe I should have been born in the 19th century,” she said in introducing one of her songs, and much of what was played here did resembled what might be called 21st century parlor music, packed with quotations from songs of earlier eras.

Highlights included Mittelstaedt’s mostly pastoral Saxophone Quartet, the breezy string quartet “Crosscurrents,” and, although the closing movement’s exultation felt a little blatant, her heartfelt “Journey Through a Shadow,” which deals with the turbulent emotions of a family facing a member’s life threatening illness. It gave flutist Gail Gillespie some lovely moments, and pianist Rhonda Ringgering also excelled. It must have been hard to resist the lure of the church’s mighty organ, but tacking the long “Resurrection” to the end of the program, while the audience (as often happens in organ concerts) stared at the empty stage (the organist was invisible in the loft) sapped the concert’s momentum.

A coffee and cookies intermission is one of the most appealing features of the Celebration Works concerts, but even if it had been retained, this was another case where less would have been more.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Even the next week’s concert by Oregon’s most accomplished orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra, could have been boiled down to an hour of the really good stuff. The program featured a welcome dose of mostly relatively lesser known Italian composers such as Falconieri and Gregori, plus more familiar names Vivaldi and Geminiani. The group added interest by changing instrumental forces (and once even tunings) with each number, and PBO’s usual lively performance style was in evidence. A concert omitting some of the less interesting obscurities (not the way-cool, almost modern sounding Dario Castello works, though) and even the much-played Geminiani variations on the most famous tune of the era (“La Follia”)  would have been a lot tighter.

PBO proved the point in its next performance, accompanying Trinity Choir’s December 2 performance of J.S. Bach’s most famous cantata (#140, often translated as “Sleepers Awake”) and his ever popular “Magnificat.” The band’s expert use of period instruments and conductor Michael Kleinschmidt and the three-dozen-member choir’s ability to avoid overwhelming them created an intimate atmosphere despite the capacious Trinity Cathedral space. World renowned instrumentalists Gonzalo Ruiz (oboe) and Janet See (flute) put their customary mastery completely in service to the music, with the latter’s liquid tone perfectly complementing alto Laura Thoreson in the “Magnificat’s” “Esurientes implevit bonis.” Thoreson and soprano soloists Arwen Myers and Amanda Jane Kelley, tenor David Buchanan and bass David Stutz contributed to the intimate atmosphere by using conversational rather than declamatory styles. Kelley’s solo accompanied only by organ, cello and oboe reached heavenly heights. Yet the musicians produced appropriate grandeur when the music demanded, such as the chorus “He has shown the strength of his arm.” This “Magnificat” lived up to its name, especially in the spiraling “Gloria.”

At relatively brisk tempos, the two works totaled about an hour of music — which left time for wassailing afterwards. With music and performances as rich as these, any more would have produced the musical equivalent of indigestion by overeating. In fact, I wish they’d skipped the intermission, although maybe that was more for the singers’ benefit than the audience’s.

iSing Choral Excellence — and Excess

Other recent choral concerts could have benefited from such shorter programs. Beaverton’s inventive iSing chorus’s fall concert began with one of the group’s hallmarks: multimedia elements, including a brief, self-produced video preview of its March 2013 concert. The singers entered the hall of Beaverton’s Bethel Congregational church from the rear, singing iSing music director Stephen Galvan’s arrangement of the traditional Scandinavian song Sankta Lucia, and the event was further enhanced with subtle lighting effects, more video (including a gorgeous one picturing a masked Japanese dancer) and moving the singers to different parts of the church. Other choirs might well take a cue from iSing, and remember that concerts can also be visual experiences without distracting from the music.

Unfortunately, the concert’s ambitious centerpiece, the acclaimed contemporary English composer James Whitbourn’s big, challenging “Luminosity” (which includes parts for viola, gong, organ and tamboura) came off a little kitschy, though that might have more to do with the music itself than the performance. The all-volunteer choir did a nice job in works by two homeboys — including three beauties by great American choral composer Morten Lauridsen, who grew up going to that very church (and whose “O Nata Lux” produced the evening’s loveliest singing), and iSing’s own David B. Walters, who conducted his own attractive “A Song of Light.”

But the concert seemed to stretch on and on, in part because not everything ascended to that level, and in part because almost everything proceeded at approximately the same stately tempo — even the closing “This Little Light of Mine,” taken here at a hushed crawl instead of the usual uptempo arrangement. It’s not just the length that can make a program feel too long.

***

Like iSing, Portland’s Choral Arts Ensemble opened its December 15 concert by singing (William Mathias’s rousing “Sir Christemus”) from the aisles. Then conductor David De Lyser read aloud Leonard Bernstein’s famed words occasioned by an act of violence that shook the nation much as did the one that happened the week of this concert: “This will be our reply to violence. To make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

There’s always room to hear the music of the great Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria, even though Renaissance polyphony can be tough on the best of singers and resulted in a few shaky moments at the generally satisfying performance I saw. And including both Victoria’s mass and the motet it was based on made the concert’s first half feel extended and diffuse.

The choir also turned in pretty good performances of a pair of 20th century classics, Benjamin Britten’s classic “A Ceremony of Carols” and Francis Poulenc’s “Four Christmas Motets,” and were energized by some simpler music, including some cool carol arrangements by the hot young Norwegian choral composer Oja Gjeilo and Ralph Vaughan Williams. But again, I couldn’t help but feel that taking on fewer works would have resulted in stronger, better rehearsed performances of the best pieces (particularly the difficult Poulenc), and, without an intermission, a tighter concert.

***

The Oregon Repertory Singers’ December 9 concert offered a plusher sound and more variety, including yet another offstage opening (choristers singing from the aisles, a drummer and trio entering from the rear). The choir sang while walking up to the stage to join a percussion trio, and they followed with excellent performances of medieval carols, a Palestrina gem, beautiful music by Portland composer Bonnie Miksch and Lauridsen, with the orchestra changing configuration again (splitting into two choirs, one on stage and one in back) for the inevitable “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl. ORS music director Ethan Sperry smartly covered the shifts with brief, cogent explanations. The visual variety made the show feel shorter.

The musical and visual changes continued throughout — guitar, percussion and electric keyboard appearing with small vocal ensembles in “Los Pastores,” a quick musical joke based on the dreaded “Twelve Days of Christmas,” kids choirs joining in on a couple of pieces, pianist and ORS accompanist Naomi LaViolette joining on her own new “Noel” arrangement, and a propulsive, penultimate African work before the closing “Silent Night.”

Sperry, who directs choral programs at Portland State University, applied a similar inventive formula to last month’s concert with his other group, the PSU Chamber Choir. The concert paired classical compositions with choral arrangements of pop tunes — a false distinction, as Sperry pointed out from the stage, that emerged only recently. Moreover, the PSU program mixed not only pop and classical, but also old (Rachmaninoff, Monteverdi, Debussy) and new (rising composers Eriks Esenvalds, Eric Whitacre and Gjeilo). It even included world music (from Haiti and Bulgaria), jazz (courtesy of a brilliant cameo appearance by PSU prof and jazz piano master Darrell Grant), an upright bass, drum kit, congas, and more — including music binders flung to the floor in unison (and politely picked up again after the number was over).

 

Monkeying around: PSU Chamber Choir's energetic winter concert.

Monkeying around: PSU Chamber Choir’s energetic winter concert.

Most of all, it had performers who really threw themselves into the performances, not just Leonard Cohen and Stevie Wonder songs (and there’s nothing wrong with including some pop on classical concerts) but also the old stuff, although I actually would have liked to have seen more of the unbridled energy in the former  (including PSU Man Choir members jumping around like apes when singing “I Wanna Be Like You” from “The Jungle Book”) applied to the latter.

Welcome Abundance

Like the PSU show, some concerts justify longer programs. Case in point: the Shanghai Quartet‘s superb December 4 performance of music by Schubert (a tight yet singing performance of his single movement quartet), Bartok (an intense take on his brilliant, otherworldly fourth quartet, featuring one movement played with mutes and another entirely plucked), and Beethoven (one of his last, magnificent quartets, Op. 132.) The Friends of Chamber Music program offered further variety in Yi-Wen Jiang’s arrangements of Chinese folk songs, one of the group’s specialties, which ranged from galloping to wistful.

The Beethoven quartet alone traverses a considerable range of emotional territory, and the Shanghai players nailed them all, including the famous slow movement — ponderous in the wrong hands — which they conveyed with a kind of noble sadness, one of the most moving performances here in recent memory. The Shanghai Quartet doesn’t boast the biggest sound or the most pristine execution or the most flamboyant stage presence. They’re simply terrific players with a special sensitivity to dynamics who seem able to adapt perfectly to whatever musical landscape they’re surveying.

For Ever and Ever

The year ended for me with three of the most enjoyable concerts of 2012 — one of them, ironically, given my theme here, the longest of all.

And in fact, the best thing about Cappella Romana and Portland Baroque Orchestra exhilarating performance of Handel’s oratorio, “Messiah” this month was the end. Not the end of the second act, which climaxes in the rousing “Hallelujah” that’s probably the most famous chorus in classical music. Not even the beautiful “amens” that conclude the third and final act. It’s not even the fact that it’s finally over, although clocking in at three hours, “Messiah” can in some performances really seem to go on “forever and ever,” as the penultimate verse goes.

No, the best part of this weekend was what happened even before those final “amens” had died away, when the audience (many of whom may not attend many other classical music performances all year) spontaneously erupted into rapturous applause, audible gratitude for the hard working musicians and their visibly energetic music director and the exultant experience they had just created.

Once again, as in their fall concert, the combination of the state’s finest instrumentalists and singers produced a spectacular result in Handel’s music. The combination of its grandeur and Monica Huggett’s crisp direction, which characteristically emphasized the music’s rhythmic thrust and, instead of making each movement sound similar, highlighted their differing character. Despite the jam-packed First Baptist Church venue, it also shared that marvelous sense of intimacy that Huggett has cultivated with PBO. Handel’s music is grand enough on its own, and only suffers in overwrought, Romanticized performances on modern instruments. The transparency afforded by period instruments allowed the wonderfully rich textures of Baroque instruments, particularly oboe, horns, percussion and bassoon, to emerge clearly.

Although not an experienced choral conductor, Huggett has a way of getting what she wants, using sweeping gestures, sometimes even stamping her feet (no doubt to the annoyance of the engineer recording the performance for later broadcast) to signal the musicians. She employed extreme contrasts in tempo and dynamics to create dramatic contrasts where appropriate. It was a glorious performance, by far the best I’ve ever heard of Handel’s chestnut, but I have to confess that, like my distinguished colleague Bob Hicks, my appreciation might have been enhanced by the circumstances; the concert came a day after a horrific national tragedy in Newtown, Conn. The audience response to this performance showed the immense power classical music can still exert, especially in times of crisis or despair.

Yet even PBO itself understood that even in a masterpiece, less can be more, by offering a reduced, two-hour version that trimmed the least interesting portions of Handel’s masterpiece. Even Shakespeare plays are regularly trimmed in contemporary performances. Especially for non-connoisseur audiences, shorter concerts can lower the barriers to entry.

***

I did see another traditional sacred music performance from a different tradition on December 14. An ensemble of visiting Turkish musicians brought by the Mevlevi Order of America performed traditional Turkish music on authentic instruments in the Sema Ceremony of Intimacy at one of Portland’s lovely old ballrooms. This ritual includes the famous dance of the whirling dervishes, and that beautiful visual element, along with the music itself, kept me mesmerized throughout. I wish more concerts included dance elements — a multimedia tradition that goes way, way back.

I attended one more concert before year’s end: the women’s vocal ensemble In Mulieribus’s “Christmas in Bohemia” show at Portland’s St. Philip Neri church. Pietro Belluschi’s reverberant space proved ideal for the eight-member group’s sound, giving it enough bloom to fill the ears of the capacity audience without blurring the sound, as would likely happen with a larger ensemble. Most of the concert was devoted to works from the Codex Specialnik, a medieval manuscript recently discovered in a Prague monastery, and the group made a convincing case that much of that music should be heard more often.

However, the concert’s highlight — and one of the year’s — was “one of the monumental works of Western music,” as IM’s Anna Song said, accurately, from the stage before the group launched into the 13th century French composer’s “Viderunt Omnes,” one of the earliest known polyphonic works (and a big influence on minimalist pioneer Steve Reich and other modern composers) but one encountered more often in music history books than onstage. Given the vocal demands it places on the singers and the sheer sublime strangeness of the piece to modern ears, it’s easy to see why. In Mulierbus sang this spectacular masterpiece beautifully, with the singers in the front row cleanly navigating the rapid, melismatic lines while those in back chanted the long drones that form the work’s bedrock.

As usual with this amazing group, everything else on the program sounded lovely, although I could have used some more uptempo works to provide greater contrast. Or perhaps a couple of the shorter works, and the intermission, could have been omitted. It was a glorious way to end 2012 in Portland music.

Is Less More?

During this stretch of late fall concerts, Bruce Springsteen gave one of his usual three-plus hour extravaganzas in Portland. I’ve experienced a couple of those myself and never felt bored for a moment. But the degree of concentration that longer classical compositions demand (of me, anyway) is much higher than that required by a lineup of pop songs, however accomplished. Too often, I’ve come away from classical music concerts having experienced so much powerful music that I simply can’t really hear it anymore. I need space to assimilate the riches I’ve already imbibed before indulging in more. Too much candy.

Moreover, as I was reminded at another concert around the same time, shorter concerts leave audiences with more time and energy to digest and discuss what they just saw, rather than worrying about paying the babysitter overtime. Camille A. Brown and Dancers 45-minute performance left time for a fascinating audience talkback. Granted, most concerts won’t present the conversational opportunities (either onstage or at a post-show bistro table) that Brown’s provocative take on racial stereotypes did. But even without the discussion, I felt fully sated. My date and I continued our discussion at a post-concert dinner.

Better rehearsed performances, less audience exhaustion, lower barriers to entry, maybe even lower ticket prices (less music should equal less cost, right?)… but what about the drawbacks to shorter performances? Would audiences (particularly those who, unlike musically overstuffed music journalists, attend only a few shows a year) feel cheated by performances that lasted only an hour? Would skipping intermissions (if the show lasted, say, 90 minutes or fewer) be harder on singers and players — and listeners?

I’ve been noticing an increasing number of shorter shows in recent years. Springfield’s estimable Chamber Music Amici, for example, always gives one-hour, no intermission classical concerts — with a little party onstage afterwards. Obviously some shows — operas, full-scale “Messiahs,” Mahler and Springsteen extravaganzas and so on — need to run over two hours and have intermissions. But should more of our classical music organizations make a New Year’s resolution to schedule shorter concerts, jettison the intermissions, and give listeners more, while giving them less? What do you think? I’m especially interested in hearing from singers, players and administrators — what are the practical reasons for intermissions, and to what extent are they relevant given classical music’s 21st century predicament?

Please give us your thoughts in the comments. As for me, I think I’m ready for some more candy. Or, on second thought, maybe not.

11 Responses.

  1. violindenise says:

    Cool to read your reviews, Brett! Thanks for coming to our show at the Old Church–and btw, I agree about the intermission–the OC requested we have it, in order to try to sell goodies as part of their fundraising. I don’t think a handful of cookies probably made that much difference in their budget, though!

    In any case, it’s a fascinating topic you raise overall, and one that is particularly of interest to me, as I teach a general music appreciation class to 50 freshman each term, and we are constantly trying to unwrap the musty classical concert experience. Length and focus required (versus the typical pop-song attention span, as you point out) are troublesome to my students, and the rituals of multi-movement programs, the fear of applauding at the wrong time, etc., all seem to raise barriers so that people new to these events are inclined to dislike them before they’ve had much experience with them. I really like your thoughts about shorter concerts, and I love the idea of post-concert dialogue, in whatever form. I hope more board members and artistic directors will take a cue from you!

  2. Good points, Denise. When I suggested a no-intermission concert to the music director of my own ensemble, she rightly pointed out that that would deprive us of an opportunity to sell CDs and t-shirts! Can’t forget the merch angle. Thanks for your comments, and your riveting performance, particularly in the Stravinsky and Corigliano pieces.

  3. Greg Ewer says:

    Wow Brett. Way to see the glass as half empty! We are lucky enough to live in Portland, which is bursting at the seams with talented, committed artists, and your take, after hearing an entire season’s worth of music, is to ask for pity on the local ‘musically overstuffed music journalist’? Thank goodness you don’t speak for 45th Parallel’s audience members. As my esteemed colleague Justin Kagan remarked this morning, “More than a few spoke of crying at the beatific final measures of the slow movement of the Bruch.” You know…the Bruch…that piece you suggested we should have “booted” to allow “more time for socializing at the reception afterward.”

    And your comment that “these are primarily orchestral musicians who lack the time to really develop chemistry with each other or interpretive depth in a given piece?” WTF Brett?? Way to slap a glass ceiling onto the musicians of your community. As the Artistic Director of 45th Parallel, I believe in taking risks. Many of us get up on stage having just explored a piece for the first time, knowing full well that with another week and a few more rehearsals it could be more polished. There is bound to be variation from concert to concert because personnel, repertoire, venues and group chemistry are always shifting. We are most decidedly not the same as travelling musicians who play the same 2 or 3 programs in different cities throughout the year. It is not a useful comparison. And even so, I say with confidence that some of the more magical performances from our first four years would be measure up nicely, even against the stiffest of competition.

    We explore lesser known works, both new and old. We bring musicians together who have sometimes never met one another, and we dive into as much musical exploration as time and circumstances permit …and we do it with a generous spirit of love and enthusiasm for our challenging art form! Why must you repeatedly trot out the tired notion that because musicians are gainfully employed and busy, that the community shouldn’t really expect much from us? It’s shortsighted and frankly disrespectful to suggest it.

    You are right that the classical music world needs to have its collective eyes wide open and its thinking caps on in order to respond to a changing musical landscape. You have been a powerful local advocate for this way of thinking, and I applaud you for it. But just as you constantly challenge all of us, I would challenge you as well, to be more open to musical offerings outside your wheelhouse, and to reevaluate your notion of what it means to be a ‘local’ musician in our modern day musical landscape.

    Respectfully,
    Gregory Ewer
    Artistic Director
    45th Parallel

  4. Amen, Greg. I wholeheartedly agree!

    • Justin Kagan says:

      If it looks and smells like piling on, Brett, it must be. There’s room in the arts for conflict and conflict resolution.

      • bob priest says:

        yes, good to see “things” given an airing from many different perspectives.

        having put on a gazzillion concerts with unfamiliar repertoire in time-crunched conditions, i KNOW what a tightrope walk looks, feels & sounds like.

        personally, i am THRILLED to see these topics being engaged in a passionate manner. actually, i would LOVE to see this discussion continued over a few cups of “Deep Cello” in-person!!!

        yeah, i know, who has time for such serious “frivolity?”

        so, one final wind-piss for the moment, ok . . .

        what i have BIG trouble with is when an organization with a mondo budget brings in big-bucks infused celebs to inadequately blow through more of the same old tired fare & then receive a gratuitous standing-o for their, uh, “efforts.”

        but, yes, another time for THAT pandora’s box, pravda?

        bob priest
        March Music Moderne III
        Free Marz String Trio

  5. Heather Blackburn says:

    Why should every performance include only “gems”? Many works we consider beloved staples of the repertoire were despised at their premieres. How can anyone judge the worth of a piece from one hearing?

    I like shorter concert formats and enjoy new ways of presenting classical music. However, I bristle at the idea that audiences don’t have the attention span or curiosity to attend a standard length concert. Why must everything be presented in a brief period with the most intensity possible? Perhaps we are so out of touch with the ebb and flow of modern life that we cannot stand for any moments of stillness or even, gasp, mind wandering?

    Finally, the idea that skilled musicians cannot put together an excellent sounding full length program in a short period of time is false and insulting. It happens every week in the OSO, other fine ensembles in town and frankly, everywhere.

  6. Jeff Winslow says:

    Speaking of “less”, let me remedy an inadvertent omission in Brett’s description of the wonderful In Mulieribus concert, in favor of a brother composer from nearly a millenium ago – the French composer of “Viderunt Omnes” was Perotin.

    As someone who has happily listened to hours at a time of classical music ever since I was a wee lad I don’t feel my perspective on the theme here is particularly useful. I do feel that more attention can always be paid to programming. It’s highly questionable whether Schubert’s “Rosamunde” dances added anything to the OSO’s recent whiz-bang performance of Mahler’s 6th, for example.

  7. Jack Gabel says:

    considering funding hurdles we regularly face, less may well beget less and less and even less… might well lead to so little, it’ll be a relief to liquidate and leave

  8. Megan Elliott says:

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Brett! I love seeing the passionate discussion(s) that it has generated. These are things that we SHOULD be talking about. I’m the marketing director for the Choral Arts Ensemble, so coming from that perspective, my big hang-up here is the suggestion that ticket prices be lowered to reflect shorter concerts. To me, that could send a message to our patrons that they should expect less when really, the main idea of a shorter concert would be for us to be able to offer more (and by “less” and “more”, I’m referring to quality, not quantity).
    In light of what Heather posted, I do feel that if certain concerts are made shorter, it should be to maximize the quality of the music, NOT to pander to shorter attention spans. And I think Jack makes a good point too; we ought to be careful with this. The Seinfeld episode where Jerry tries to shave his chest hair “a little bit” but then somehow ends up shaving it all off comes to mind. And…I’ll stop now:-)

  9. curtis heikkinen says:

    Interesting article. I must say that my eyebrows were raised by your description of the PBO as “Oregon’s most accomplished orchestra.” Not to take anything away from that ensemble, but I hardly think you can compare them to the Oregon Symphony, which is required to perform much greater diversity in music, week in and week out. It has done so in spectacular fashion in recent years, as witnessed by its outstanding success in Carnegie Hall and by its recent CDs, which have met with much critical acclaim. To my mind, there is no doubt that the Oregon Symphony is the preeminent orchestra in this state, if not in the entire Northwest.

Comments are closed.