Audience Development, Peter Gabriel and Orchestras

Last night I went to see one of my favorite artists, Peter Gabriel.  He is right up there with the Beatles, Sting/The Police, and all my favorite classical music composers.  For this concert tour, Peter Gabriel was being backed by his own orchestra, the New Blood orchestra.  He chose particular songs to have arranged (brilliantly, I will add by John Metcalfe) so the mix was a little more on the mellow side.  There was no “Big Time” or “Sledgehammer,” but instead moving and powerful renditions of “Mercy Street” and “Blood of Eden.”

I’m not here to review the concert per se, although I highly recommend going to see this concert, but I am here to tell you that the crowd was not only hooting and hollering for Peter, they were also very excited about the orchestra.   The orchestra was mainly comprised of  musicians from the local area and the UK.  The conductor, Ben Foster, looked very young, but was extremely polished. These musicians played with such passion and conviction that you couldn’t help cheer them on.

I have no idea if other people in this audience were orchestral fans or as big of a Peter Gabriel fan as I am, but the audience was right there with me in acknowledging powerfully performed music.

Aside from the high quality content of this concert, the execution was audience friendly.  Peter told stories of how a song came into fruition to lead into the music.  Having a better understanding of the song led to a deeper enjoyment of the music.  He was gracious in always giving nods to his fellow musicians, and he definitely seemed to being having a wonderful time, always adding his personal theatrical flair.

Of course Peter couldn’t help adding a multi-media show with video images on a finely meshed backdrop.  It served as a curtain for the orchestra as well.  He is a highly creative individual that has to share the many sides of his artistry.  The video shared the many sides of the music, including the performers themselves.

Even when it rained, perhaps due to his heavy choice of water image songs, the crowd continued to be enthralled the entire time.  I was getting bathed and soaked in both rain and wondrous music.   This means that despite the set backs of the venue or any happenstance, there was no way the audience was budging from this amazing night.

Now back to the orchestra.  There has been a trend with musicians wanting to go on tour with an orchestra, and I do not see this trend letting up.  Just today I saw another article Deep Purple Guitarist Talks North American Orchestral Tour.  There is a draw for musicians to spread their wings, and working with an orchestra can provide a new outlet for their music.  This has many advantages for the orchestra world if they are smart enough to see these advantages.

First, there are new audiences being introduced to the sounds of an orchestra in a format that is already pleasing to them, a rock concert.  The audience usually ends up cheering on the orchestra as well as the main artist.  Some of the audience will take a liking to how an orchestra sounds and seek out recordings and concerts in the future.  Here is the biggest advantage, if you are an orchestra in the area and happen to have one of these types of concerts in town, you better believe I recommend finding a way to reach this new audience.

Our local theatre performance center had a chat session during the Tonys.  I can envision local orchestras equally latching on to this opportunity by hosting Twitter chats or Facebook posts, etc.  Or, perhaps finding a way for the venue or artist to mention going to see a performance of a local orchestra.  If there is a will, there is a way.

Also, if there are local musicians performing, like there were on this concert, find a way to connect with them.  Perhaps they can be personality advocates for the orchestras in the area and reach the audience by tweeting what is it like to perform with someone like Peter Gabriel.  There are people in the audience that would enjoy getting this backstage perspective.

Lastly, I would recommend attending one of these events yourself and take notes as to how the concert is executed.  The orchestra world can learn a great deal from one of these concerts, as aforementioned.  Would it really hinder us to program new and interesting music that an audience can relate to and get excited about, and allow them to applaud when highly moved after a solo?  Mozart enjoyed it.

New audiences such as the ones that attend these types of concerts are ready and waiting if we find ways to reach them, but we must make the effort to reach them.  We could stand to shed our high orchestral ideals and learn from the world around us, even if it is outside of our genre.  Peter Gabriel and the New Blood Orchestra put on a concert that could teach us many lessons that are vastly needing to be learned.

If you would like a real review of the concert, click here! 

Peter Gabriel’s New Blood Orchestra recording Digging In The Dirt at Air from York Tillyer on Vimeo.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,

Shoshana

Shoshana Fanizza

Audience Development Specialists

http://www.buildmyaudience.com

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“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”

~James Stewart

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Filed under arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development

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