I have written in this blog about the importance of speaking to the audience as a performer. Now, audience members, it’s your turn.
When you attend a concert, do you experience a huge divide between the house and the stage? The pit adds distance. Does the performer seem to be inaccessible? Is there an aura on stage? Performers can sometimes seem larger than life. When I was in college, Leontyne Price, Zara Nelsova, and the Bach Aria Group all seemed this way.
If the performer doesn’t say a word, s/he may seem inapproachable, even inhuman. What happens in a concert can seem otherworldly.
I have experienced this many times. Stage lights, performers’ attire, perhaps my age at the time ~ many things can contribute.
In my opinion, what happens during and after concerts needs to be more of a 2-way-street, an interaction.
So, following a performance, what do you do? Go backstage? Head for dinner? Think that maybe you’d like to meet a performer or two, but don’t quite follow through?
Why? Do you have misgivings about going backstage?
You, as a member of the audience, can participate.
Here I would like to say that performers are people, too. The concert you just heard was most likely performed by someone who has had too little sleep, may be adjusting to your time zone, and has consumed irregular meals comprised of less-than-healthy food. Add to that instrument, music, and concert dress schlepping, travel delays, and the very real prospect of no dinner after the concert. (Hawaiian Punch and Oreos don’t quite make it, even is there is a reception.)
Having expended all that effort, even though that is what performers live for, they would love to meet you!
In the years before Richard Stoltzman received the Avery Fisher Prize, he played at Marlboro on several occasions. I went backstage to meet him 2 or 3 times, having played for 2 of his Cal Arts students at Aspen a few summers before.
Peter Serkin was at the door, hugging everyone. Fred Sherry was equally as friendly. Stoltzman was over in the far corner, looking down, putting his clarinet back in the case. He was genuinely grateful to have someone approach him.
Joel Krosnick, cellist in the Juilliard Quartet, once told me about a solo concert tour he did in Germany. He spoke no German, and the stage hands didn’t speak English. No one came backstage. So Joel started making up things in English, talking to the stage hands just for fun. An audience member or two backstage would have been welcomed. He instructed me to always go backstage.
William Warfield was the stunning bass soloist for a “Messiah” I heard in Illinois when I was in seventh grade. Much later, he presented a solo recital at my school. I decided to go to the reception to let him know how much he “got” me in the 7th grade.
Warfield was not only friendly, he was very funny. And he remembered the name of his hotel in Illinois and the room number!
Wondering what to say? You don’t have to be profound. You could mention a favorite piece from the performance, or one you hadn’t heard before. You could thank the performer for coming, and say you hope they’ll come again. Inquire about their instrument. Ask where they’re playing next.
You are the reason we are here. Please come backstage!