Reach out and touch someone

The KW Symphony just wrapped up our second stretch of outreach concerts in the community. We did seven shows in eight days at venues all over the city and at all times of the day. We played entirely in spaces that were not designed with an orchestra in mind – this presented some logistical challenges but also made for some highly pleasant surprises. The meeting room at Google’s Kitchener HQ had remarkably good acoustics, and there’s a visually and sonically gorgeous theatre at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo that I’d love to play a recital in.

Outreach is a ridiculously broad term that encompasses a variety of activities, but the basic principle is using the orchestra to engage with people in a positive way outside of the concert hall. It’s a bit of raising awareness of who we are and what we do, a bit of bringing music to people who can’t necessarily come to us, and a bit of just going out and giving music to the community because that’s what we should be doing. It’s a tricky thing to do well, because “the community” isn’t a homogenous entity but a crazily diverse body of people with vastly different needs and expectations. Our assistant conductor, Daniel Bartholemew-Poyser, really takes ownership of this problem and adjusts the programming and his speaking to reach whatever group we’re performing for. He also sings “Bad Romance” in front of an audience remarkably well. His presence on the podium makes these shows a great deal of fun.

A major quirk of the past week’s outreach effort is that I wasn’t scheduled to play anything that Dan was conducting – my contribution was limited to two movements of chamber music. Not that I’m complaining! Chamber music can be a very playful and joyous experience – you get to really react and respond to the musical gestures your colleagues make, and contribute your own musical ideas that a sensitive colleague will then absorb and spin out in their next phrase. The piece as a whole might be thoroughly rehearsed, but that kind of fine musical interaction is a totally live and spontaneous musical experience. You swing back and forth between being a leader and a follower and mentally engage with what you’re doing at a higher level. It’s a full-brain workout and it feels great.

Outreach being concluded, we’re moving on to our Yuletide Spectacular. Very few tickets left for all four of these shows, and a packed house brings a really wonderful energy to a performance.

Soon to come at mikeybassoon – more shop talk! I’m in the process of getting together some thoughts on everyone’s favourite thing, auditions! More to come…

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