Two days, two depressing posts. First Butts in the Seats quoted an article about job prospects in non-profit organisations, which began:
"Do you feel your contributions in the workplace are overlooked? Are you consistently swamped with work at the office, but still feel empty when the week ends? At the end of the day, are you ashamed of what you've accomplished and how you reached the end result?"
The theatre-manager author of BitS suspects that "even non-profit people feel this way about their jobs". Sad enough, but true. Working for an orchestra, say, can be wonderfully fulfilling but it's no guarantee of freedom from stress or long hours or general frustration.
More depressing was the "arts administrator" (what kind is unclear but her words suggest an orchestral instrument in the background) who admitted to not loving orchestral concerts at all. Laurie Niles, host of Violinist.com, quoted her on Adaptistration:
"I am not drawn to the symphony. Sorry to say it but true. I'd rather play pool than go to a classical music concert. I'd rather go to a multi-media experience, like a symphony performing a soundtrack live and show the movie simultaneously. I like lecture concerts as well. Anything... ANYTHING but just sit there, not be addressed as an audience member at all, and listen to music I've heard or played a hundred times."
This was in answer to the question "What do you love about going to the symphony?" Now, normally my hackles would be rising in reaction to yet another example of the word "symphony" being used where what is meant is "orchestra", "symphony orchestra", "orchestra concerts", "symphonic music". But in this case I'm too struck by this administrator's candour (it would be natural for someone in her position not to admit to feeling this way) and by her jaded assessment of concertgoing.
I won't say I've haven't sometimes felt like I don't want to hear another concert for a very long time, that there aren't moments when attending a concert once a week (or more) can actually seem more like a chore than a pleasure. All sorts of things contribute to that: uninteresting performances and plain old fatigue being typical culprits. But the feeling always passes, because the power of the music itself and the power of live performance offers something irresistible.
Still, there are things orchestras do that put us in the way of jaded reactions like the one above: one of these is not always treating the performance like the "show" – the entertainment – that undoubtedly it is and which the audience feels it deserves; the other is playing the same old cycle of repertoire to the point where even a casual concertgoer might feel as if she's heard it all "a hundred times".
Now this second problem is a tricky spot that we've got ourselves into gradually since the formation of the Canon of Great Music in the 19th century. Nearly two centuries on we've trained concertgoers to want a gently percolating selection of "great classics" and received masterpieces by composers who are preferably long dead. It's going to take a long time to get out of that one, if indeed we ever do. But the first problem should be easier to solve, if only we could bring to orchestral concerts (without sacrifice or compromise) those aspects of stagecraft, polish and presentation that are second nature in the theatre.