Sounds like they have thought this through. Well planned. I hope it will be successful. (First Cruise Jan 3, 2011, from Baltimore to the Caribbean.)
The key word here is community - as Mr. Stassen puts it, "It has become all too easy for classical music performers and their audience to feel like anonymous participants in an elaborate formal ceremony. Our goal is to bridge the gap between the audience and our musicians, so they can come to know each another as individuals. The cruise ship environment will definitely enhance this experience."
One way Symphonic Voyages will facilitate performer-listener interaction is by placing a handful of orchestra musicians at each table in the Manhattan Restaurant, the Mercury's formal dining room. A series of participatory lecture/discussions also aims to break down traditional barriers.
"But lecture is a terrible word," Stassen groans. "A lecture is strictly one-way communication, like your parents gave you as a child or a professor droning on in front of a chalkboard. We want to create dialogues where our performers describe how they relate to music on a personal level and listeners respond with their own ideas and opinions. This is where Alex will be terrific for us."
"Alex" is Symphonic Voyages composer-in-residence Alex Shapiro, who established a successful career writing commercial music for television and film before switching to composing contemporary chamber music. She has never looked back.
Why feature a modern composer? "It's true that a lot of user-unfriendly and intellectually pretentious classical music was created in the previous century," Stassen says. "But composers have moved on. Alex's music is beautiful and accessible without sounding derivative, and she is committed to reaching audiences on an emotional, human level."
"But the professionals on board won't be the only ones playing music. Passengers who play an instrument are encouraged to bring it along. Symphonic Voyages will reserve time in Mercury's public rooms for casual reading sessions. "We already have a number of passengers who are also performers," Stassen points out, "and we're happy to coordinate these impromptu sessions."