Photo credit- Lighthouse Strings
Part III: The Spirit of Performing Live Music
Extending your practice into your performance, an Alive Performance-
We come now to the ending part of the process of planning, publicizing and performing your own recital. This is what all musicians live for: Performance. Right? Wait a minute. I'll have to disagree with myself. I don't personally live just for performances. I live for the experience of the beauty of music, whether in rehearsal or performance or personal practice.
In fact, I would like to extend the optimism and patience of personal practice up through the experience of the performance.
A performance is a formal practice, and also a measure of the end of a stage of practice. If we think of performing in this way, as an extension of private practice, it becomes much easier to see each performance in perspective, as one of many, rather than a final line to be crossed. Granted, if we take performance to its extreme practice, we see some performances, such as auditions, quickly rise become life-changing events.
But we are discussing the goals of personal recitals here, not an audition. In that spirit, a performance can be seen as a celebration of a personal practice, perhaps a personal graduation of sorts. Celebration is the spirit with which I like to approach as many live performances as I can. In this spirit, we invite the audience to share the experience, one which is the culmination of a defined period of our practice.
In this healthy spirit, a performance is genuine, filled with optimism and eagerness, for the sake of the shared, communal experience. It becomes a living experience shared by you and your audience, an Alive Performance.
iAdvise: Keep a healthy Spirit of Performance in your sights throughout the technical and musical preparations for your performance. Bring genuine desire to share a unique stage in your practice with your audience.
The performance itself-
In a performance itself, I try to ask myself if I am enjoying the experience, or suffering through it. It is terribly easy to forget to enjoy the music as a specific goal, and to instead dwell on any flaws which occur, or worry about a difficult passage. Those habit of thinking encroach in any performance. After all, a well prepared musician has put a lot of effort into this experience. There is a lot to lose. A recital, well planned and publicized, is best enjoyed by arriving with the intention for deep connection between music and audience.
iAdvise: be sure to make a point of reminding yourself several times during the actual performance to (at least attempt to :-)) enjoy the moment. Perhaps even a note above the part at the beginning of each piece.
Connecting with your audience-
Now to more "practical" efforts, such as how to help the audience, that you worked so hard to get, experience the music as richly as you have worked to achieve.
I chose to try something completely new to me, and perhaps to most of the performers and audience at my recitals. In the spirit of the Chicago Symphony multi-media musical programs called "Beyond the Score", one of which we performed in the Columbus Symphony a few months ago with conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni, I created my own "personal" program notes, with musical excerpts as examples.
A sort of hybrid mix of descriptions of themes and theme development in the music, I added descriptions of the "character" of the music. By describing the moods and emotions each excerpt held for me personally, I felt more tuned to what I wanted to say when I played the entire piece.
Am I recommending you do the same. Not at all. I only suggest my solution to bridging the gap between music and audience as one fresh idea for accomplishing that goal.
iAdvise: carefully plan and rehearse/write out about 10 minutes of specific history, anecdotes, musical examples, and more importantly, your own characterization of the music, what you see as the "moods" and "characters" and "images" in the music.
Other possibilities for enhancing your learning curve-
I ended up planning two recitals in a row. And, in fact, there were two more recital performances added, ones with my sister in Bethesda, Maryland. I performed the Debussy in all four recitals (though with two different pianists).
My recommendation is to plan at least two recitals fairly close together, perhaps one or two weeks apart, so that you, and your fellow musicians, can evolve in the subtlety and spirit of performance over several repetitions.
Another possibility is to plan the first recital as an invite a few close friends only recital, which I sort of did for my first one as my home. (though including board members in my guest, including the chair and his wife, it could be said to be slightly more risky than inviting close friends! :-[)
iAdvise: Plan several recitals while you're at it. It offers a much better chance of really learning from the experience, and it doubles the musical output for (hopefully :-)) less than double the effort.