A Growing Audience

July 21st, 2011

‘Amazing, I never realised that!’ was my friend’s response to my description of audiences as having personalities. A quick survey of my performing friends and colleagues confirmed this. Audiences certainly have personalities. But how can a mass of people of different ages and life experience amalgamate into one distinct identity? I cannot explain it but I know that it does. It is a vastly different experience when performing on the same stage on different nights. At a performance in Ampthill a year or so ago, there was spontaneous applause as each of us came on stage, something that has not happened before nor since. Some audience members hold themselves back whilst others laugh heartily at the least expected moments. At a performance at the Brighton Fringe Festival, one audience didn’t react to something I expected them to; but I was taken by surprise when hilarity broke out at an unforeseen moment. Perhaps it is people’s tendency to follow a crowd but who is following whom?

I can tell you though that some of my favourite audience memories involve children. There is nothing quite like the uninhibited, instantaneous response of a child simply reacting to something he or she finds entertaining. One of my most memorable performances of Piano Recital (Piano Not Included) was at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2009. Though I didn’t see them I knew that there were children sitting in the front row. They laughed louder than the grown-ups around them and as the performance continued, the rest of the audience followed their lead so that by the end of the show the roar from the stands was wonderful!

One of the most rewarding experiences when performing Piano Recital (Piano Not Included) is when people who have never experienced a live performance, let alone live music before, are so enthused by it that they seek to experience live performances again. We receive letters and comments saying such things as ‘I always thought that classical music was stuffy and boring but now I know differently’ or ‘Thank you so much for showing me once more how wonderful a live music performance is. You have restored my love of music and I will be attending many more concerts in the future.’ and ‘I brought my seven year old daughter to your show as a way of introducing her to music and now she wants to come and see you again.’

Not that Piano Recital (Piano Not Included) alienates the experienced concert goer. It is written so that different people with various levels of understanding are all able to enjoy the performance. Established concert society and festival audiences thoroughly enjoy the performances. Watching a sea of faces with the air of the practised listener crease their faces into broad smiles and laughter with toes tapping and fingers drumming is extremely satisfying, especially as it is followed by hearing such things as ‘I didn’t expect that!’ or ‘I didn’t expect to have so much fun’. Also, promoters find that Piano Recital (Piano Not Included) is an effective tool for introducing themselves to new audiences; people who have never attended concerts at their local music societies have their interest piqued and regular audience numbers swell.

The success that Piano Recital (Piano Not Included) is experiencing in introducing new audiences to music has been overwhelming. Frequently the average age of our audiences is in the 30s and 40s, which is an unexpected by-product of something which a small group of musicians started off as just a little bit of fun for the Brighton Fringe Festival.

Gavriella

A New Chapter: The Boys

January 27th, 2011

We weren’t quite prepared for the response. The phone calls and emails came thick and fast. We couldn’t reply speedily enough. Such was the effect of ONE advert: Looking for musicians. Must have exceptional technique and musicality and must be proficient at comedic mime.

When they arrived for the auditions they were nervous, but little did they know that we were as well. We had never auditioned before, at least not on this scale and we didn’t know if we would find what we were looking for. We shouldn’t have worried; as each instrumentalist left we were convinced we had found the one for our new marriage. After all, joining a chamber music group is like a marriage: there are good times, there are difficult times, there are arguments and laughter and on occasion someone intends to say something gently but is taken personally and then there is a make up and oh yes, there is also FOOD. But then the next hopeful would come through the door and soon there was a new favourite.

Then Matt rang the door bell, laden with instruments, all the way from Redditch. It was a rainy Sunday but he stayed for over two hours (we talked so much). We hit it off immediately but there were more auditions to come and yet our meeting with Matt remained strong in our memories.

Then came Ola (pronounced Oola). A few days previously Rosanne had spoken to him on the phone inviting him for an audition, but when she heard that he was in Manchester she tried to persuade him not to attend. After all, how many people would commit to travelling over three hours for rehearsals? But he insisted and on Friday Ola appeared at the door. At over six feet tall and broad, he made quite an impression. ‘Welcome to the land of the munchkins’, Gavriella joked and offered to carry one of his tubas in for him. She could barely hold it up off the ground. It was quite a sight – Ola had given her the larger one to carry, early evidence of his sense of humour. After a three and a half hour drive (it was after all, a Friday!), Ola performed a fantastic audition and then stayed to chat and have a bite to eat. We knew he was the one when he happily agreed to our request to simultaneously sight-read a piece, whilst standing (he assured us he didn’t need a harness for his tuba) and do some improvised mime with us. It was one of the only auditions where we managed to reach the end of the piece and as testament to Ola’s size and strength (or perhaps as a testament to Gavriella’s size), during the scene Gavriella hit her head on the tuba and Ola didn’t even feel it.

Only one more audition was held after that as we all knew who we wanted to join our little group: We couldn’t decide between Matt and Ola so we invited them both.

There were some nerves for our first meeting together: A photo shoot followed by a six hour rehearsal (and of course there was food – lunch and supper). It was a little daunting having to invade each other’s personal space at the first gathering in order to fit into shot, but everyone’s humour made it easy. However, finding a photo with all of us looking in the correct direction, with eyes open and smiling was quite a job, especially as Matt wouldn’t stop talking or joking throughout the process. Result: Many pictures with everybody behaving except for Matt, with his mouth in strange contortions, the results of his constant chattering.

And so, welcome to the new Goldman Ensemble. As long as Matt and Ola continue to agree to their commute and as long as we laugh as much as we have so far, we look forward to hearing your comments or seeing you at one of our performances. We always enjoy speaking and meeting so don’t be shy to say hello.

Gavriella and Ortal

Piano Recital (Piano Not Included) – How it all Began

April 14th, 2010

People often ask us how we came up with the idea for Piano Recital (Piano Not Included), our musical/theatrical/humorous show. The truth is that it developed over quite a long time and it doesn’t resemble the original idea at all. For starters, it wasn’t even meant to be funny . . .

It was a warm day in 2008. I was lying on the bed watching my mother do her makeup, contemplating the interesting yet daunting idea of performing at a festival of spirituality (Yes, I know . . . spirituality? . . . We get invited to perform in all sorts of places.). I was not convinced that we would have enough time to come up with a theme and prepare it in time, especially as there was no piano at the festival. Many ideas were discussed: Writing a show that would include a narrator, our mother suggested that perhaps we could incorporate a belly dancer and more. We even approached some composers to compose something but nothing felt quite “right”.

Very frustrated one day I decided to take a break. While I was in the shower, thinking of nothing in particular, a crazy idea came to me. I was so excited I jumped out of the shower to run and tell everyone about it, still with shampoo in my hair. It was only when I touched my hair and felt the lather while trying not to slip reaching the bathroom door that I was brought back to my senses.

Dripping wet, wrapped in a towel, so overexcited that I couldn’t quite get my words out in a comprehensible order was perhaps not the ideal scenario to present my suggestion, but it worked. We were going to do something that no one else had ever done. We would perform music arranged exclusively for our three instruments, we would incorporate a belly dancer and (scariest of all) we would act, all in a full length show!

Telling others about our project, many said it would never work. Some doubted the ability for a Violin, Cello and Horn to hold an entire performance, others couldn’t comprehend how a belly dancer would fit in and as for the acting, none of us had any theatrical training nor experience! Despite this we were not only determined, we were having so much fun writing the show that we were deaf to any doubts. Why should we have doubts when we were writing about what we knew? We were writing about musicians. Inspired by the event that had occurred at St Martin-in-the-Fields a year earlier, when our pianist almost didn’t arrive for a prestigious performance, we named the show Piano Recital (Piano Not Included).

We spent brain-storming sessions reliving memories of our experiences, such as the time in Moscow, performing in a mass international Youth Orchestra in the Red Square when cannons were let off just behind me causing me to jump with fright, hitting my lip against my mouthpiece and making it bleed, or the time when we were all in the SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra and the piano soloist had a blank mid-performance and skipped a few pages leaving the orchestral members to independently realise what was happening and frantically find where she had jumped to. Our combined experiences were a treasure-trove of ideas for us to work with. Ortal spent hours arranging well known music for us and the house was abuzz with prop making, learning some very difficult scores and discovering our talent for comedic acting.

Meeting Galit Mersand (belly dancer) was like meeting an old friend. We instantly hit it off. Like us, Galit breaks the mould and employs humour in her own work as a dancer. We understood each other and everything was working so easily that it was as if Piano Recital (Piano Not Included) was writing itself.

As luck would have it a perfect opportunity came up for us to try out some of our new material; a friend invited us to perform at his wife’s birthday party. It was the first time we would act in front of a live audience. We performed a few scenes (sans belly dancer) and were thrilled by the response. We knew all our hard work would pay off. However, it was one thing to perform in front of a few friends, entirely another presenting a show at a major fringe festival.

More polishing and before we knew it we were performing two previews and premiering at the Brighton Fringe Festival with great success!

However, Galit’s commute from Brighton to Bedfordshire was too much for rehearsals and as her workload was increasing, we all decided that the show would go to the next stage. Galit remains a good friend (one of the reasons we so enjoy collaborating with other artists) and, with new music, new scenes as well as some old ones, the reworked version of Piano Recital (Piano Not Included) will have its first performance in May.

Gavriella Goldman

Welcome Greetings from the Goldman Ensemble

March 18th, 2010

Welcome to our blog. This is our official first post and we are pleased to welcome you and invite you to return often. Please feel free to share with us any comments or suggestions you may have.

Wishing you a day filled with beautiful melodies,

Gavriella, Tirzah and Ortal