‘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.