Several years ago I found myself playing a house concert to showcase a student’s piano to her friends. I had considered speaking to the audience, but decided against it. Having played collaboratively until then, there was little opportunity to do so.
On concert day, I was warming up at my student’s apartment when someone arrived early with food for the reception. She waited for a break in the music, then knocked on the door. After we introduced ourselves, she said, “Was that original?” I needed some clarification. What she meant was, had I composed the piece she had just heard.
It was a Bach prelude! That conversation convinced me of the importance of verbal contact with the audience.
That day, I provided verbal program notes before each group of pieces. The audience members were graduate students from an open-major program. They were not musicians.
Knowing the type of audience in advance will help you think about what you want to say, as it did in this case.
Several people mentioned during the reception how much more they enjoyed the music because of my introductions.
Now I almost always say a few words, at least.
There is a perceived divide, even chasm between the audience and the performer. When a performer offers music, audience members don’t necessarily understand what is going on.
Music is, after all, intangible.
Now more than ever, we need to take care of our audiences. If they feel that you appreciate their effort in attending, they might be more apt to go to a future concert with music by the same composers, hear the same instrument, or return to the same venue.
Whenever I speak to my audience, I find that more people not only come backstage, they also have a better idea of something to talk about.
Please let me know your ideas and experiences!
The decision about whether to speak to an audience is an individual one. The more formal the concert, the less likely the performer might be to speak.
In general, though, I would encourage you to experiment with speaking. It’s easier than you might think ~ you know more about your program, how you chose the music, why you’re playing it, etc., than anyone else in the room. There is no need to make extensive comments.