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National Yiddish Book Center, Hampshire Colleg...

National Yiddish Book Center, on the grounds of Hampshire College ~ Image via Wikipedia

As part of the mid-October Family & Friends Weekend at Hampshire College, the chorus presented a short concert which exceeded everyone’s expectations.

This first concert of the school year is always a challenge to put together because the year has just started.  As you can imagine, there there is only time for a few rehearsals!

Hampshire College Chorus on live TV! HC alum Dan Inglis conducted this performance ~ the group's regular conductor is Elaine Broad Ginsberg.

One piece on this year’s program, “Circle Chant” by Linda Hirshhorn, worked particularly well.

Both the title and the text (“Circle ’round for freedom…”) suggest that the chorus form a circle.  Even with our time limitations, I wanted to see how successful that might be.  The first verse is sung in unison.

The conductor agreed.  So, on cue, the chorus began leaving the risers on the stage as they sang.  After descending a few stairs, they proceeded around the back of the room to stand around 3 sides of the audience area.  This allowed the conductor to face the audience with all the singers able to see her.

The first verse lasted a few seconds longer than needed, so the new choreography worked out perfectly!

After seeing that the movement and new location worked so well, I suggested that the audience could be asked to sing the tune.

The conductor recalled performing the piece in that way several years ago, and was game to try it again.

On concert day, the audience was given a printout of the tune along with the program, “Circle Chant” occupying the last spot.

When the time came, the chorus encircled the audience, singing the unison verse and the following verses, in parts, as a group.

Then the audience was asked to join in!  They sang very well.  It was wonderful to hear everyone in the room making music together, thus going beyond the usual performers-on-stage-and-audience-on-the-floor scenario.

I think the parents in the audience not only felt that they were part of the chorus; they may have felt like they were back in college, too.

I’d call that a success.

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How have you engaged your audience recently? Do you think audience engagement is important?  Useful?  Even crucial in terms of audience-building?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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