Orchestras tell their story: Why are we relevant for our community?

The Orchestra Story Bank is a resource created by North American orchestras and the League to show the many ways in which orchestras serve communities, providing the first-hand perspective of musicians, families, and care-takers.

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Through the power of music, collaboration, and collective action, orchestras serve the public in many ways. Just as the needs of one community differ greatly from those of another, each orchestra develops programs, partnerships, and performances that provide unique value to their community.

Take a look at the examples on the Story Bank and start telling your own orchestras’ stories. There are dozens!

@Classical:NEXT 2015 is on the way

Classical:NEXT 2015 fair will be held in Rotterdam from May 20-23, 2015 in Rotterdam (NL).

Classical:NEXT

Classical:NEXT

The interesting schedule is fully packed with topic issues and perspectives for the classical music industry. Classical:NEXT was born out of the simple idea to bring the diverse scenes of classical music together and offer them a forum to exchange and develop new ideas around classical and contemporary – or in a wider sense – art music. Since 2011, around 2.000 art music professionals representing 1,000 companies from more than 40 countries have engaged with Classical:NEXT and made it into the world’s most important classical music meeting.

Hamburg Elbphilharmonie: First impressions of Great Hall under construction

After several delays and an explosion of costs the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie is going to be opened on January 17, 2017. Drafted as a new stunning landmark at Hamburg harbour site with great architecture the main question is about the acoustics. However, this will be a challenge and (hopefully) miracle, to be expierienced in late 2016… The promotion video looks promising!

2015: Growing interest in classical music in Germany

For decades media announced the “death of classical music”, the overaging or even the extinction of the opera and concert audience. These prophecies have not been fulfilled, even not by constant repetition. On the contrary: Current audience figures and reports on attendance records show that opera and concert are more popular than ever.

Summer 2014: Berlin Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel at Festvial MV (C) Geert Maciejewski

Summer 2014: Berlin Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel at Festvial MV (C) Geert Maciejewski

Thus the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation for the year 2014 reported in the Great Hall a capacity utilization in the sold seats of 94%; overall utilization was 97%. In Chamber Music Hall there were 71% utilization in the sold seats, the overall utilization was 75%.

The Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin continues the upward trend for 2014: the average utilization of the events continued to rise, up 2.4% to 82.6%.

The Berlin State Opera achieved in 2014 a record load of 89% (2011: 82% 2012: 88% 2013: 88%). A total of 254,000 visitors came to the performances and concerts, of which 185,000 visitors to 332 events in Berlin, 27.000 visitors to the international guest concerts of the Staatskapelle Berlin, Barcelona, Dresden, Helsinki, Cologne, Madrid, Paris, Vienna, Wiesbaden and Yerevan and 42.000 visitors to the open-air concert by the Staatskapelle Berlin under the motto “State Opera for All” at Bebelplatz.

More than 80.000 people attended the 2014 some 150 events at the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and also benefitted from the festival a record year. The New Year concerts attracted over 700 visitors to Ulrichshusen Castle. The Spring Festival Rügen in March drew 4,400 fans to chamber music Germany’s largest island and thus registered a record attendance as well as the summer season. The 127 summer events were attended by more than 73.000 people. Around 2.500 visitors attended the 2014 musical finish at the pre-Christmas concerts in Ulrichshusen and Stolpe.

Music comedy with orchestra as bridge to new audiences

Classical music is not easy to listen to. A Mahler or Bruckner symphony is a complex art work. These materpieces will remain complex, even for music lovers. How to reach out for people who are interested in classical music genarally, but don’t attend your concerts? However, if you choose the right setting, a good piece of music (freshly composed?) and a stand-up-comedian-conductor as moderator, audiences will love it. They will come back. And they will tell their friends.

The musician’s workplace: Ideal and reality

Work conditions are a sensitive topic among professional orchestra musicians and orchestra managers. While official health and safety directives define and prescribe the minimum requirements, specialist health professionals point out that few, if any, institutions currently fulfil all the standards. Air conditioning and temperature, space, noise and lighting are the common points of contention.

Healthy work place?

Healthy workplace?

In Germany, guidelines on the thermal environment define the range of 20 to 26°C as the suitable room temperature; from 30°C, actions to reduce temperatures must be taken, above 35°C work must cease. Other issues addressed by the guidelines include minimum temperatures, drafts and humidity. Yet examples of deficiencies are plentiful: inadequate lighting and a small pit, dampness, a lack of rehearsal rooms and cramped backstage areas in many other locations. Renovations are often impeded by tight budgets or strict regulations on building conservation.

The Theatre Meiningen (Thuringia) offers one of the few shining examples of best practice: with orchestra members closely involved during a general building overhaul in 2010/11, the theatre now boasts ergonomic seating and dimmable spotlights in the (enlarged) pit, while air conditioning and acoustics have also been carefully readjusted.

Due to the nature of their profession, noise and noise protection are particularly relevant for musicians. Theatres, concert houses and orchestras in Europe are obliged to impliment the EU Hearing Directive 2003/10/EC. Already OHRIS-certified (Occupational Health- and Risk Management System, as recognised by the state of Bavaria), for example the Nuremberg Staatstheater has exemplary structures in place addressing occupational health issues. Even so, the EU Hearing Directive is turning out to be a challenge, as too literal an implementation would impair artistic standards and negatively affect audience experience. A balance has to be found between health and safety requirements and the often subjective perception of music.

Germany’s ‘orchestral and theatrical landscape’ recognised by UNESCO as ‘intangible cultural heritage’

After years of campaigning by the German Orchestra Union (DOV), Germany’s ‘theatrical and orchestral landscape’ has been recognised by UNESCO as ‘intangible cultural heritage’. The move follows decades of mergers and closures throughout the country – since 1992, 37 of its 168 publicly financed concert, opera, chamber and radio orchestras have been either dissolved or amalgamated with others. A national one-day-strike-and-action-day on September 30, 2013 by more than 100 orchestras (in front line: the Berlin Philharmonic) increased public awareness of the issue and was the starting point for a new national campaign, Orchesterland-D: Einzigartig. Erhaltenswert (Orchestra country Germany: unique and worth preserving).

Part of cultural heritage: Staatskapelle Berlin

Part of cultural heritage: Staatskapelle Berlin

Quote: “The addition of German theatres and orchestras in the nationwide list of intangible cultural heritage is a great success for the cultural diversity in our country. After years of shrinking resources, this is a clear signal to all policy makers that the nation’s orchestral landscape deserves further investment as a cultural treasure.” – Professor Christian Hoeppner, Secretary General of the German Music Council

Kulturerbe

The proposal to UNESCO was put forward by the German Music Council in cooperation with the German Orchestra Union and German Theatre Association.