Symphony in the 21st Century (at the beach)

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Living at the beach, access to symphony music is limited usually to Alexa, Pandora, and CDs.  Fortunately, the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra has a schedule of Fall Concerts that are available in several settings in the Delmarva area.  Planning to attend requires careful strategic activities around calendar, family, and location.  Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and it was easy to select seating and print the tickets.

Sunday was the day, 3:00 in the afternoon in the Ocean City Performing Arts Center.  I looked about the room after recovering from a pushy senior with a rolling walker who believed we were in line at Southwest for seating of our choice.  Once seated I spent some time people watching.  Initially, most seats were still empty 10 minutes before the performance was to begin.  As folks shuffled in, probably over 90% of the group were over 55 years of age, with many over 70.  While the audience at the beach is disproportionately older, I have also noted the same phenomenon in Baltimore.  The graying symphony audience is a serious issue, crippling budgets and shrinking attendance. Some posts suggest this is a red herring.  The claim that this so called aging situation is really reflective of the overall aging of the population, parallels later marriages, or maybe a problem of boring repertoire.  Perhaps the focus on patron donors requires a shift to retention of audiences and strategies that focus on audience appeal.

The program on Sunday, entitled Eternal Prodigies, featured selected traditional orchestral repertoire: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7.  The violin soloist, Stefan Jackiw, hailed for his international performances and touring played with exemplary technique yet sustained a sense of poetry and emotion echoing through the audience in collective breathtaking awe.

Many American orchestras are incorporating “new “music written since 1970.  This program included Ouverture en forme d’etoiles by Regis Campo, b. 1968.  Not my fave! It was typical of newer musical pieces, filled with dissonance and irregular tempos.  While described as tempos with genuine vitality, the piece was difficult to appreciate although well played by the orchestra.  Many orchestras are attempting to incorporate newer music but a study by Rocky O’Bannon, December 30, 2015 showed that few newer pieces are catching on and fade quickly.  In checking the Bannon study, it would seem that this composer is not in the top seven played by 89 of the orchestras studied.

I am looking forward to the rest of the season which looks challenging and based on the skills demonstrated in the varied pieces, it will be delightful!

 

 

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