The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Can UW-Madison concert managers please do a better job of being audience-friendly?

February 12, 2015
15 Comments

ALERT: This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale, to be held 12:15 to 1 p.m. in the Landmark Auditorium of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed First Unitarian Society of Madison at 900 University Bay Drive, features violinist Charlene Adzima and harpsichordists Christian Collins and Leo Van Asten playing music by George Frideric Handel, Domenico Scarlatti, Johann Pachelbel, Adzima and Collins.

FUS1jake

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is another catch-up posting after an extremely busy week of concerts and previews.

A very large crowd turned out for the Jan. 30 “Schubertiade” (below) – the second annual one at the UW-Madison School of Music. And they were not disappointed with the music, all by Schubert and all wonderful.

Schubertiade 2014 stage in MIlls Hall

It proved to be simply one of the best and most enjoyable concerts of the season.

However, there was something to leave one disappointed.

That is the reception that a lot of audience members received when they arrived at Mills Hall.

It was a very cold and snowy night, with some parking problems due to the weather and a hockey game. So understandably, many people left home early because of traffic and arrived at the hall early.

But they were left standing in the hallway, milling around as the doors opened and let in cold air.

“It’s like they’re cattle,” someone remarked.

And indeed it was. Just look at the photo below.

Crowd at 2015 Schubertiade

Now, the school advertises that the doors to the hall will be open one-half hour before concert time.

But that did NOT happen.

This time the excuse we were told was that the performers were still practicing up until maybe 15 minutes or so before the doors opened. Plus, The Ear is told, there were some unexpected problems with setting up the stage and opening the door.

Mistakes and accidents happen. Probably the wait was not intentional.

But this wasn’t the only time The Ear has experienced this kind of inconvenience. You can also see the literal crush of waiting people (below) in the vestibule at the last UW-Madison Choral Prism holiday concert at Luther Memorial Church.

Crowd at 2015 Prism concert Luther Memorial

I have also seen crowds standing in a snaking line at popular events like the UW Choral Union as they wait – and listen to the choral performers warming up.

That is just unacceptable.

Remember that, by and large, the audience for classical music is older. That means they have less strength. They may be taking medications. They often have balance problems. They are more sensitive to the cold. They may have had hip and knee replacements, so that standing in the hallway can be awkward and even painful.

Plus, there are damn few places to sit besides three or four benches.

So here is what The Ear proposes in the way of setting up some ground rules to ease the logistics and increase the audience’s comfort.

1) All performers must vacate the stage in Mills Hall 40 minutes before curtain time. That gives the performers 10 minutes to get out and the staff 10 minutes to get doors open and the hall prepared. No excuses and no procrastination. And maybe, we can hope, no audience frustration.

2) Put more benches or portable chairs in the foyer, especially in winter and during extremely cold or inclement weather.

3) Do what you promise to do and open the doors at least one-half hour before the concert.

4) Maybe open up a waiting classroom or area, away from drafts and with more places to sit while waiting to get into the hall.

5) Have another room available for performers who have to practice close to concert time.

What do you think of the problem?

And what solution would you like to see or have to suggest?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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