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Organizing A Recital Or Concert


Plutokat
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I have been to countless numbers of recitals, concerts, and performances. Though majority of them were very good musically, I have noticed is that there is no real consensus on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when organizing a concert. This is especially true, it seems, for composers.

As composers we deal with more performers, more equipment, and so many other things beyond just the music. So what are the do's and don'ts of putting on a concert?

Here are some question that one might ask themselves when during the process of putting on a concert;

Answer those you have an opinion on.

Performers

  • When is the latest you should be handing out music to performers?
  • If you are paying your performers, when should you pay them?
  • If your performers are volunteers, how do you thank them; gifts, dinner, a thank you note?
  • If concert is several miles away in another town, state, or countries and you are paying your performers, should you include travel expenses in their payment or pay for their travel and possible hotel stay?
  • If concert is several miles away in another town, state, or countries and you are NOT paying your performers, should you pay for their travel, possible hotel stay, and/or other expenses?
  • If you were a part of a concert with multiple composers, after performer, should you performers acknowledge you or should you walk up on stage and bow along with your performers? Or should they just bow and leave the stage?
  • Should you be responsible for any other extra equipment your performer needs, such as electronic equipment, stopwatches, tuning forks, things for prepared piano, or foot pedals for live electronics and ect., or is that a responsibility for you the composer?

Equipment

  • If you are responsible for recording, when do you go into the venue to set up your equipment?
  • If you are not responsible for recording, when should you talk to the recording tech people?
  • If their is a video element or a lighting element, when should you it out?
  • If their are electronic components to your music, when should it be set up in the venue?

Pre-Concert

  • Should you have a stage crew, or should you do any back stage preparations and duties yourself?
  • How soon should you have the dress rehearsal?
  • If you have a large ensemble performer a work of yours, how often should you attend rehearsals?
  • If a piece is not up to your standards the day of or the day before, should it be removed, replaced, or allowed on the program?
  • Should you make a poster or flyer, and if so when do you post them up?
  • What is the appropriate attire for you and your performers? And what is not acceptable to wear for you or your performers?
  • Should you make programs, if so what are some basic information that should be in them?
  • Should you make any pre-concert announcements or speeches?
  • When should you let the audience into the space?

During the Concert

  • Who should cue to lower the house lights and cue performers to go on stage?
  • Where should you as the composer be during the concert; in the audience or back stage?
  • Who should monitor the audience coming in and out during the concert?
  • If an audience member becomes distractive, who should be responsible for asking them to leave; you or a recital/stage crew?
  • If someone is arriving late, when should you allow them into the venue?
  • If your concert has a mix of pieces that are solos, and pieces for larger ensembles that require the stage to be set up, which pieces should be first?
  • How much time should you allow for setting up the stage for a piece?
  • If you know a piece take a long time to set up, should you make the set up time the intermission, a slight break, talk about the piece to the audience while it is being set up, or just allow the audience to watch the set up?
  • When should you have an intermission?

After the Concert

  • During the final applause, do you take your bow from the stage or from the audience?
  • Should you have a reception after the concert? If so what should be served at a reception, if not why?
  • How long, as the composer, should you stay after the concert?
  • Who is responsible for cleaning up the stage, the house of the venue, and the lobby of the venue?
  • Should you give your performers a copy of the recording?
  • How do you thank your performers?
  • If you were not pleased with the performance, does any of the following questions change?

Are there anything else one should think about?

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I'm just gonna go down the list with how I would do it.

Performers

  • When is the latest you should be handing out music to performers?

Ideally a full month before at the latest. However, I like three to six months for comfort.

  • If you are paying your performers, when should you pay them?

Directly after the concert. Usually they should receive a check before they leave afterward. However a check within 10 days is standard acceptable business practice too.

  • If your performers are volunteers, how do you thank them; gifts, dinner, a thank you note?

For me, a meal speaks way more than a gift. I would provide dinner for all the performers.

  • If concert is several miles away in another town, state, or countries and you are paying your performers, should you include travel expenses in their payment or pay for their travel and possible hotel stay?

If that is really necessary, factor it into their final pay but allow them to make any arrangements themselves. Though, honestly, you shouldn't be making non-local concerts like that without a road manager.

  • If concert is several miles away in another town, state, or countries and you are NOT paying your performers, should you pay for their travel, possible hotel stay, and/or other expenses?

Don't.

  • If you were a part of a concert with multiple composers, after performer, should you performers acknowledge you or should you walk up on stage and bow along with your performers? Or should they just bow and leave the stage?

Always acknowledge the composer on stage unless there is a common standard otherwise.

  • Should you be responsible for any other extra equipment your performer needs, such as electronic equipment, stopwatches, tuning forks, things for prepared piano, or foot pedals for live electronics and ect., or is that a responsibility for you the composer?

Extra equipment required by the performer is the performer's responsibility. However, if an obscure piece of equipment is necessary, the composer should work with the performer to get the equipment.

Equipment

  • If you are responsible for recording, when do you go into the venue to set up your equipment?

1.5 hours minimum before the downbeat, though earlier is better so you can test it and soundcheck with it.

  • If you are not responsible for recording, when should you talk to the recording tech people?

As soon as they get there.

  • If their is a video element or a lighting element, when should you it out?

Try and plan lighting in advance so there's no surprises on concert day. If this is not possible, as early as possible. Lighting, especially setup of it, can take a significant amount of time. I do lighting for music concerts regularly and for major concerts I require at least three hours time before just to make sure all the cues are ready. Making sure the performers are happy with the lights on stage can also be a major time-drainer depending on how temperamental they are.

  • If their are electronic components to your music, when should it be set up in the venue?

As soon as the techs or stage managers get there.

Pre-Concert

  • Should you have a stage crew, or should you do any back stage preparations and duties yourself?

Depends on the venue. If it is a significant stage with large setups, a stage manager and stage crew is a must. I'd never recommend doing stage stuff yourself except for the smallest of concerts.

  • How soon should you have the dress rehearsal?

Ideally the day before, but if that's not possible, 2 to 6 hours before the concert.

  • If you have a large ensemble performer a work of yours, how often should you attend rehearsals?

As often as you can. Give your input to the conductor whenever you can to correct things and comment on interpretation.

  • If a piece is not up to your standards the day of or the day before, should it be removed, replaced, or allowed on the program?

This is a sticky one. It depends, I suppose, on how integral the piece is to the program. If it is absolutely awful, then cut it.

  • Should you make a poster or flyer, and if so when do you post them up?

Absolutely. Post them at least a month before the concert.

  • What is the appropriate attire for you and your performers? And what is not acceptable to wear for you or your performers?

Performers should wear either "concert dress" (tuxedos or suit and tie) or "concert black" (all back everything). Which you chose is more preference to how formal it is. It is not acceptable to wear "street clothes" such as blue jeans, sneakers, flop-flops etc.

  • Should you make programs, if so what are some basic information that should be in them?

Always make programs; you just look lazy if you don't. They should include: the program in its entirety with composers and performers; performer and/or composer bios; program notes, if applicable; and any texts/librettos in the spoken/sung language and a translation in the language of the audience. Sometimes advertisements for upcoming concerts can also be appropriate.

  • Should you make any pre-concert announcements or speeches?

Depends on the formality of the event. Usually I think announcements and introductions are good to have. Speeches about works by composers can be nice though they have to contribute to the music not detract from it.

  • When should you let the audience into the space?

Depends on the length/importance of the concert. Standard practice is at least 30 minutes to open the doors, but this can be extended to as early as 1 hr or as late as 10 minutes. The size of audience will dictate this.

During the Concert

  • Who should cue to lower the house lights and cue performers to go on stage?

The stage manager. That's his job.

  • Where should you as the composer be during the concert; in the audience or back stage?

In the audience whenever possible.

  • Who should monitor the audience coming in and out during the concert?

The House manager and the ushers.

  • If an audience member becomes distractive, who should be responsible for asking them to leave; you or a recital/stage crew?

The ushers.

  • If someone is arriving late, when should you allow them into the venue?

Between pieces only during applause.

  • If your concert has a mix of pieces that are solos, and pieces for larger ensembles that require the stage to be set up, which pieces should be first?

Try and order the program to minimize setup/tear down. If that requires having the stage with a bunch of empty seats, so be it. With clever lighting, you can actually make that work to your advantage.

  • How much time should you allow for setting up the stage for a piece?

No more than three minutes, but that's a very long break. Ideally a stage crew with enough people should be able to strike a full stage in less than 90 seconds.

  • If you know a piece take a long time to set up, should you make the set up time the intermission, a slight break, talk about the piece to the audience while it is being set up, or just allow the audience to watch the set up?

If there's a major setup, try, where possible, to make it an intermission situation. This eliminates the awkward break in time for the audience.

  • When should you have an intermission?

Smack dab in the middle of the concert. Try to balance the halves as much as possible. Either that, or make the second half slightly shorter than the first.

After the Concert

  • During the final applause, do you take your bow from the stage or from the audience?

From the stage, always. It is often difficult to see you when your in the audience.

  • Should you have a reception after the concert? If so what should be served at a reception, if not why?

If its a recital its usually appropriate to do a reception. Serve light "refreshments".

  • How long, as the composer, should you stay after the concert?

I'd say no more than 30 minutes. If the hall is your responsibility, however, (as in you booked the event), then say until you're the last one to leave.

  • Who is responsible for cleaning up the stage, the house of the venue, and the lobby of the venue?

If you have one, the cleanup crew. If not, enlist your stage crew.

  • Should you give your performers a copy of the recording?

Yes.

  • How do you thank your performers?

With a prompt check.

  • If you were not pleased with the performance, does any of the following questions change?

You analyze what went wrong and then fix it. If the performers sucked, find new performers. If the venue sucked, find a new venue, etc.

Hope this helps!

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Tokke has covered most things, but a few other thoughts from my experience:

- If the performers are professionals or good amateurs and the repertoire is reasonably straightforward or known to them already, then a rehearsal on the day will suffice. This will probably be about 3-4 hours with a break for an 80-100 minute programme. However ENSURE they have the music in advance. Pros, or amateurs with a professional work ethic, will practice at home until good, meaning that the rehearsal on the concert is only spent getting used to the venue and putting their part together with the other players.

- If there are multiple 'acts' or groups in the concert, do not underestimate the time it will take for one group to clear the stage and the other to enter. Press for this to be done as quickly as possible but assume an extra five minutes per concert half nonetheless. You can of course talk whilst this is happening.

- Be aware that a sound check is of limited value as the acoustics will change with an audience present. Good techhies will factor this in but it's something to consider if you are doing recording/amplification yourself.

- If you are making programme notes and want to introduce a piece in person as well, ensure that what you have to say differs from or enhances what you've written. It's a bit disengaging for you to say out loud what the audience can read straight in front of them. I disagree that programmes are absolutely essential: they are for a formal, 'sit down' concert, but at a less traditional gig - which contemporary music often is - they might not be as appropriate.

- I would aim to pay expenses regardless of distance unless you absolutely cannot afford it. If I do a concert for no fee, even in the next town 5 miles away, I am usually offered 'petrol money'/'beer money' by my regular non-fee-paying engagements as they know how much it costs to run a car these days. It will do a lot for goodwill and the musicians will be more likely to help you out again. Alternatively a round of drinks will be about the same value. But dinner is better especially if you know somewhere good.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I finally got around to answering my own questions, well some of them. Im going to answer questions that I have strong opinions on.

Performers

  • When is the latest you should be handing out music to performers?

The latest that is acceptable is 3 week. Even if the music is perceived as "easy", the latest that is acceptable is 3 weeks prior to the concert. Ideally it should be at least 2 months prior to the concert, but if all things fail and you have no other option, then three weeks. Anything sooner than three weeks should not even be considered

  • If your performers are volunteers, how do you thank them; gifts, dinner, a thank you note?

Ideally dinner, if you can't afford that or unable then a thank you note and I personally would give a gift. (thats what I did for all the performers on my recital since I couldn't get them all in one place to thank them).

  • If concert is several miles away in another town, state, or countries and you are NOT paying your performers, should you pay for their travel, possible hotel stay, and/or other expenses?

Though ideally this situation should be avoided, I know from having to do this at least twice in my compositional career so far that sometimes this is not avoidable. When you find yourself traveling with unpaid performers you are responsible for paying for their hotel, other expenses (such as registration if needed and any other expenses that pertain to the concert, festival, or competition) and at least a dinner as a thank you to the performer(s).

  • If you were a part of a concert with multiple composers, after performer, should you performers acknowledge you or should you walk up on stage and bow along with your performers? Or should they just bow and leave the stage?

The acknowledgment should be made from the audience. Your performer should gesture towards the audience after they take their own bows, you as the composer should just stand and acknowledge the applause. Keep in mind most performers are not use to this and its up to you to inform them on how to do this.

Pre-Concert

  • Should you have a stage crew, or should you do any back stage preparations and duties yourself?

A stage crew is a must. You alone cannot mange all of what need to happen backstage on your own and still produce a quality concert.

  • How soon should you have the dress rehearsal?

Dress rehearsal should be scheduled for the TWO days prior to the concert. This is especially true if their are electronic elements in your concert.

  • If a piece is not up to your standards the day of or the day before, should it be removed, replaced, or allowed on the program?

If a piece isn't up to your standards you should replace it but only if their is ample time to do so, if not remove it from the program and during the concert make an announcement that that piece will not be performed. Do not go into detail as to why its not going to be performed.

  • Should you make a poster or flyer, and if so when do you post them up?

Yes, they should go up two week prior to the concert. Any later and they might be missed by people, any sooner and they might get ignored or covered up by other posters and flyers.

  • What is the appropriate attire for you and your performers? And what is not acceptable to wear for you or your performers?

If the concert is a very laid back concert then "sunday's best" (button down shirt and slacks). Any other concert they should wear either Business Attire or Concert Black. As for the composer, you should wear Business Attire.

  • Should you make programs, if so what are some basic information that should be in them?

Yes, they should contain a over-view of the concert and program notes. A bio is nice but optional.

  • When should you let the audience into the space?

Doors to the hall should be open 15min prior to the concert.

During the Concert

  • Where should you as the composer be during the concert; in the audience or back stage?

In the audience.

  • If an audience member becomes distractive, who should be responsible for asking them to leave; you or a recital/stage crew?

Recital Crew should be responsible for removing disruptive audience members.

  • If someone is arriving late, when should you allow them into the venue?

Late arrivals should only be allowed in during the applause of a piece.

  • If your concert has a mix of pieces that are solos, and pieces for larger ensembles that require the stage to be set up, which pieces should be first?

All solo pieces should be at the beginning of the concert with larger pieces towards the end.

  • How much time should you allow for setting up the stage for a piece?

You should allow at least 1 mins to set up the stage. To ensure this will happen, rehearse setting up the stage during your dress rehearsal.

  • If you know a piece take a long time to set up, should you make the set up time the intermission, a slight break, talk about the piece to the audience while it is being set up, or just allow the audience to watch the set up?

If you know a piece will take longer than 1 min to set up, plan a slight pause or intermission. You can indicate this by announcing it before the concert, writing it in the program, or bringing up the house lights to indicate to the audience that the set up is not part of the concert. Remember, they came to hear the music you wrote, not see the stage crew set up instruments.

  • When should you have an intermission?

After the Concert

  • During the final applause, do you take your bow from the stage or from the audience?

If its a concert of all your own music, you take the bow from the stage.

  • Should you have a reception after the concert? If so what should be served at a reception, if not why?

I'm a strong believer in having a reception, of course if you can't afford one or if the venue you have your concert doesn't allow for one then of course don't have one. The food served at a reception should be all finger food. The only utensil that should be used is a tooth pick. A light colored punch should also be served. Keep in mind that most of the people at the reception will be standing while they eat as well as talking so keep the food light and mess free.

  • How long, as the composer, should you stay after the concert?

The composer should be the last one to leave.

  • Should you give your performers a copy of the recording?

Yes

  • If you were not pleased with the performance, does any of the following questions change?

If you are not pleased with the performance it doesnt change how you treat your performers after a concert. Address what you didn't like at a later date if you need to, or simply do not ask said performer to perform anything else of yours. DO NOT address the performer at the concert or reception about your discontent of his/her performance.

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