A Word With You About You

We have just enjoyed an evening of great music brilliantly performed. It has become my custom recently to reflect on the music or the performers or some other aspect of the presentation from the stage. Today I wish to turn my gaze in the other direction. This is about you the audience.

This began with a conversation on Friday evening. I have already introduced the parties to you in my announcements prior to the first notes of the Debussy sonata. Permit me to set the context with a little more background.

Not long ago Kevin Park reached out to me by email. Kevin is the Artistic Director of the Vancouver Chamber Music Society. He was doing what people in our business do—seeing if there was someone who would be willing to present a performer that they wanted for their series.

Musicians are much happier to travel across the continent and back for two or three concerts than for just one. And we can save a little money when two organizations share travel costs. Wonderful things can happen when presenters reach out to each other. We got that sparkling Vivaldi program when Matthew White of Early Music Vancouver approached me about the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. That stunning performance by a nineteen-year-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason last year came after a phone call from Leila Getz of the Vancouver Recital Society.

I have done that too. In fact, that was my motivation in seeking out David Douglas during a recent trip to Vancouver Island. David is the Artistic Director of Oceanside Classical Concerts in Parksville. During the course of a wide-ranging get-acquainted conversation in Qualicum Beach’s favourite coffee shop, I said, “I need to tell you about Kevin Park.”

And so, a few weeks later the three of us were in the lobby of the Matsqui Centennial Auditorium talking about a young cellist and his sister who had just shared with us ninety minutes of beauty. And in that conversation you came up. Both David and Kevin commented on what a great audience you were. Words like engaged and respectful came up.

These comments jumped out at me because I had heard something similar only a month earlier when the Diderot Quartet was here. They used words like warm and attentive and enthusiastic. I remembered that, in turn, because it picked up on things that Cantus had said in November. These were not perfunctory, polite words. As with the others, the men of Cantus brought up the topic of the audience of their own initiative in a tone that said, “We noticed this. You should know this.”

And so when the Cheng2 Duo took up the same theme after David and Kevin had gone, I realized that I absolutely had to tell you about this. When you attend a concert, the action is not restricted to the stage. The audience adds its own dynamic to the occasion.

Besides playing Poulenc and Brahms with so much skill and artistry, Bryan and Silvie opened themselves to you in their engaging commentary and in the passion they poured into their music. That is so much easier to do when a musician feels a response from those to whom they offer themselves. And you do that. You do that well.

I’m not surprised. I have felt it from you as long as several years ago. Your comments to me show that you are truly engaged with the music and with the artists. In that way, you are adding one essential ingredient which transforms an entertainment into an inspiration.

Thank you.

John Wiebe

Valley Concert Society