What makes a great concert? (part one: concert organisation)

From a performer’s perspective, a good concert is one in which the performance has gone well, according to plan and expectations. The concert is well received. There are no hiccups. A great concert takes it one step further.

Today I called the organiser of the concert two hours beforehand to double check on the method of payment. I had e-mailed and spoken on the phone previously, but never met the person in charge. It was good to mention what time we’d arrive. After all, it was one of my successful cold calls to get a gig. Confirmation on both sides helps to reduce the uncertainty of either party not fulfilling the obligations. [In other words, there was no signed and sealed contract — just a verbal agreement and e-mail confirmation.]

The 20 minute drive was without traffic jam or unexpected delays. The friendly receptionist directed us to go straight to the main hall. It was already set up one hour before the concert. We were introduced to the organiser and a volunteer.

Seeing that we had our suit bag, they showed us the dressing room which had a piano and a small kitchen. A tray holding a pitcher of fruit juice and one of water and a plate of cookies sat on the table. “The toilet is through here and to the right,” advised the volunteer.

It was a spacious room to change and rest before the concert. One door led to the concert hall, another to the main hallway, and a third to the sunny courtyard.

Sunny courtyard in Zeist

Sunny courtyard in Zeist

A black Bluthner grand piano with pompous conical legs stood in front of the window. It was a soft instrument — nice for our piano guitar duo.

I was surprised to see our programme in Dutch. The organiser had bothered to sieve the most important details from our lengthy programme notes in English, translate for each composer, and print on two sides of a single A4-sheet.

I asked if we could put our CDs somewhere to display for sale. The organiser was very kind to get the receptionist to print in large letters: “CD for SALE 10 euros each.” We sell our CDs at a discount at our live concerts.

Selling CDs at a concert in Zeist

Selling CDs at a concert in Zeist

The room was full by the time we walked on stage. The entire concert, from start to finish, went smoothly. The only thing that was slightly distracting was the view of the beautiful garden from the piano.

View from the Bluthner grand piano in Zeist

View from the Bluthner grand piano in Zeist

After we took our bows, the organiser walked on stage to thank us. The volunteer brought two unusually large bouquets. The organiser gave us two envelopes containing cash payment for the concert. He showed me a list of concert dates for 2011. I told him about the different chamber music ensembles and programmes we’re involved with. “Choose a date,” he said. “You can decide which duo or trio you will use for the concert.”

Big bouquets after a concert in Zeist

Big bouquets after a concert in Zeist

As a performer, I consider it a great concert when the audience appear enlightened or moved, i.e. positively influenced by the music. To show their appreciation, they buy CDs or contribute generously to the “pot.” They thank us profusely and tell us that they want us to return.

What makes a great concert is a combination of many factors. It’s not just the obvious ones such as a great performance, attentive audience, great acoustics etc but also what’s often under recognised: the importance of concert organisation. Today’s concert in an anthroposophic residence in Zeist is an example of a well-organised concert. The monthly (and sometimes forthnightly) concert series started 20 years ago, and the organiser (an amateur violinist) has been doing his job for the past two years. It takes experience and attention to get a concert organised to this level.

This should be part one of a series. Perhaps a blog about what could go wrong or examples of poorly organised concerts will help illustrate the importance of concert organization.

Garden in Zeist

Garden in Zeist



Filed under audience, concert, economics, venues

4 responses to “What makes a great concert? (part one: concert organisation)

  1. Great post Anne. I hope that things are going well. Met vriendelijk groet – Mark

    • Things are going very well, Mark. Many thanks! Several more concerts before a short holiday: 23, 25, 30 July 1st & 2nd August. Hope to see you at one of our concerts – 25th July is a house concert in Amsterdam.

  2. It is such a wonderful post. As a performer and organizer, I have learned much from your post. Hope to be updated on subsequent posts. Wish you the best in future performances.

    I live in Cameroon and will love to keep in touch.


  3. bonsoir a tous. suis un jeune artiste Africain et j’aimerai organiser un grand concert au quelle je veux inviter plain d’artistes de differente pays et je n’ais de moyen.comment le faire j’ai besoins de votre aide,comment se fais l’organisation?

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