I stopped going to choral concerts unless I was personally invited by someone who was performing or the programme contained works I wanted to hear. Back in the Netherlands, I was constantly racing against time, juggling various activities and struggling to set aside time to play the piano. I had to be selective in attending concerts where I was not personally involved.
With the shopping malls already playing Christmas songs since the day after Thanksgiving, I didn’t want to get an overdose too early. So I had tuned out to Christmas music.
If not for my sister who knew the director of Maui Choral Arts, I probably would not have gone.
Sometimes last minute plans turn out to be the best. Tonight we drove south to Kihei for an evening concert performed by the Maui Concert Chorus, University of Hawaii Maui College Chorus, and Petite Orchestra. It was our first “cultural” event on the island since we arrived on Thanksgiving Day.
A more comprehensive review of this concert is due. For now, let me share my first impressions with you.
We arrived 20 minutes before the concert was expected to start. Yet, the Kihei Baptist Chapel was already half-full. The church was air conditioned and even had a creche with glass windows for parents to see their children being looked after. It’s the first time I’ve seen such an arrangement.
The artistic director and principal conductor Celia Canty wrote in the nicely printed colour programme booklet: “Without you, the people who listen to music, buy tickets to music events, and volunteer with and donate to organizations that produce live music here on Maui, the variety of musical nourishment accessible to the people who call this island home would be diminished.”
I have never seen such an acknowledgment of the audience — upfront — and repeated at the end of the concert. “Thank you for supporting those who support the arts.” Ms Canty went on to invite the audience to volunteer and tell others about Maui Choral Arts. The audience IS very important. She obviously appreciates the audience, as she spoke directly to the audience during the programme.
Before the intermission, Canty asked everyone to read the programme booklet and see the businesses and entities who are supporting the concert. The notifications and ads of the sponsors were also projected on screen before the concert began. She also invited everyone to fill out the survey. This was not just a way to get feedback from the audience but also to recruit volunteers, enlarge the mailing list, and invite newcomers to audition for the next season. The surveys were also to be entered into a raffle for prizes at the end of the concert.
Before the final work of the Twelve Days of Christmas, Canty spoke once more to the audience. She stated something that was not so obvious to most people. Ticket sales typically cover 37 to 40% of the expenses needed to put on a concert. She also announced that an anonymous donor had offered to match the funds raised by Maui Choral Arts dollar-for-dollar if $1,111 is raised by 1-11-11 (11th January 2011). Coincidentally 1111 is also the PO Box number of the organisation.
Active fundraising, incentives to participate (such as raffles) and feedback to enlarge the mailing list are activities I have not seen in choral concerts in the Netherlands or England. Such promotions are what’s needed to support the arts in communities. The concert was very well attended — nearly full, with $20 tickets.
At no point did I, as a listener, feel that the mention of “money” was inappropriate. I have experienced this in New York City at an off-broadway play. It seems to be well-understood that the arts needs additional help and that the arts cannot support itself.
Besides sharing our music with audiences in America, I realised then that we have much to learn from American philanthropy and methods of fundraising. If ticket sales cover only 40%, who will fund the remaining 60% if no one donates or volunteers? No wonder I could not bring myself to produce another house concert in Utrecht. It was too costly and time-consuming. There must be another way. Maui Choral Arts has shown me how.
Watch the encore (below) and read a review in Bon Journal (13 December 2010).