Jun 17 2020

Cultivating Connection Through Repertoire

As a touring ensemble, you have a unique opportunity to use music to connect with a larger world. Amanda Bauman, Senior Tour Manager, suggests ways of choosing repertoire to help you connect in the most meaningful way.

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If you ask someone to tell you about an experience they had on a concert tour, the chances are incredibly good that you will hear a story of connection between human beings. In a concert, this starts with well-chosen repertoire. When planning a tour program, try considering how you can use it to connect to your destination, your audience and your group.

Connect to your destination.
As your tour itinerary develops, dig in. Research the area’s history, its folklore, its traditions, its heroes. Find out what the culture holds dear. It could be a lullaby that every child hears from their mother. It could be a pop song that was the symbol of revolution. Or maybe the little village you’re visiting has a favorite local composer who is celebrating her 100th birthday.

Equally important as discovering what to program is understanding what NOT to program. The world can be a surprisingly complicated place. You might not realize that performing a Serbian piece in Kosovo could be frowned upon, or that singing in Hebrew is not going to win any favors in Jordan. Use your Tour Manager. They have a direct line of communication with local representatives and would be happy to ask these questions of them.

Sometimes, it works the other way around: The works being performed can dictate the destination. In 2018, the Yale University Schola Cantorum performed Jody Talbot’s Path of Miracles during their season, and part of that programming included a subsequent tour to four cities in northern Spain, which were the inspiration for the piece.

Connect to your audience.
Appreciate that people around the world have different levels of exposure to Western traditional music. The audience might be well versed in the structure of a concerto, or maybe they are hearing a live orchestra for the first time. That might not be the moment to program the world premiere of your recent commission for theremin quartet. It might, however, be a great opportunity to program some classics they might have heard all their lives, but never knew what they were.

If you’re having trouble finding appropriate pieces, or arrangements, why not commission a young local composer to write something new for you? For their tour to South Africa, Gabriel Crouch and the Princeton Glee Club commissioned a new piece, by a South African composer.  Not only was the piece excellent, but it showcased a new work to audiences.

Connect to your group.
A tour is an emotional and unforgettable journey, and the experience is as much to connect you to each other as it is to connect you to your audiences. At the risk of stating the obvious: Don’t forget to program music your group genuinely enjoys performing! Remember that unlike at home, you’ll perform this program multiple times on tour, thereby giving everyone many chances to relish their favorite tunes.

Something we often see directors do is designating those favorite tunes as special “tour pieces” – ones they only bring out each time they travel. It gives the pieces new significance, and enables you to not only share the music but also the joy that performing them brings.

Whether your program starts with thinking about the destination, the audience, or the group itself, choosing the right repertoire is one of the most important steps of the planning process. Because thinking about what your performance might mean for all involved can help it be more than a lovely way for everyone to spend an hour. It can become a vehicle for understanding, joy, love, and of course, connection.

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