Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) will introduce its concerts from the stage in a radical move towards a new, less formal concert hall culture.
Players at the back of the orchestra will step up to the front to talk about the concert, whilst internationally renowned conductors introduce themselves and the music, breaking down centuries of barriers between an orchestra and its audience. The first concerts will be introduced by Marin Alsop, conducting the OAE at The Anvil, Basingstoke on Saturday 10 November and the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre on Sunday 11th November, marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day with a performance of Brahms’ Requiem.
Marin Alsop says: “The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment wants people to feel as welcome in the concert hall as they do in any other modern public space, but the formal orchestral etiquette has essentially been the same for the last 200 years. I admire this decision by the OAE to give a voice to players and conductors to build up a relationship with their audience, providing insights into what it’s like to perform whilst making the whole experience more personal. Brahms’ German Requiem is a work of reconciliation and remembrance and it is very fitting to demonstrate a commitment to reinforcing a society through dialogue, understanding and shared experience on Armistice Day.”
Maggie Faultless, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Lead Violin will also speak from the stage at the start of the concert. She says: “We know our audience likes contact with players and conductors - human contact. Adding to the programme notes a spoken, personal perspective on the performance that’s about to take place is more immediate and can often be remembered more easily! It will reflect our knowledge of the pieces and the rehearsal process - the insiders’ view. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has a reputation for looking and clearly being friendly on stage. By literally 'speaking out' we’ll take that further and forge a special connection with our audience; with regular OAE concertgoers, and with newcomers who might have thought that the environment of the concert hall was too formal or who simply want a few pointers before sitting back and enjoying the music."
The OAE has learned a lot about connecting with an audience through its ‘rules-free’ The Night Shift series, performing regularly in pubs, clubs and alternative venues, where the music is presented from the stage. Now the orchestra wants to bring a little of that warmth and informality into the concert hall. Last year it began a new series at Kings Place in London, called Bach the Universe and Everything combining music with a talk from a scientist, which is also relaxed and involves audience participation. Research into the traditional concert hall experience suggests that attenders who are not used to concert hall rituals often feel alienated by them. However, research carried out mainly with young people into the impact of performers addressing the audience, found that it could be beneficial. A survey of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Southbank Centre audience in 2013 found that 64 per cent enjoyed a short introduction to each half of the concert by a musician or artist, and another in 2016 of OAE email subscribers showed that around 82 per cent were either in favour or open to the idea of more interaction between the performers and the audience.
Crispin Woodhead, Chief Executive of the OAE says: “The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment embodies and explores the ideas raised in the Enlightenment: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The sharing of knowledge and understanding underpins every performance. We’re democratic in the way we manage the orchestra which is run by the players – we like to question ourselves. Therefore, we’d really like to try talking from the stage at our Southbank concerts and we hope people will enjoy it.”