Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Encore!


[During the time when I was unable to update this blog, I set aside many drafts, topics, and items of interest to write about later. Among the items I saved were responses that I had posted to ChoralNet in response to questions from other members of that forum. Here’s one of those Q&A items, edited slightly for publication here.]

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Question: How important/necessary is it to have an encore prepared for a choral concert?  We have a tradition of closing our Christmas concert with a piece about peace, which is usually fairly quiet and contemplative.  I have difficulty finding a suitable encore, and sometimes wonder if it’s really necessary.  Is it perhaps better to send the audience out with peaceful sounds, and just conclude with the applause and the presentation of flowers, etc.?  Would the audience feel cheated?  What is your practice and your experience?

My Answer:
An encore should be the exception, not the rule.

The decision to perform an encore should be a carefully-considered response to the degree, duration, and enthusiasm of the audience’s response to the program. An encore should be offered only when an enthusiastic, steadily-maintained ovation is an indication that the performance was truly outstanding, and that part of it is worth hearing again. (Remember, encore means “again,” not “more.”). In this case, a short selection from the concert program, or an excerpt from a longer piece on the concert program, makes a nice encore. Once the decision is made to present the encore, do it right away and without lingering.

It it’s traditional with your choir to offer a special “signature” piece as an encore, and if you sense that the audience truly expects and longs for it, then by all means, have the piece prepared and ready to sing. It’s not necessary to have a new one every year. In fact, if it’s a tradition for your ensemble to do this sort of thing, then singing an audience favorite might be the best choice.

If your encore is not drawn from the concert program, be sure to announce the composer and title from the stage.

Let the singers know beforehand what your plans are for offering an encore, and make sure that music is at the ready and fully rehearsed. An encore must be performed with the same care as any other piece on the program, especially as it is the music that will be in your listener’s ears as they leave the concert hall.

After a 2008 performance of the Rachmaninoff All-Night Vigil by the all-professional ensemble CONCORA (in which I sing), the ovation from the audience was amazing...it went on and on and on! Mr. Coffey offered as an encore the final brief, exciting movement; the audience had just heard it five minutes earlier, but they loved hearing all over again. We left the stage immediately after we sang the last notes, while they were back on their feet applauding wildly. It worked beautifully and everyone went home happy.

At the conclusion of his first concert with CONCORA, new Artistic Director Chris Shepard offered Percy Grainger’s wordless setting of “Londonderry Air” – it was the perfect end to a program of music for “The Romantic Choir,” and left us longing for more. 

Speaking of ovations, it seems that audiences are very generous with standing ovations these days, even for mediocre performances. Perhaps the standing ovation is the beginning of the rush for the doors... I am one of those people you see sitting during a standing ovation, unless the performance was truly outstanding, in which case I’ll be one of the first to stand and applaud vigorously, hoping for an encore!


More of my essays on the life of a chorister, and more about choral rehearsals and choral music, may be found here: http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Chorister

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