All Ain't Well in Cincinnati

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Ralph
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All Ain't Well in Cincinnati

Post by Ralph » Sun Oct 15, 2006 7:29 pm

Cincinnati.Com
*|* The Enquirer
Last Updated: 9:44 am | Sunday, October 15, 2006
Chime in: What's wrong at symphony?
Editorial online forum
THE ENQUIRER

The alarmingly small attendance the past few weeks at Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concerts in Music Hall, noted by Enquirer writer Janelle Gelfand on her classical music blog, has ignited a conversation there on how to find solutions.

The orchestra, led by Paavo Järvi in his sixth season as music director, is playing better than ever. But lately, concerts that once averaged more than 2,000 people on Friday and Saturday nights have brought out meager crowds in the hundreds scattered around a hall that seats 3,400.

Does the orchestra have too much "product" for its customers? Does it need a massive marketing campaign? Will a planned renovation of Music Hall, to add patron amenities such as a café and an attached garage and create a smaller auditorium, improve the attendance?

Among the responses:

"I think a big part of the marketing problem lies in the fact that it is - as far as I can tell anyway - totally print-oriented. 'What's this - more junk mail?' Where are the TV or radio spots? The only TV spot I can remember came in Paavo's first season and it was great - he was conducting, there were flames dancing around and the music was an excerpt from the CSO's recording of 'Firebird.' I would hope that this spot, along with new ones, might play with some regularity on the new Macy's jumbo screen as a public service."

Sandye Utley

"I do believe the traditional 'romantic' concert format is dead. Not only should orchestras look at concert length but also length of pieces. In our immediate, media-frenzied world our culture has attention deficit disorder to some degree. ... I am a musician in my early 30s, and I have trouble maintaining focus through the huge symphonies of the romantic era, even though they are such great pieces. Most of the audiences have grown up listening to 3½-minute pop songs on the radio. ... Orchestras are afraid to change because they think they will lose their dying core audience. ... That audience is afraid of change as much as the orchestra administrations. No reward comes without risk.

Anonymous (7:59 a.m.)

"Boy, that is the elephant in the room, isn't it? Too much product for the quantity of interested audience. Your ideas are great; the basic question is whether the current staff is even capable of mounting a successful marketing campaign, or whether anything, short of massive ticket giveaways, will help get the seats even halfway filled."

Anonymous (3:30 p.m.)

"I live outside the city. I used to come into the downtown area frequently. But now I am concerned about safety, traffic, parking and the like. Each time I go to Music Hall, I frankly do not want to park at any distance and walk in that area. I don't feel safe. ... And the news? Each evening, it seems, there is another shooting. It doesn't matter where. It sounds as if it is everywhere. It sounds as if the police have all but given up."

Anonymous (5:35 p.m.)

"Finally a spotlight shown on a problem that seemed to be only whispered about at intermission . ... There seems to be a direct correlation between the rapid rise in ticket costs in recent years and declining attendance. Couple it with an aging audience and you have the makings of a long-term disaster. ... With a staff with marketing and development functions numbering 23 people, what is there to show for their efforts? ... With a board of directors that numbers 56 and a board of overseers at 70, just what fresh input are they giving to management as stewards of this institution to position it for the future? ... Until this organization is dragged into the 21st century and starts approaching its audience (customers) in that manner, the decline will continue."

Steve Deiters
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david johnson
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Post by david johnson » Mon Oct 16, 2006 4:00 am

'In our immediate, media-frenzied world our culture has attention deficit disorder to some degree. ... I am a musician in my early 30s, and I have trouble maintaining focus through the huge symphonies of the romantic era, even though they are such great pieces. Most of the audiences have grown up listening to 3½-minute pop songs on the radio. ... '

but, there is no reason to encourage ignorance.

dj

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 16, 2006 9:01 am

They don't go to concerts because they are all at the airport.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Haydnseek
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Post by Haydnseek » Mon Oct 16, 2006 2:08 pm

After years of subscribing to the Baltimore Symphony I found myself not enjoying concerts anymore. The whole experience became tiresome. I attend two or three each season to provide company for an elderly friend but each time my aversion is reconfirmed. I still love the music but I'd rather listen to my stereo at home. What could get me back? The only thing I can think of would be regular performances of new music as rich, accessible and beautiful as the masterworks of the past but fresh and very different too. On the other hand, if I still have to drive, park, pay a lot for my ticket, and sit in the stuffy atmosphere of a modern concert hall with its airline-like seating to hear it I'll just wait for the CD release. Great new music presented in a radically new, more comfortable and perhaps informal setting would be worth investigating at least.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Oct 16, 2006 2:27 pm

Haydnseek wrote:After years of subscribing to the Baltimore Symphony I found myself not enjoying concerts anymore. The whole experience became tiresome. I attend two or three each season to provide company for an elderly friend but each time my aversion is reconfirmed. I still love the music but I'd rather listen to my stereo at home. What could get me back? The only thing I can think of would be regular performances of new music as rich, accessible and beautiful as the masterworks of the past but fresh and very different too. On the other hand, if I still have to drive, park, pay a lot for my ticket, and sit in the stuffy atmosphere of a modern concert hall with its airline-like seating to hear it I'll just wait for the CD release. Great new music presented in a radically new, more comfortable and perhaps informal setting would be worth investigating at least.
My last concert at the Meyerhoff was one of the great treats of my life. I was still terribly ill, and about to head to New York. It was allegedly the beginning of the summer concert series. The program, which was obviously the whim of a departing guest ccnductor, for no one in his right mind who had a future there would do this, consisted of the Mozart quintet for piano and instruments, the Leonore no. 1, the Leonore no. 2, and the Beethoven Triple Concerto. In other words, four great masterpieces rarely played. And there was no intermission (applaud, applaud). The perfect concert.

I was perfectly comfortable (while sitting down at least) because there was nobody there except a few older people. The average age of the audience was about 65, the average age of the performers, including soloists, about 35.

BTW they previewed it with a live jazz cocktail hour which I also would have found wonderful if I had not been so ill at the time. Among other things, I had an inguinal hernia as a side effect of my condition and could not stand for more than a couple of minutes.

Oh yeah: The performances were tear-evoking great.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Haydnseek
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Post by Haydnseek » Mon Oct 16, 2006 4:19 pm

I have many wonderful memories of the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall during my time as a subscriber but something changed and I couldn't enjoy concerts anymore the way I used to. I doubt I'm the only one who just went off the classical concert format at some point.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

Barry
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Post by Barry » Mon Oct 16, 2006 4:59 pm

My experience has been just the opposite. I seem to go through long spells where I do very little listening at home, but I go to as many orchestral concerts as I can get to (anywhere from two to four per month during the seasons generally).

It helps that the new hall in Philly offers a lot of leg space. I don't feel so cramped. But when I go up to Carnegie Hall once or twice per season, I always request an aisle seat when ordering my tickets. I also live within walking distance of the hall, so driving and parking aren't issues.

I like the thrill of a live performance where you never know exactly what you'll get in advance.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

"Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed." - Winston Churchill

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Jack Kelso
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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:47 am

One of the problems for us with live concerts in Germany is the high prices for tickets. Even for some local orchestras tickets can cost €50, for one decent seat!

Is that a contributing problem in Cincinnati? Or elsewhere...?!

I remember back in 1966 when George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra visited Los Angeles---I got TWO front row center seats for $11.00 (yes, indeed...$5.50 apiece!).

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

Gregory Kleyn

Post by Gregory Kleyn » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:41 pm

How much is Paavo Jarvi paid for his (perhaps) 12 weeks of concerts entertaining 2000 patrons?

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:54 pm

Being in a somewhat out-of-the-way place in out-of-the-way Down Under, I not only have season tickets for our local Sym and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, but regularly travel to Sydney or Melbourne for the major Aussie orchestras and touring stars, Tonight, here in town, the Borodin Quartet are playing, so I'm already in anticipation.

Much as I appreciate recorded music, perhaps lack of availability means I seek live music more. But there is something about the live experience, when it works for me, that is memorable beyond discovering a favourite recording to play at one's leisure. I'm sure Heifetz was the better violinist, but for me Pekka Kusissto (sp) playing Brahms Violin Concerto live had an impact no recording ever has. Leif Ove Andnes playing Haydn and Janacek live was even better than his recordings.

But with a venue like the Sydney Opera House, the setting and its beauty can create an atmosphere unavailable at home. Pity about the prices and parking.

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