Whenever you perform at a concert, you want to play as good as you can for your audience. The truth is that it’s not always possible. Of course, a lot has to do with preparing your part well, but there are also unexpected things that can happen at the venue. So here’s my top 7 of ‘Things musicians have to put up with during concerts that outsiders aren’t always aware of’:
1. When you’re backstage and there is no place to warm up
Yes, musicians are not supermen/women that fly to the location and perform amazingly. We also need some time to warm up. Unfortunately, there is not always the opportunity to do so, because the audience is already present or the room to warm up is exactly next to the hall where you have to perform. In the last case, I can’t really warm up proparly, because I don’t want to bother the audience with my silly scales.
2. When it’s freezing cold
This happens a lot in churches, especially in the colder seasons. I once performed in a big church where the heating was broken and there was no way to warm yourself up. You might think ‘well, you get warm when you play’, but the answer is no (not me)! If your fingers are freezing, it is not nice to play at all. You can’t really feel what you are doing. At one of the concerts during the Dutch Liberation Day in Amsterdam, I played outside with the National Youth Orchestra while the weather was terrible. It was cold and rainy, everyone wore coats, but that didn’t help at all. I have literally no idea which notes I played at that concert.
3. When it’s too hot
It’s not as bad as being cold, but definitely not comfortable at all. Everything becomes sticky and you get annoyed by the fact that you sweat easier. Your fingers float over the fingerboard while your chinrest gets wet, oh what a delight! On top of that, you get dehydrated, so you’re in constant need of water.
4. When the public sits too close to you
I’ve always felt uncomfortable with this. If you have the audience so close that they are practically sitting on your lap, it’s not nice. Some venues don’t have that much space and if you try to put as many people as possible in the hall, you automatically get people sitting no further than one meter away from you. I guess it’s nice for the people that look at you, but I get much more nervous if people sit too close.
5. When you’re not used to the acoustics of the hall
And then all of a sudden everything you have been studying doesn’t apply anymore. You often need a few minutes to get used to what the hall is doing with the sound that you produce on your instrument.
6. When there is not enough space for the ensemble/orchestra on the stage
This can be very very tricky. Giving a good concert means also to be able to play with enough space. When there’s barely enough room to stand/sit next to each other, it get’s uncomfortable to play your instrument. However, sometimes you do get funny scenarios when you hit each other with the bow. With small stages, you often block the view of other musicians, which also makes it difficult to communicate with each other.
7. When the concert venue only has crappy chairs for the musicians
Ugh, why don’t they think about this? Chairs that go down in the behind area or even chairs that you can fold in are terrible for musicians to sit on. Having to adjust your position constantly during the performance is quite annoying. On top of that, it’s bad for your posture. It’s already difficult enough to sit in a balanced way, but with these chairs, they make it impossible.
Musicians, does this sound familiar to you? If you have other points that you would like to share I would very much want to hear them in the comment box below! Hope you enjoyed reading this article and hopefully till next time!
Photo credits go to: Emile Heilbron
Author: Nino Natroshvili
Violinist and student at the Utrecht Conservatory, the Netherlands.