Those of you who read my blog on a regular base know that I consider the re-connection with a young audience key to establish new relevance for symphonic music. Pieces of Tomorrow is a concert-format that has achieved exactly that. Reason enough to report about it.
Pieces of Tomorrow started about four years ago. The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic/ The Netherlands Radio Choir and Tivoli/ Vredenburg in Utrecht/ The Netherlands , one of the countries major concert-venues, joined forces to develop a format to attract mainly students and young professionals.
Central to the format is a performance of a major piece of repertoire in a one hour concert. The works that have been performed included Shostakovitch No. 7 (Leningrad), Messiaen Turangalîla or Mahler No. 3. Special to the format is the concept of having dj St. Paul as the host of the evening. St. Paul is already playing music when the audience enters the concert-hall. He provides musical links between the work that is going to be performed and songs and artistic that the audience is already familiar with. The hall opens one hour before the concert. Drinks can be taken into the hall.
The concert then starts with a short introduction of the piece by St. Paul, in most cases by talking to the conductor or a soloist. And that way St. Paul is one of the key elements of the success of that series. He is first of all an expert in pop but at the same time genuinely curious about classical music. He is representing the audience when he tries to ask the questions that most members of the audiences might have: What makes this work interesting? Why do you want to perform it here today? Or: Why do we have so many instruments on stage that look the same? Isn’t it enough to have one of each and amplify it?
It is also part of the concept that purely classical music is presented, there is no crossover. The whole piece is performed unabridged. Only in case of very long symphonies there are cuts.
The series reaches about 1000 young visitors per edition in the meantime. There is a very high retention-rate. And the most stunning result is, that during the performance of the work it is absolutely silent. You can drop a needle…
With 20 editions in the past the partners are now planning a Pieces of Tomorrow Festival on November 17, 2018. All concert-halls of TivoliVredenburg will be opened to present a big line-up of classical and pop-artists. If you have a chance to attend, I really think it’s worthwhile.
Now, why is this series successful while others struggle to attract a younger audience. In my opinion there are two major reasons. First of all it is because the believe of the makers is “There is nothing wrong with classical music – it’s about the way you present it.” And their format shows that Dutch Radio and TivoliVredenburg do indeed understand the needs of the younger public. They understand that this public is not seeking status, but is looking for opportunities to share meaningful experiences. And they provide a perfect place to do exactly that.
The other reason lies in the setup of TivoliVredenburg as a concert-location that attracts music lovers from very different genres: Pop, Jazz, Singer-Songwriter, Classical to mention a few and provides halls that fit every genre’s needs. And while they worked separately within their field of expertise, programming their programs in the past for their public and their hall(s), in this case they choose to work together. Nothing less that a major innovation.