The composer has created a stunning piece of music. The performers
have been rehearsing for months. The whole community is abuzz
with anticipation for the first performance of the new work.
Because you may already have plenty of experience in presenting
concerts, this will focus on what makes presenting a premiere
While planning for the premiere is going to look pretty much
like planning for any concert, it will be unique because it
will entail the public presentation of a new work of art for
the very first time. As you work through the process, bear
in mind: what is it going to be like for a member of the audience
to hear something brand new? what will it be like for the
composer? for the performers? Each of these constituencies
is essential to the process of making new music come alive.
To make the experience the best it can be for everyone, make
an effort to put yourself in their shoes.
For an audience member, think about:
the performance site itself
how well will I be able to hear the music?
how well will I be able to hear announcements from the stage?
how will it feel to sit for two hours in these seats?
how will I learn enough about the new work to make hearing
it for the first time a truly engaging experience?
I know about the premiere, but what about the rest of the
For a performer:
will I have sufficient rehearsal time
to feel ready to perform?
where do I need to be when?
For the composer:
where do I need to be when?
how will I participate in the performance?
how will I be acknowledged at the end of the work?
While the composer and the performers are already invested
in the work, it will take an audience (people to hear the
tree falling in the forest!) to make the music real. As such,
a major part of your job will be to get people to the concert.
In addition to the usual ways--newspaper, radio and TV announcements,
calendar listings, posters, etc.--think about some creative
ways to engage people in your community. Your composer may
be one of the best ways to reach out to folks. In the weeks
leading up to the premiere, can your composer speak to civic
and professional organizations in your town? be present at
civic events prior to the premiere? do workshops with students
and teachers? Whenever the composer is presented to a group
in your community, make sure that the date, time, and location
of the premiere are mentioned. Can you make up small cards
that can be handed out at these events? Remember also that
people will attend the concert if they have a stake in the
outcome. What are some creative ways you can build ownership
in the concert?
In addition to reserving the use of a space for the performance,
youll need to make sure that you have sufficient
staff--paid or volunteer--to be sure that everything runs
smoothly on the day of the concert. Will you need ushers?
ticket sales people and ticket-takers? people to help backstage?
a clean-up crew? It will be worthwhile to assess your staffing
needs several months prior to the premiere. This may dovetail
with the question in the previous paragraph: theres
no better way to build participation in the concert than to
have people working at the event!
Every performing group has different needs with regard to
the stage set-up for their concerts. Orchestras need
chairs, music stands, and, occasionally, stand lights. Choirs
need risers on which the singers stand. Conductors need a
podium, music stand, and stand lights. Youll need to
obtain a concise list of these items from your performing
group, well in advance of the concert. In many cases, the
performing group may own all these items. But will they be
responsible for setting them up on stage, or are they expecting
you to do so?
If you're planning an outdoor concert you'll have
some special issues to consider. Is the performing group used
to playing/singing outdoors? How well will the music sound
in the performance space? Will amplification be needed? What
about lighting? Does the site have access to electrical power?
If the weather turns bad, has an alternate location been secured?
At what time will the decision be made to move indoors? Who
makes the call?
To document your work you will want to record the performance.
Depending on what services are available in your community,
this recording may be anything from the most sophisticated
microphone set-up with a Digital Audio Tape recorder, to a
simple audio cassette or video tape recording. As part of
the logistical considerations for the concert, youll
need to determine from the person doing the recording what
their needs are: access to power outlets, location to hang
microphones, a table on which to place recording equipment.
Next, youll need to be sure that the placement of this
equipment will not be intrusive for the performers, the conductor,
or the audience.
An alternative to recording the performance is to schedule
a recording session. This will usually result in a
better recording, especially if the performance took place
outdoors. A recording session, however, entails additional
time and money. You need to think about potential uses of
such a recording: Will it be broadcast? Will it be published
on a compact disc or will an excerpt be mounted on a Web site?
Will it be used for fund-raising or other organizational needs?
If future uses require a high quality recording, a recording
session is well worth the expense.
In any case, the composer should be provided with a copy
of any recording for his/her study purposes.
At the Concert
Many organizations invite the audience to attend a pre-concert
talk. This can provide the composer, the conductor, or
people from the sponsoring organization with the opportunity
to describe the process which led to the premiere, and to
answer audience members questions. The pre-concert talk
can happen at the concert site itself, or in some other space
nearby. Before you choose to do something like this, youll
need to determine if this will work for your premiere, and
if it is something that will add to listeners appreciation
of the music.
As excited as you may be about presenting your commissioned
work on a concert, its important to be sensitive to
how much music an audience can take in. Generally, two hours
is the outside limit for the length of a concert. This
needs to include an intermission for people to stretch their
legs and visit with their neighbors. Ideally, the first half
of the concert should be slightly longer than the second half.
Where should the premiere fall within the concert? To a great
extent, this will depend on the nature of the composition
itself and the other pieces on the program. But by and large,
the best points for a premiere are at the beginning
and ending of each half. Remember, however, that the music
director of the performing group needs to have the final say
To make things run as smoothly as possible during the concert,
some care and attention will need to be paid to how the performers
(and the composer, if s/he will address the audience or be
formally recognized after the performance of the composition)
will get on stage and off, and how the performers will
be placed on stage. It may be worthwhile to have a brief staging
run-through as part of the last rehearsal prior to the performance.
The last thing you want is for the performance to be delayed
or lengthened because these logistics havent been rehearsed.
Every minute used to move people or equipment around on stage
is a minute during which the audience is just sitting there,
waiting for the music to start.
Recognizing the Participants
In many ways, the premiere should be the culmination of your
work with the composer. As such, you may want to have a
reception tied in with the concert to honor the composer,
the performers, and other people who have contributed to the
composers residency and commission. This may include
government officials, representatives from allied arts organizations,
and financial supporters of your organization. A successful
reception need not be extravagant. The basic ingredients are:
an opportunity for some public recognition for the composer
and other individuals, and a few simple food and drink selections.
A reception after the concert is when musicians will feel
most comfortable. But talk with your composer, performers,
and other honorees to get a better idea of what will work