Rethinking classical concert etiquette and programs, bending genres, and creating publicity stunts to impact audiences’ musical experiences and appetite for classical concerts has been on most every concert producer’s mind for a while now. With the authority of his well-versed baton, as music director of the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony and the Massapequa Philharmonic, David Bernard employs an innovative approach at his InsideOut Concerts, calling for a large hall to accommodate placing the audience among the orchestral musicians.
With its creative approach, the InsideOut model has created a sense of excitement within the orchestral music scene. David Bernard is on to something that may just be a formidable recipe for one of classical music’s triumphant feats: a three-dimensional tactic to steer not only his orchestra, but the audience’s perception.
“What makes this so exciting is a new immediacy to the music. The audience does not just have to see the conductor’s back, but becomes truly engaged, seeing and feeling the musicians react to each other in close proximity. Contrary to some of the promoted and expensive projects out there that try to bring people into concerts, this concept does not change anything about the music itself, which is great to begin with. But I feel we offer something essential that we as musicians are always after: to be enthralled with the music, being inside of it,” says Bernard.
Surely the beautifully blended sound, projected within a large concert hall from stage, is something many won’t want to miss, but for others, this engagement method is attractive for its communal envelopment and involvement – an idea that’s very much in line with a general trend noticeable in other entertainment-related industries. “Challenged by the high standard of home entertainment, movie theaters could not hold their audiences’ interest until IMAX gave them a superlative experience of virtually being inside the movie,” explains Bernard. “In many ways, InsideOut is the IMAX of the classical music experience. There is an approach I’ve developed to ensure a successful event, not only related to the seating, but also to how to encourage the audience to fully experience the music.. This varies according to repertoire, but we also change up the seating arrangements and rotate audience members to enhance their perspective from different angles. It’s a very different experience to sit close to the strings or the brass section, and the observations from audience members are uniquely diverse,” he confirms. It is fascinating to hear Bernard’s account of different visitors who have been vocal about their experience. People have been getting hooked on the format, as they have heard differences within the music that they had never noticed.
Bernard presents two experiences—one for adults called the “full version” ( watch a sample of the family experience here) and one for families and children (Watch a sample of the family experience here). The family experience includes a subset of the repertoire paired with an instrument zoo that allows the kids to try the instruments after experiencing what it is like to be in an orchestra. – -. During both versions, the audience is encouraged not just to listen quietly, but also to observe what is happening around them and to remember details. Bernard is asking for active participation, and people oblige; they notice the vibrations, the attentiveness of the musicians, their breathing, and all that goes into performing, including a heightened sense of immediacy, all resulting in a distinct fervor that seems contagious.
And the interesting part is that audience members seem to behave much better. “They don’t crumble programs – which don’t exist in InsideOut concerts – they do not chat or fall asleep,” says Bernard, smiling. He has taken account of what goes on in the concert hall, watching his patrons closely. “I do not believe in program notes. While it is wonderful to know more about the music, the composer, and the history around the work, which can certainly enhance one’s understanding, I don’t believe it’s necessary in order to enjoy the visceral experience of the music itself. People did not read program notes when Beethoven performed his Symphonies,” he adds. “Back then, these works held their own on the experience alone. There is no reason this cannot be the case today.”
The InsideOut experience keeps everyone alert and engaged in the process. Bernard’s approach helps the audience to know what to look out for, and between movements, he asks for their feedback, and that alone makes for a more engaged effort. I have seen InsideOut Concerts create classical music enthusiasts before my eyes,” he says. “I believe InsideOut Concerts is a game changer for classical music. Watch his interview with Channel 1 News.
The next InsideOut Concerts™ Production will feature “Sounds of America: Copland and Bernstein” with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, and will take place on November 23rd, 2019 at the Dimenna Center.
For the 2 PM Family Experience, tickets are available here.
For the 5 PM Full Experience, tickets are available here.
Copland Appalachian Spring
Copland Clarinet Concerto, Jon Manasse, soloist
Bernstein Symphonic Dances from West Side Story