PERFORMANCE AND WRITING A CONCERT REPORT
An important element of a music course is, often, attending a musical performance—such as a concert, a recital, a musical, or an opera—and then writing a report. This document has been prepared to help you understand and enjoy the experience of concertgoing and write effectively about it.
The document has two main sections: first, “Attending a Concert”; and, second, “Writing a Concert Report.” Actually a concert is only one of many kinds of musical performances; but in general, we’ll use the terms concert, concertgoing, and concertgoer to cover all of them.
ATTENDING A CONCERT
What’s special about a live concert? In a live performance, artists put themselves on the line; their training and magnetism must overcome technical difficulties to involve the listeners’ emotions. What is performed, how it sounds, and how the artist feels about the performance and the occasion—these are elements that exist for only a fleeting moment and can never be repeated. As an audience responds to the excitement of such moments, feelings are exchanged between stage and hall. These feelings have a real impact on the performance.
WHICH CONCERT TO ATTEND?
You have many kinds of concerts to choose from, by many kinds of performing groups, including choruses, symphony and chamber orchestras, concert bands, chamber music ensembles, opera companies, and soloists.
The symphony orchestra and the categories of instruments that make it up are described in Music: An Appreciation (see Part I). A chamber orchestra is smaller, consisting of 20 to 30 players. A concert or symphonic band consists mostly of woodwinds, brasses, and percussion. Chamber music ensembles are small groups (usually, no more than about 10 players) consisting of various combinations of instruments; examples are string quartets, wind quintets, and trios of piano, violin, and cello. Chamber ensembles have one performer to a part and—unlike the larger groups—generally appear without a conductor. Choruses are large groups of singers; a chorus sometimes performs with instrumentalists and typically has a conductor. Opera companies, needless to say, present operas (and operettas); musicals are most commonly presented by theater companies but may be performed by opera companies. There are also performances by solo instrumentalists and solo vocalists, often with piano accompaniment. Strictly speaking, concerts are presentations by orchestras, bands, chamber groups, and choruses; presentations by soloists, with or without accompanists, are called recitals.
Concerts by campus performing groups or soloists are easily accessible, free or relatively inexpensive, and often of high quality. Announcements of such concerts will be found in the campus newspaper, College Internet and on bulletin boards in the music department or the School of Music. Off-campus performances are announced in local newspapers, particularly in weekend editions. These concerts tend to be more expensive than campus events, but discount tickets are often available for students. Though tickets can usually be bought on the day or night of a concert, you have a wider choice if you buy them in advance—at the box office or by mail. If possible, prepare for a concert by listening to some of the works to be performed and by reading about their composers.
AT THE CONCERT
What to Expect. Orchestral concerts last about two hours, with one intermission of about twenty minutes. They generally include three or four compositions representing several stylistic periods and genres, such as a classical overture, a twentieth-century concerto, and a romantic symphony. Opera performances last somewhat longer and sometimes have two intermissions. Chamber concerts and solo recitals are usually about the same length as an orchestra concert, or slightly shorter. After the last composition on the printed program of a solo recital, if the audience has responded enthusiastically, the performer or performers may play one or more short additional works; these are called encores, French for again (chamber groups may also perform encores).
If possible, arrive at the concert hall at least fifteen minutes before the performance, so that you can relax and read the program notes. (Although you may refer briefly to the program while the performance is in progress, reading it steadily will distract you from the music and is considered poor manners.) Bear in mind, too, that at many concert halls, latecomers aren’t allowed to take their seats until some logical break in the music occurs. Taking photographs and using recording equipment are usually not permitted at either concerts or operas.
WRITING A CONCERT REPORT
It’s important to read the Concert Report Grading Rubric to understand all of the requirements for writing the concert report.
Instructors in survey type music courses often require students to write a concert report (or critique) during a semester. Here are some guidelines for the preparation of such an assignment: first, a few suggestions on working with your own notes; second, points to consider for the content of your report; and finally, information concerning the specific parameters for this concert report.
TRANSFORMING YOUR NOTES INTO A REPORT
You should plan to expand your notes into a complete report very soon after the concert—the same evening or during the next day or so. It is often helpful to begin with an outline and then to write a rough draft. Next, polish and edit your draft to produce the final version. Remember to check your grammar and the spellings of names (especially foreign names) and musical terms. Below are recommendations for the actual content of your report—what to write. Following that, there is a section on vocabulary and usages, or conventions, involved in referring to musical works—that is, how to write about music.
WHAT TO WRITE: THE CONTENT OF A REPORT
The Concert as a Whole. You should begin your report with a brief description of the concert attended, including the name and type of the performing group or soloists, the place, and the date and time.
Following this introduction, the paper might focus on the pieces performed on the program. Do not quote the printed program notes, if they are provided at the event; you should write your own observations on the performance. The format of your description may be varied according to the genres of music, but it should include: title(s) of each piece, name(s) of composer and/or musician, perhaps basic or brief information about the composer and/or piece; in other words, a general overview of what was performed on the program.
Then, you will want to describe your general reaction to the concert, mentioning what made attending the concert worthwhile. Did you enjoy it? Was this a new experience for you? Be honest about whether you individually enjoyed the concert, and how, in your opinion, the audience as a whole responded.Did this event make you feel like going to other concerts in the near future?
Your conclusion should summarize your overall impression of the concert. Do not include any new information (for example, upcoming concerts) in the conclusion.
SPECIFIC PARAMETERS FOR YOUR CONCERT REPORT
In addition to the points given in this informational document about the concert report, please also observe and facilitate the following:
1. Your concert report should represent original critical thinking. You will draw, of course, on information presented in the online course material, the assigned chapter readings, and the listening examples, but you must rely primarily on your own ideas rather than on any external or secondary source material. There will be no need to include a bibliography, discography, or footnotes. Again, the basic content of your report should mainly reflect your own reactions and ideas.
2. Your report should demonstrate good writing skills appropriate to college level work. Proofread for spelling, grammar, organization, and so on.
3. Your report should be double-spaced and in a normal, non-italic, non-bold, 10- to 12-point font selected from these styles: Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond, or Calibri.
The links provided are for the concert I attended:
Violin Concerto in D major
and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathetique”