It’s not all just thrown together, you know…

Programming a concert is something I think about a lot, and do really carefully. There’s a number of things to take into account.

I try and have enough things that I’d like to listen to – not ‘crowd pleasers’, as such, but things that would make you want to come back to a concert. I try to have at least one thing that most people will know. I try to have one thing written by a living composer. I also search out a good mix of slow and fast.

Then I need to take into account the fact that most of the concerts I play are ‘Bach in the Dark’ concerts – so I need enough Bach. And then if I can get things that are inspired by Bach, or linked to Bach, that’s even better.

I need to work with each artist, and work out what we can program that can showcase what they do, as well. I’ve got a great improviser? How can I program something that will show this off? Someone who plays great klezmer? Same thing…

And then to fine-tune things even more (no pun intended), I try and work out the flow of the concert. I often try and link keys together, so that things are placed really well next to one another. Or I feel that one piece is the ‘heart’ of the concert, so to speak, so I work outwards from that one piece. I’ll also often find a piece that’s a good ‘opener’ for whatever reason.

And I might jot down six or seven different running orders, and fiddle with them for a week or so, moving things around. I”ll talk to the other artist. I’ll talk to my musical husband and get his opinion. I’ll also ask a few trusted friends. And then it falls into place.

So I am constantly amazed when someone, out-of-the-blue says to me something like “So, Rachel – for the next concert coming up, could I hear three movements from such-and-such? I like it, and it’s a great piece.” I wonder to myself…. Do they know the thought-processes that go on for each program? Are they thinking that they are helping? Or do they just see me as a jukebox?

I’ve been told to just smile and nod and say something like ‘Oh, I’ll think about it.” But, of course, I don’t do that. I engage, and try and say why I’ve done what I’ve done. And do you know, it never really works. Maybe I will mumble something non-committal next time. But it did make me wonder if anyone who isn’t a performer actually knows what goes on.

So now you do. Well, at least a bit. And how I work. It’s not how everyone does. But throwing in unasked for requests doesn’t really go down well.

And NEVER ask for the Pachelbel canon.