Recently our orchestra changed the recorded pre-concert announcements. I'm curious what people think about it.
Some history for those not in the know. A few years ago, the orchestra began using a recorded announcement before each concert to remind audience members to turn off cellphones, refrain from taking photographs or making recordings. The announcements ended with the wish that people enjoy the performance (oddly, this last item outraged at least one of my colleagues – yes, we are home to some weird points of view). These recorded messages, played when the lights went up and the orchestra quieted down, before the emergence of the concertmaster, featured voices of various musical 'celebrities'. The quality ranged from witty, perhaps chuckle-worthy (Ax, Bronfman) to the cringe-inducing (Lang Lang). Whatever agreements were made to allow the use of these recording must have run out, because earlier this year (maybe before that, I can't remember) they were all replaced with one standard message read by someone on staff
A few weeks ago new recordings featuring orchestra members appeared. After introducing themselves and making some sort of witty or engaging remark, the musicians go on to make necessary reminders about cellphones, recording, and concert enjoyment. I admit to complete cluelessness about how people are chosen for this – as part of a New Year's resolution I stopped checking my orchestra mailbox months ago – but I have a feeling it is being done on a volunteer basis. I don't think I've heard all of them yet, and perhaps more are being produced as I write, but so far there have been two string players, two or three woodwinds, and a percussionist. I have a feeling if the 'musicians' had been put in charge of finding people, we would have had three bass players and a librarian to start with, so in the beginning at least, the balance seems pretty good.
As with anything, there is some debate as to the value of these announcements. I think I've heard people (well, musicians anyway) claim they undermine the dignity of the concert, but I have a feeling some of the same folks who make that argument will switch sides and battle against our Music Director when he asks us to warm up offstage and then file on, letting the music emerge from a very dignified silence. This is an idea I've opposed in the past, more for my own sense of comfort than any thought to the audience experience. I like to get onstage a bit early, line up my cough-drops, catch up on a bit of the practicing I didn't do at home, and see what sort of audience we've managed to draw that evening. But I suppose if I considered the audience perspective, I might feel differently. It would be strange indeed to arrive at a theater half an hour before curtain to find the stage roiling with activity. Hamlet and Polonius strut about, trying their lines. The ghost, adjusting his sheet, chats with Ophelia, who is clipping her nails. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern obviously have more substantial roles in the next production because they are loudly reciting lines from Henry V. Completing the scene, a few of the soldiers have formed a line and are bellowing, BAH! BAH! BAH! repeatedly at the top of their lungs. Where's the dignity in that?
Anyhow, I'm curious to hear if anyone has thoughts about pre-concert rituals.