Programming faux pas?

So you’re at a military band concert, and it’s coming toward the end – you know this because they just played the “Armed Forces Medley,” and you proudly stood when the Army Song started because your father is a Soldier serving overseas.  Now they’re playing “America, the Beautiful” and you can feel your heart swell with pride as images of America play across a large screen; the music ends with a flourish and a rousing final chord as an image of the Statue of Liberty is shown.  The crowd erupts and you stand as one Nation.  The conductor takes a bow and leaves the stage.  The audience calls him back because there’s one piece you haven’t heard yet – one piece you must hear before the concert is complete.

The conductor comes back out.  The band settles in their seats.  The crowd is buzzing because they know what’s coming.  The band begins to play…and it’s not what you were expecting – as a matter of fact, you don’t even recognize the march.  It’s fast and impressive — but it’s not the march you were all waiting for.

The band finishes and the crowd cheers (though not quite with the same fervor).  “Surely, they’ll play it now,” you think, “won’t they?”  The conductor comes back out, takes one final bow, and leaves the stage…and then the house lights come up.

“Huh,” you think, “okay…guess the concert’s over.  That’s weird.”

So, assuming it’s a concert in the U.S. (and not in another country where doing a piece from that country to end a concert would be appropriate)…

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Programming faux pas?

  1. Jeff

    I will be curious about the poll answer to this is on your blog.
    I believe the answer is that many pieces can fill the roll of the last piece. Sousa didn’t even need it as the last piece and wrote The Invincible Eagle as a counterpart. Consequently, times have changed. Who knew we would be stuck with an old march as the closer. Most military bands don’t even have the correct instrumentation to sound it’s best on most Sousa marches let alone S&S. Marches are loved in a program but vocals that connect the audience with the group or concert message and other patriotic songs are also appropriate. Many audience members may think they need S&S but I have seen hundreds of performances that they are just as surprised by getting what they thought they wanted. Instantly, they stand and clap in time…then are caught in a corporate awkward position. By the second strain, they have grown tired and stopped clapping and are caught standing up and don’t know what to do..they look around in confusion. I think the words catch them off guard as well…they must must be thinking …Hoorah for the flag of the free…I didn’t know there were words. Then they hit the grandioso and persevere out to the end of the show. S&S is a loooong march! Was this really what the audience wanted as a closer? We as an audience do want to get hit emotionally and given a reason to rejoice but it has to be with the correct timing. We need quick gratification at this point. I think in the end they only wanted the Grandioso. Tradition is OK but being beholden to it has consequences…and not all good.

    • I think I could have worded the question better. I’m really talking about a standard concert ensemble concert (not Holiday). I think you’ve hit on something that is certainly an issue: the audience has to want an encore! This gets to programming, pacing, reading your audience, and understanding what they want.

      If you’ve worn them out with too long or heavy a program, they’re not going to want you to play an encore. If they want an encore but you take too long to start or don’t indicate to them that one is coming, or step on their applause because you started too soon, then it won’t be right. In other words, it’s all about programming and timing — whether you’re talking about Stars and Stripes or any other piece or performance. That’s why I spend an incredible amount of time agonizing over building concert programs — it ain’t easy.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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