Thinking beyond the music

Don't you get an extra kick out of a performance that is musically excellent AND entertaining? The Canadian Brass have taken this approach to performing for quite some time.

And I recently came across two sets of Russian musicians with the same mindset. The first is the violin duo Fasten Seatbelts. In this good-natured selection, a tango sets the musical backdrop for a little flirting.

And these two videos show different performances of the same schtick: the Sax Masters Quartet performing, of all things, my arrangement of Let My People Go.

Do you know why I love these performances?  

They play to the audience. 
They are dissolving the barrier between performer and audience, an acknowledgement that live performance is a communal experience. This is also a nod of respect to the people who have paid to hear them perform. These musicians are not playing simply to please themselves, or in the name of high art.

They move.
They play standing up. They sway with the music. And they use the stage. Listen: I love hearing a great concert with stellar music. But, I am also a visual creature (like most of us) and I enjoy watching some action—especially when it combines with the music to tell a story.

They tell a story.
They take the movement a step further, adding rehearsed interpretive choreography. In the Sax Masters' staging of Let My People Go, for instance, they intuit that the lyric to the song is a plea from the Israelite slaves to Moses, imploring him to beg Pharaoh to free them. So, they pit the alto and tenor players against the mean ol' bari player in a way that reflects the scoring of this arrangement and the intent of the lyric. And it's pretty funny, too.

They have fun.
When the performers have a good time, the audience will have a good time. 'Nuff said.

They memorize their repertoire.
Performing from memory is a liberating experience in many ways. If you do not typically memorize your music, you should try it some time and then you'll know what I mean. With the SMQ, their choreographed performance concept mandates that they memorize their music. It's also an indication that this is not a pick-up band: rather, this is a collection of musicians who have invested a lot of time in developing and rehearsing a concept.

In short, they think beyond the music.
And I think we're all the better for it.

I happened to stumble across these guys when I was looking to see if there were any new performances of my arrangement of Let My People Go (which they perform in both of the videos above). You can see my own performance HERE.


Posted on September 4, 2015 .