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Choosing a Concert

There are lots of kinds of concerts. How do you pick one? First of all, you have to find out what’s going on.

Ask around: Word of mouth is one of the best ways to learn about concerts. Ask friends and fellow music lovers what’s coming up, what musicians and groups are good to hear, which locations are the most enjoyable or convenient. Word of mouth is the only way to find out about the many unpublicized classical concerts that pop up in homes, at parties and celebrations, or at other private events.

Internet: The Internet is overflowing with information about concerts. Concert halls and music organizations post their schedules online. Newspaper and ticket agency web sites list upcoming concerts. Performers and composers have web sites with performance schedules. Some music blogs list upcoming events. Music web sites provide links to other music sites. In some cities, music organizations, arts agencies, or music-loving individuals post concert calendars online. Search the Internet for a concert location, a performer or group, a music organization, or even a piece of music that you want to hear. Or try searching for “concert” and the place where you live.

It took me a long time to realize
that people donít agree about
what is beautiful. Music that deeply
moves one person might irritate
another. Listenersí wildly different
tastes can make it confusing to read
reviews or to ask peopleís opinions
about concerts; those people might
not like the same things you do. But
it sure makes for entertaining afterconcert
conversations! Discussing
a performance, my friends and I
sometimes sound like we were at
entirely different concerts. In a way,
we were.

Newspapers: Most newspapers publish listings and advertisements for upcoming concerts. Check the Sunday paper for a list of the week’s concerts. Sometimes the Thursday or Friday paper will have a list of weekend events. Weekly papers often include calendars of coming events.

Radio announcements: If you listen to a classical or public radio station, you’re familiar with their announcements of upcoming events. Some stations read a calendar of events; others broadcast interviews with performers who are about to perform locally. Sometimes a station will play recordings of music that will be heard in concert. Call your local station and ask them when you can hear information about live concerts. Don’t be shy—public stations like to hear from the public!

Season brochures: Many concert-giving organizations publish a brochure promoting all their concerts for the season. Usually a season is like the school year: it starts in the fall and ends in the spring. Some organizations have summer seasons, or produce special festivals that run for a shorter time.

Request a brochure by emailing or phoning, or via the organization’s web site. They will be delighted to add another name to their mailing list! (If you want a brochure but don’t want to be on the mailing list, be sure to tell them.)

Mailing lists: In some cities individuals or organizations offer calendars of coming events via email or newsletter—look for these online, or check with the local arts council or arts agency.

Concert-givers maintain mailing lists for sending emails, brochures, newsletters, reminders about coming events, special ticket offers, and access to special events. Sign up online, by phone, or at concerts.

Organizations that typically publish concert brochures
Chamber music societies
University concert series
Art museums
Music festivals
Ballet companies
Opera companies
Concert halls
Churches and temples

Musicians-in-training: Musicians learn to perform by performing, so there are always concerts by young musicians. These events may not be widely publicized, but usually the public is welcome. Look for concerts at college and university music departments, at high schools, at music schools, and at music stores. Your area may have a youthorchestra or youth choir. Local music teachers present recitals by their students. Summer music camps give end-of-session concerts. Special institutes and workshops for training young professional instrumentalists, dancers, or singers usually present public concerts.

Community musicmaking: Some churches and temples have excellent music departments. You can hear beautiful live music in their services and at special concerts.

Your community may have a community orchestra, band, or choir. This community ensemble may consist entirely of amateur musicians making music for their own pleasure, it may include some professionals to bolster the sound, or it may be a professional group supported by the community.

Other concert opportunities: College classes about music (often called “Music Appreciation”) sometimes use live music. Signing up for this kind of class can be a great way to listen and learn.

Sometimes professional groups allow listeners to attend a rehearsal. Other organizations will invite you to attend special presentations or open rehearsals if you make a donation.

You never know where a classical concert might crop up. Opera has been presented on farms in rural areas. Chamber music is heard on shipboard on special cruises. Choruses invade shopping malls. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Finding Concerts on the internet
Choral societies
Chamber music societies
Chamber music groups
University concert series
Music schools
College music departments
Art museums
Music festivals
Ballet companies
Opera companies
Concert halls
Churches and temples
Ticket agencies
Music blogs
Arts councils
Arts agencies

When Concerts Happen

Classical music concerts can happen at just about any time, so pick the time that’s best for you. There are more concerts on weekends, but in many cities you can find a concert almost every night of the week. Some downtown areas have special lunchtime or early-evening concerts to fit the urban work schedule. There are even some breakfast concerts!

Student concerts in music departments may happen in the afternoon or evening, and sometimes even in the morning. Concerts for families happen on weekends. Other children’s concerts happen during the school day, when performers visit a school or when children visit a concert hall.

The two most common starting times for concerts are in the evening, about eight o’clock, and in the afternoon, at two or three.

Some concerts happen only once, so you have only one chance to hear them. Other concerts are given repeat performances. A big-city symphony orchestra will typically play the same music two or three or four times in a week. The following week they will play different music.

Some concerts recur annually. Some groups present Handel’s Messiah, or Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, or Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet, every year.

How Long Does a Concert Last?

Concerts come in many different sizes, but most last between ninety minutes and two hours. This includes an intermission—you won’t be sitting there listening the whole time.

Noontime concerts can be as short as forty-five minutes, and children’s concerts are short, too. Some concerts last longer than two hours, as do many ballet and opera performances. Sometimes there is more than one intermission. Marathon concerts, celebrating a single composer or some other unifying idea, can last for many hours, sometimes continuing all night long.

You may be able to find out the length of a concert by checking the web site or other publicity. Sometimes the only way to find out is to call. If the box office doesn’t have the information, call the administrative office.

Introduction to Classical Music
  Music Categories
  Musical Instruments
  History of Classical Music
  Discover the Classics
     Vol. 1 | Vol. 2 | Vol. 3 | Vol. 4

Glossary of Musical Terms

A-Z of Opera
  Synopses of Opera
  Index of Operas by Composer
  Opera Libretti

How To Enjoy A Live Concert
  A Note from the Author
  The Listener's Job Description
  Part 1: Before the Concert
  Choosing a Concert 
Kinds of Concerts 
Styles of Presentation: Formal, Informal, and Beyond 
Buying a Ticket
Sections of the Theater 
Getting Ready 
Getting There 
  Part 2: At the Concert
  "Concert Manners" 
The Concert Ritual 
Reading the Program 
Instruments of the Orchestra 
Ways to Listen 
Meeting the Performers 
Essential Life Support 
  A Brief Glossary

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