Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

I’ve just been reading an interview with Nigel Kennedy in my local newspaper - Nigel Kennedy the world-famous violinist. mentored by Yehudi Menuhin and Stefan Grappelli, and an avid supporter of the English soccer club Aston Villa.

He has some interesting points to make about performing in public: "Others [some classical performers] seem to perform as if there’s a glass wall at the front of the stage between them and the audience. My approach is exactly the opposite - we’re sharing some time together. That makes it a far less intimidating atmosphere and people can get into the music. It’s not a real conscious thing I’m doing although at some point there was a conscious attempt to get away from the classical image I thought was a fairly contrived one. I’ve seen classical people and I know what they’re like. They’re all doing normal sh1t, like everyone else, and then appear in front of the public in this weird, contrived image."

All this presupposes that the performer is 100% up there with it on the technique side and knows the music 100% inside out.

What Kennedy says about sharing time with the audience is just like playing in a pub session - the players are sharing their music not only with each other but with the rest of the people in the pub. The basic difference, as I see it, between the pub session and the stage performance is that the audience has usually paid to come into the venue, and those two 100%s then become significant.

As an aside, Vivaldi wrote about 600 works, a large proportion being for the violin, and only about 30% of this output has been performed or recorded in recent times. Nigel Kennedy is busy making inroads into the remaining 70% and is giving a "Vivaldi Experience" concert at the Bristol Colston Hall on Wednesday 10th March. Unfortunately I won’t be there - I have a dress rehearsal to attend elsewhere.

Trevor

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Trevor, based on your experience of typical pub sessions, what do you think the musicians should do differently?

Posted by .

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Grego, I’m not quite sure what your point is, but my strong impression is that the musicians in the sessions I attend prefer to have people in the pub rather than an empty pub. There is almost always some sort of appreciation shown by the customers during the session, perhaps applause after a particularly rousing set, and often an appreciative nod and smile or a word of thanks as they leave. This interaction between the musicians and the listeners is nice to have and enjoy. You know that you’re giving pleasure to people.

If you’re performing to a paying audience then the aim should be to have a similar sort of interaction with the audience as in the pub, the difference being that the technical performance standard is that more intense - a relaxed concentration, if you get my meaning. I’m sure this is what Nigel Kennedy was putting across.

On a personal level I do know that playing in sessions has helped my classical orchestral playing a lot - I’m much more relaxed than I used to be, and I feel more at one with the audience.

Trevor

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Slightly off topic, but a few more points from the Nigel Kennedy interview.

"It’s nice to get a perspective by playing another instrument. The violin is a particular type of sound. Even just changing to the viola gives you a chance to relax a bit more because the violin is a very high frequency of sound."

"It [the violin] is a wonderful portable instrument positioned between the brain and the heart, which is very symbolic of what the violin can give. It’s an intellectual instrument but it also reflects your feelings. That’s why it’s so popular with so many communities around the world."

"I’m still trying to become a better violinist. I think you can continue this until you’re in your 60s and old age starts to creep up." [He’s 47, and there’s little hope for me 🙂]

"Some music appeals to particular musicians and you get into that music on an instinctive level. That happens to be the case with me and Vivaldi. It’s very much a call and response type of music that makes it very enjoyable especially when playing it on stage. It’s really wonderful, simple, melodic stuff, high energy, without posing too much of a philosophical challenge." [He could have been talking about traditional Irish music.]

Btw, Nigel Kennedy is also very much into music well off the well-trodden classical track.

Trevor

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Trevor, I misunderstood your original post to be saying something about pub sessions - that the musicians ought to be "sharing their music not only with each other but with the rest of the people in the pub," — perhaps contrary to opinions you sometimes hear expressed.

In your case it’s good to hear that already happens.

Greg

Posted by .

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Hmm. Nigel Kennedy? (Or Kennedy as he prefers - he dropped the Nigel). I have a soft spot for this baffoon. I don’t mind him changing his mind all time and contradicting himself, at least he shows he’s not stuck in his ways and that he’s constantly re-thinking stuff. I particulary liked it when he anounced that he was giving up classical music, "I’m sick of playing dead guys stuff," he decared. Then went on to do an album of Hendrix material. But all that aside, he really is a terrific player. I particularly like his Bartok, and I heard him on a chat show once play Danny Boy so high his fingers went off the finger board and it was beautiful.

As for the Audience/Session thing. We went through this in another thread not so long ago and I put forward the premise that as soon as you acknowledge the audience, it’s no longer a session, but a gig. And Trevor, absolutly everyone whose any good up here much preferes the pub to be empty. We play for ourselves. Diddley music, by it’s very nature, is insular. It’s boring and repetative to listen to, but brilliant fun to play.

Posted .

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Ref. Michael

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

An afterthought………. I don

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

There’s nothing more onnoying than punters in the pub clapping after a set. Totally ruins the craic. Horrid polite nonsense. Far far better they ignore you, or, better still, they’re not there.

And if you frequent a session where "anybody can join in" with their spoons, coins and goatskins? Well, your can keep it.

Posted .

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

No, Michael, I don

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

The pub at last Sunday night’s session was unusually quiet, hardly any of the regulars, and there were more musicians than punters (a "first").
I thought the bar staff (all female) looked rather fragile. Enquiries elicited the information that the previous night the pub had hosted a fancy-dress party that had gone on well into the early hours, and a popular drink for the occasion seems to have been a Mars Bar dissolved in vodka (a Mars Bar is a very high calorie chocolate confection). And there was I thinking a Mars Bar fried in batter (a favourite in some parts of Scotland, so I understand) was revolting enough!
Trevor

Re: Irish Cocktail

Pint of Guiness with a potato in it for me, please.

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Baileys with a cream egg dissolved in it - soon seals up all the leaks in my flute without me having to bugger around with PTFE tape.

Applause

Michael, I disagree with your comments about session audiences. Sometimes I go to a session and just listen and - perhaps it’s a mental flaw - I actually enjoy it immensely. However, for some reason I can’t understand, I agree about applause interfering with the craic. Perhaps it makes players self-conscious…

Trevor, sorry - I think I hijacked your interesting thread.

Greg

Posted by .

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Nothing more satisfying than huddling round your instruments, preferably with backs to the interfering, annoying "audience", backbiting percussionists, box players and other such low lifes, making esoteric comments which a-holes can’t understand, giving superior glares at beginners and other such nonentities and then going home smugly self-satisfied to read the bereavement column in the newspaper so you can cheerfully up-date your address book.
Brilliant!

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Ah, Michael, I think you’ll always have a soft spot for anyone who says nice things about the viola 🙂
Trevor

Re: Performing in public (the Nigel Kennedy viewpoint)

Playing in an empty pub is like playing in my front room, only more expensive! It might be good for a practicing a few tunes but surely nothing more.
It doesn’t compare to good pub session, where the punters are having a jar and a chat, listening if they want, and clapping if they fancy it. Thats where it differs from a gig, there is no pressure to "perform" so the tunes can flow, as does the guinness etc. The general noise and hub-ubb also helps to relax the atmosphere.

Posted by .