Repertoire – how to create good programs

Choosing the right music to perform in a concert is a very important part of any successful performance. When making a new program for AirString Duo, we always think about the audience in the first place – after all, we are not playing music just for ourselves!

This doesn’t mean that we only play “easy music” everyone can listen to – the trick is in the right order and correlations between the pieces.

If you look from the audience’s viewpoint – what do they need from you? You should always start with something catchy and unusual. Who wants to listen to the same kind of music over and over? You want to get their attention with the first thing they hear from you! In the program we recorded for our Summer Skies Album we chose Prelude by Dušan Bogdanović for this task. It’s a rhythmical piece with special effects and it’s “funky” enough. People tend to either “like” or “don’t like” it, which helps them to make an opinion, relating to what’s happening on the stage. In this way we invite them to listen, focus their attention and anticipate (“What’s this?? What comes next? Is it going to be like this the whole concert??”).

It’s also good to offer some contrast, so we play Gran Duetto Concertante by Giuliani next. It’s written in the classical style, it’s got regular rhythmic structure; very gallant and cultivated music, especially when you compare it to Prelude. At the same time it provides “contrast within the contrast”, being composed in 4 movements with different characters while still functioning as a whole.

After that people need to be shaken out of the classic style before it becomes stale, so we play the “Interlude” by Jacques Ibert after that. While it provides the audience with an opportunity to freshen up and renew their attention it provides an opportunity for us to relax a bit, as the piece is short and not too difficult to play, once you study it properly.

Next up are the “Brazilian pieces” by Chelso Machado which are relaxed and much softer in sound compared to Ibert (contrast again). They offer a new sound, a totally different world.

We find it’s good to keep the best for the end, so we play Histoire du Tango by Piazzolla last, which makes a great story already by itself. It is a central piece in this program and all we play before that is a kind of preparation for the grand finale! It’s got everything a good piece of music should have – it’s got passion, a lot of character, it’s got very sensual parts in second and third movements and it ends with musical fireworks, leaving some space for lots of applause and some nice encores afterwards.

We want people to go home inspired by our performance. We want to give them some music they can hum and whistle on the way. We want to make sure they have an opportunity to notice and appreciate our technical and musical skills (they had to pay for it). And last, but not least: we want to have a great time on the stage ourselves! How can you inspire if you’re not inspired? How can you make someone joyous if you have no joy yourself?

It’s good to have some concept when you are putting a new program together, but with some imagination it’s easy to make a captivating story that will fit if the combination of music works, so you should focus on music more. We always talk in-between our concerts to help the audience notice some special musical details and guide them through a “story behind”, since it loosens up the atmosphere as well.

To see shining faces in the audience after you play for them is the best proof of a good performance and the best reward for all the work it takes. A strong program is crucial for success, as it gives you the opportunity to offer all you’ve got and helps your audience connect with you. I feel like we’ve always done that so far with our Summer Skies program so I daresay it works!

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