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Tweet Seats: Alison Balsom & the Scottish Ensemble

On to our final tweet seats event of the 2012-2013 season, Alison Balsom, trumpet and the Scottish Ensemble at Hill Auditorium.

Meet the participants.

UMS: Tell us a little about you.

Sydney Hawkins: I am the new Communications Marketing Manager at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Professionally, I have a background in radio and digital marketing. Personally, I love road tripping, coffee drinking, music making, ice creaming, fun running, skydiving, and trying new things. I’ll be tweeting from @ummamuseum (I moonlight at @sydneyhawkins when I flip handles).

Angela Elkordy: I am an educational technologist; my passions are instructional technologies, teaching, learning and leading (K-20) as well as connecting with others through technology.

Megan Pfiester: Since a very young age I have been fascinated by all things musical whether it be Beethoven or the Beatles. I work as a communications coordinator and create as much music as possible all day every day. I am currently a member of the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra and hope to study violin performance and music education in the fall. You can find me at @MusiGeek on Twitter.

Jared Rawlings: I am a process-centered innovative teacher, and an emerging researcher. I tweet @Jared_Rawlings and my website is:

Cody Takacs: I am a recent graduate of the School of Music earning my BM in Double Bass Performance. I appear frequently as a soloist specializing in new music with performances ranging from the University of Michigan’s Collage Concert to Carnegie Hall. As an educator, I have been the double bass instructor for Skyline High School’s orchestra and chamber music coach for Michigan Bass Bash.

UMS: In one sentence, how would you describe your relationship with technology?

Sydney Hawkins: My relationship with technology is pretty balanced – it keeps me connected, but I don’t let myself disconnect from what is happening around me.

Angela Elkordy: Connected!

Megan Pfiester: I would say I’m pretty tech-savvy.

Cody Takacs: I use technology to build and maintain a strong musical network and also to share and express my musical ideas.

Jared Rawlings: My relationship with technology is necessary in order to build my personal/professional learning network.

UMS: To you, what does it mean to “be present” during a performance or another arts experience?

Sydney Hawkins: To me, to be present is to have the ability to clear your mind and ‘check out’ of the real world when you enter through the doors – it is an opportunity to relax, to recharge, and to get inspired.

Angela Elkordy: Being present, to me, means being immersed in the experience and making meaning by sharing the experience with others.

Megan Pfiester: Being present during a performance is so much more than simply taking a seat in a hall or an auditorium. To me it’s blissfully leaving whatever happened that day at the curb and not only listening to someone else’s creation and ideas. It’s taking it all in, sight sound and smell, and letting it stir your imagination.

Cody Takacs:  To be “present” at a performance to me means 1) that the listener is physically present and 2) that they are mentally experiencing the performance on one or a combination of any of Aaron Copland’s three planes of listening that find best suiting for their own listening experience (the sensual, expressive, and sheerly musical planes).

Jared Rawlings: Being present means it’s a way of capturing the “lived experience” of the concert goer.  Also, given the temporal nature of music, theatre, and dance the tweet seats project is a way of focusing in on this phenomenon that is exclusive to live arts in Ann Arbor.

Meet the tweets.

After the performance

UMS: How did tweeting affect your experience of the performance?

Sydney Hawkins: It made me ‘think’ about the performance in more of a conceptual way – how can I articulate what I’m seeing/hearing to someone who isn’t here? How can I describe this in words? Is there a way for me to educate or inspire people who aren’t here? As I was tweeting from the @ummamuseum handle, I was also thinking about ways that I could relate and connect the performance to the museum (which is something that I’d definitely do a bit more research on prior to the performance next time).

Angela Elkordy: In sharing the experience in real-time, I was more conscious of trying to communicate what I thought would be of interest to others who were not at the concert. It was really interesting to read the tweets of others experiencing the same event…. and hence tweeting provides a unique experience for participants who can share as the event is on-going. How else could that be accomplished? and how powerful is that? 🙂

Jared Rawlings: I was more aware of the people around me. More specifically, I was looking for audience body language, facial animation, and vocal reaction when audible. I tried to be a thorough “twitter correspondent” and with Ms. Balsom’s performance, I had to remind myself to tweet. She was absolutely captivating.

UMS: Did you expect this effect or are you surprised by this outcome?

Sydney Hawkins: I think that I learned quite a bit from the performance because I was actively watching/listening for things about it in which I could relay to others. I was also following the hashtag to see what other people in the tweet seats were saying about it too – it was a way of having a conversation without talking. I wasn’t completely surprised by this outcome – there are many conferences or lectures that I’ve been to that offer hashtags and I believe that it makes people pay attention and try to relay the important parts of the conversation. It provides for a more attentive audience.

Angela Elkordy: I usually share snippets of information while attending events, but in being part of a group tweeting was a great experience. I think we all wonder on some level how others experience things and the tweeting together made the event more social without being imposing. Yes, this was a pleasant surprise 🙂

Jared Rawlings: I was much more interested in the audience’s reaction of the performance. I could not believe the number of people who were there to see a trumpet performer. The upper balcony was almost full. I did not expect this outcome.

Are you interested in joining our tweet seats section? Sign up & we’ll let you what’s coming in the 2013-2014 season.

British Classical Music Makes a Comeback

Photo: Alison Balsom, trumpet.

England has always been underrepresented in the history of Classical Music. There have been, of course, spurts when British composers or performers have made significant contributions to this tradition, but, more often than not, foreign musicians have dominated England’s musical world and drowned out the work of its native sons and daughters.

In the program of Alison Balsom’s April 20 performance, works dating from the period between English composer’s Henry Purcell’s death and English composer’s Edward Elgar’s ascent to international relevance exemplify a time when the most celebrated musical figures in England were outsiders, starting with George Frederic Handel.

Wandering interests

George Frederic Handel was only nine years old when Purcell died in 1694. Handel was still a young man when he moved to London in 1712, and although he became a naturalized British subject, his musical endeavors were always outwardly focused on styles from mainland Europe, such as Italian opera, German polyphony and a variety of chamber forms, like the concerto.

Ms. Balsom’s program includes Handel’s Concerto Grosso in B-flat Major, Op. 6, no. 7, and even pairs it with Francesco Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso no. 12 in g Minor to show that this type piece was not of English origin. The program reinforces this international influence on Handel’s music with arrangements of works by Italian composers, Tomaso Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto in B-flat, Op. 7, no. 3 and Antonio Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in D Major, RV 230, further demonstrating Handel’s wandering interests in foreign styles and his failure to bolster the innovations of the native British musicians who had come before him.

An example for others?

This point is not trivial, because earlier English composers had created traditions of their own, and Handel’s choice to ignore these may have set a precedent for the other international composers who made their careers in England.

The works by Henry Purcell on the evening’s program, on the other hand, embody the English musical traditions that Handel, and those who followed him, left untouched. Note that there are no Purcell concertos, and even his excerpted operas King Arthur and The Prophetess are very different from Handel’s. We also have unusual-looking titles like Chacony in g minor and Fantasia on one note, works that resemble coeval forms developed on The Continent, but are unique to Purcell and England’s innate musical sensibility.

This native idiosyncrasy of Purcell’s works did not re-gain international prominence until the final third of the nineteenth century. And, if this presence hibernated after Purcell’s death, it awoke with Elgar, learned to walk with Ralph Vaughan Williams, came of age with Benjamin Britten, and is enjoying a golden age at the present.

A new golden age

Encapsulated by the ultra-successful Proms concert series, which started 201 years after Purcell’s death, British Classical Music currently enjoys a perfect position between Continental Europe’s self-imposed erudition and America’s cloying populism. Here, world premieres and beloved standards are honored together, and all before audiences of millions.

Alison Balsom, who headlined the final concert at the 2009 Proms, is a bright, shining emblem of a thriving musical world replete with skilled minds and performers who understand their culture’s origins as well as guide it into the future. It’s very fitting for her April 23rd performance to be filled with the varied sounds and styles of the baroque period, because that era marked the turning point into obscurity out of which British Classical Music has re-emerged just over the last century and a half.