Those who follow us closely will recall the review we posted of our very first concert – “Sibelius Unwrapped”, our launch event this time last year – penned by our artistic director’s plumber. Well, this year we received another one, from the same chap (who has, incidentally, been to every concert we’ve given so far) and also from another audience member (a member of the són Circle – our friends’ scheme).

In turn, we’d like to share them both here – but not to trumpet our amazing success (ok, maybe a little bit). We’d also love to prompt a conversation about audiences for mainstream “classical” music in general, to hear your thoughts about where that audience comes from, and where it’s heading – locally, nationally and globally.

Reviews and reactions like this may not be erudite pronouncements from the national newspapers, and they’d certainly look out of place as quotes on our homepage, yet they remind us of all the reasons we’re bringing amazing music to as wide an audience as possible. What we want to do at són, more than any other single thing, is to reach out and show people how incredible great music is. We’re doing this as much  as we can, and striving to get that message out there, all the time ensuring that everything we play is brilliantly-performed, innovatively-programmed and offers colour, power, drama, virtuosity, a (hopefully) some kind of transformative experience.

Whether we’re playing to adults or children, it doesn’t matter: they’re all either the audience of today, or the audience of tomorrow. What’s key is that this audience, all these people, all these hearts and ears – potentially wide open as we walk on stage at 7:29pm – are inspired to join us on our journey, following our music making for years to come.

són on stage with soloist Daniel Rowland and conductor Robin Browning at Turner Sims, Southampton

It’s a big debate, of course: the state of audiences for the arts, culture and (specifically) music around the world. We like to think that we’re doing our little bit: breaking down barriers, offering an eclectic mix of programming, building links with other arts organisations, as well as both developing and challenging audiences. There’s little doubt that the format of mainstream “classical” music has had to change lately (and has begun to do so), but the music itself doesn’t need to change. Apart from 500 years’ worth of incredible masterpieces to plunder, more and more works are being created every minute, in the widest variety of styles ever. New technology, acoustical changes, radical lighting, pre-concert talks – and, yes, even our very own “Unwrapped” series – all add an extra something to the overall concert experience. But, throughout it all, if the music is strong enough, and performed well enough, there shouldn’t be need for anything more.

At the end of our 8 Seasons concert last month, the entire, huge crowd in Turner Sims sprang to their feet in ovation – right after the closing chord of the last number. What made this happen? Well, it wasn’t the funky lighting (nothing out of the ordinary there), the amplification or electronic reverb (there wasn’t any), the GoPro camera mounted on the top of the double bass (ditto): it was the music, and the energy and spirit in which it was played. Pure and simple.

These two reviews – perhaps let’s call them “responses” – go some way to summing-up why that concert was such a stunning success. Take a look, and if so inspired, please leave us a comment below and join our discussion about audiences, about classical music and all the things són are doing.

Plus, we’ll be releasing a few short film extracts of the concert soon, too – so if you missed it, you can judge for yourself.

Happy reading – and humblest thanks to these two audience members for sharing their thoughts, and all our friends for supporting our work.

vibrant, energetic, unpredictable music-making

“The standing ovation at the end of són‘s 8 Seasons concert at the Turner Sims on 22 October spoke for itself. The audience had been enthralled for two hours by vibrant, energetic and unpredictable music-making, and they had to stand up and clap in order to acknowledge how remarkable that experience had been.

There were many moments of fine playing from Daniel Rowland, the violin soloist, and from the són strings conducted by Robin Browning; but what led to the standing ovation was the sheer energy and musical daring of the whole event. Interspersing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires completely transformed the all too well-known Vivaldi pieces into fresh, alive music never heard before. This was not the Vivaldi of Smooth Classics on Classic FM nor the Vivaldi of the answer machine message  ‘You are moving forward in the queue…’ This was a strange, edgy, nervous Vivaldi. Piazzolla’s pieces are responses to Vivaldi’s Seasons, but in this performance it seemed that it was Vivaldi who was responding to Piazzolla.

That inspired linking was the origin of this event, but it was the personality and the playing of Daniel Rowland which made the night so electric. His physical presence, turning to the orchestra leader, turning to sections of the orchestra, turning to the harpsichordist, made the musical experience also a visual and theatrical experience. As a violinist he drove himself to the limit with impossibly fast tempos, and he energised són by demanding extreme dynamic contrasts and throwing them from total calm into frenzied action.

When directed by Daniel in the Vivaldi the orchestra had to follow his unpredictable style of playing and respond to his risk-taking. When conducted by Robin in the Piazzolla they brought off amazingly complex rhythms and produced highly original string sounds, while at the same time fitting in with the improvised style of the soloist. They produced moments of great beauty and quite unexpected passages of elegant lyricism. But most of the time the music was on the edge: it was truly exciting, constantly alive with something new, different and unforeseen.

No wonder that, at the end, the audience was on its feet, clapping and cheering!”

Frank Stack

Soloist Daniel Rowland (left) and conductor Robin Browning backstage after 8 Seasons

Just incredible again!

“So, what can I say….. just incredible again – you really pull it off don’t you?!

You have me and Carley really enjoying something we never would have dreamt of not so long ago, but we have just experienced our 3rd session of orchestral music live and what a performance by Daniel Rowland. The 8 seasons were so dramatic and grabbing – it really does take you somewhere, certainly with the whole orchestra firing up. I can’t work out which instrument to focus on there’s so much going on, it’s purely fascinating to watch everyone at work. Hard to compare to John Suchet in Eroica Unwrapped [earlier in our concert season] – completely different but that was an awesome Beethoven work, too.

Well done són and thanks for introducing us into something other than the boring repetitive modern chart music that my girls drown me in.”

Lee Fisher

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