It’s hard to think of a more important job than bringing new audiences to classical music. Of course it’s wonderful, and indeed essential, to have the support of the traditional concert-going public but the future of classical music lies with the audiences of tomorrow – and the work of building those audiences begins today.
Fortunately, it’s work that is well advanced among the UK’s great orchestras. Thanks to their efforts to present their concerts as an attractive and life-enriching experience, the UK’s classical audience is bigger and broader than it has been for years.
With so many of our orchestras possessing such energy, vision and inventiveness, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, winner of the Classic FM Magazine Award for Audience Innovation, must be special indeed. Granted, many of the techniques it employs – family-friendly programming, concessionary tickets, outreach programmes and interactive website – are common to other orchestras. That said, the results – last season’s subscription sales up 22 per cent, advance sales for next season up 44 per cent, website traffic up 42 per cent – are impressive.
But what really distinguishes the RLPO from its peers is the scale of its commitment to the local community. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than by its exciting new conductor Vasily Petrenko (this year’s Young Artist winner) who has taken the people of Liverpool to his heart. Now, having embedded itself in the cultural fabric of the city, the RLPO has, in one of its most exciting initiatives to date, and the one for which this award is given, streamed its opening concert of the new season on internet community Second Life. Within hours of the announcement of the event, the first ever professional orchestral concert to be performed live within a virtual world, 1000 people had registered to win a ticket to the first performance before the concert was then made available to Second Life’s nine million “residents”.
Audience members sat in a 3D virtual version of the RLPO’s home venue, Philharmonic Hall, to watch and listen live as the orchestra performed a selection of works conducted by Vasily Petrenko. During the “cyber event” audience members were able, through their Second Life characters, to interact with each other and even buy refreshments. After the concert they met Petrenko, singer Kate Royal and composer Kenneth Hesketh in the bar for a Q&A session.
At a stroke the RLPO has blazed a trail other orchestras may follow and put classical music before a new and potentially massive audience. It’s very bold – and it’s certainly very innovative.
Editor, Classic FM Magazine