I learned the following things from Daniel Taylor and Suzie Leblanc about how to put on a classical music concert last Friday, October 24:
- Be a famous and talented artist. Taylor and Leblanc are without a doubt the most well-recognized names in early music in Canada. They have been blessed with phenomenal voices and have been performing for decades. They are fantastic and are 50 times the musican I will ever be. If there was something less than flawless that they did last Friday, I never heard it and neither did anyone else in attendance.
- Find a university-affiliated venue and get on the tenure track. Trinity College Chapel at U of T is a beautiful place to hear a concert, not least because it has excellent acoustics for vocal music. I can't say it projects bass instruments all that well, but given the star power of the two soloists, it's not as if anyone was there to hear great feats of continuo being performed.
- The title of the concert does not have to reflect the repertoire being performed. The concert was called “Handel Love Duets,” but Leblanc and Taylor only performed three Handel love duets the whole evening. Everything else they sang was either not by Handel or not a duet. No one else seemed to notice, let alone mind in the slightest, and no, I have no idea what else they could have called this concert either.
- Hire a talented but unrecognizable backup band. This allows you to have first-rate talent at a fraction of the cost. Ever hear of Adrian Butterfield? Kathleen Kojioka? Me neither, but they're both extremely capable violinists, and everyone knows obscure means cheaper while an instrumentalist on the verge of blowing up is also on the verge of quitting the band to pursue a solo career. Taylor also imported most of the continuo section from Montreal, where you can get a two-bedroom apartment for $400 and an ounce of pot. This backup band is known as the “Theatre of Early Music” and is never the same group of musicians, ever.
- Perform a program that everyone already knows. The album “Handel Love Duets” was released in 2002, making it fully 12 years old. Not only are Leblanc and Taylor completely familiar with the repertoire (having learned it all over a decade ago), but the album has been a hit in classical circles since its release and has built up a fan base ever since. This means that there was already a specific audience for this concert, and judging from the fact that everyone around me had actually brought the CD and was reading the lyrics from the liner notes, they didn't have to bother printing programs. When your sold-out concert is filled by people who bring their own program notes, you have achieved a level of success the rest of us can only dream about.