Planning programs can be tricky. It's not enough to simply program what you already have in your repertoire, or music that you enjoy. If your audience doesn't engage, a repeat performance is unlikely.
So, what's the secret? With our transition from the Chicago area to mostly rural Ohio, we needed to figure this out. Over the course of beginning a home concert series, we noticed many programing ideas that are included in this great post about concert programs written by Gerald Klickstein of Musiciansway.com
He's correct on many levels.
Know your audience: our audience here isn't used to classical music, which has been the bulk of our career. Learning to engage them meant including music they know and can relate to, most often at the onset of the concert. One friend told us that once we played something he knew he was "hooked on everything". Quite a nice comment from a guy who listened only to the old style country music. A great way to do this is with music that has had a double life, classical music that has been used in a movie or commercial, or that inspired a popular piece of rock and rock. Our arrangement of The House of the Rising Sun offered music to draw in listeners new to classical music. Most who love classicl rock think of this as part of the British Invasion, not American folk music. Last time we performed this, our audience burst into song, singing the entire thing, learned from the radio, prior to our performance of our arrangement. They were hooked!
Mr. Klickstein also recommended choosing music you can handle. This is vitally important. An audience loves to watch an effortless, beautiful performance. So, be sure you are in control of the music. If you're relaxed, they'll be relaxed.
His advice to "indulge and surpise" is also well taken. The delight of hearing stunning beautiful music for the first time is always a memorable experience. It's that sort of experience that keeps audiences returning.
A clever theme can help as well. This concert, Fools, Money and April Showers included music that had something to do with one of the ideas in the title, drawing upon April Fool's Day, Tax Day (USA) and April Showers. The audience enjoy trying to figure out, before we told them, what the connection of each piece was going to be.
Plan your concert as well as your music and you'll suceed on many levels.