The Classic Express research was designed to answer questions that raised in the practice based outreach project “Orkest Morgenstond”.
In this project (2014- present), so called district musicians, try to find a natural place for classical music, in an area where this music is seldom performed, Morgenstond, The Hague.The basic idea of this ongoing project is to allow a natural development for musical activities to happen, based on the local agenda and present day needs.
The district musicians first invest in longterm relationships with local partners. These partners collaborate intensively with the district orchestra “Orkest Morgenstond”. When and where performances take place, the choice of repertoire as well as the way music is performed, is all decided in a collaborative process.
A description of the first performance,
the festive opening of the Morgenstond community center.
De Eendekooi, Morgenstond Community Centre, November 2014
In the crowd was laughter and a lively atmosphere. We had chosen with the local organizers for that night, among joyful repertoire, one piece that was entirely different. A Shostakovich string quintet with a melancholic melody and striking harmonies. I asked for silence and introduced the piece, addressing the lady who had initiated the development of the community centre. “Gerda, you told me that someone special could not be here tonight, even though he would have loved to be part of this evening... This piece we play for him and all those who couldn’t be here and whom we miss”. Then I asked if everybody could think of someone he or she missed. We tuned and waited shortly in silence before starting the piece.
Already while we played we felt how people were struck by the music, visibly and because of the absolute silence in the audience. The attention was so strong that it inspired us, our playing was more precise and daring than it had been before.
Morgenstond working methods
The description and analysis of working methods and observations in Morgenstond have been described in the master thesis of initiator and artistic leader Ilona Sie Dhian Ho, “The district musicians of Morgenstond”.
In this thesis the district musicians and the local people were equal subjects.
Sie Dhian Ho witnessed how in a creative learning process, musicians and audiences made progress. A growing number of people got involved in musical activities and the musicians got experienced in designing all kinds of performances. The search for designing meaningful performances started intuitively, but the musicians started to develop understanding why there was success and failure at times. It seemed that the way the music was presented was crucial. The musicians found that it is needed to put an effort in how people are drawn into the music. For example by playing a piece “for whom we miss”, as described in the premiere above, or by telling a story to introduce the repertoire.
All the methods that have been created could be summarized as “performance and presentation techniques”. Which technique is chosen is based on the expected audience. The musicians feel that the mode of presenting and performing seems to connect artistic quality to the quality in which music is perceived in a meaningful way.
Motivation to continue
No performance in Morgenstond is alike. What happens in the concerts is a result of both solid preparation and improvisation as a response to the audience. Therefor the data collection is rich but hard to analyze. The immediate feedback is effective to improve working methods because the informal setting helps to truly sense people’s feeling and opinion. But without questionnaires or surveys it is not possible to quantify the progress. A formal comparison of strategies, like the presentation techniques, has therefor never been possible. The progress that is made is only because of exploration and improvisation.