It’s difficult to know exactly where to begin with this post. So I’ll note everything down that sprung to mind and hope that a natural narrative emerges. If not, then you can just read the few points in bold below and be done with it.
What’s on at Wigmore can be viewed on their brand new website here.
1. The Great & The Good were there
I’m not going to name them. Obviously. That would be crass. But I was impressed. Excited at a central London location at lunchtime. Odd.
In fairness, this was the first time I’d been invited. I looked at it in my calendar and wondered exactly how I was going to fit everything I needed to do today in. I adopted a well-tested strategy of merely announcing to colleagues where I’d be going at lunchtime. The process suddenly made things seem real, and me have far more importance than I usually appear to have in the office.
And then I arrived. Late, as one would expect, to find a large group of people milling around the foyer, some with glasses of cava in their hand. I spy a tray of glasses. I grab one. I then clock all sorts of faces I recognise. People I’ve recently made small talk with, others I’ve had one-off extended conversations with, and a handful whose presence makes me feel as though I’m rubbing shoulders with celebrities from the music press. One person actually comes up to me and say hello. “How are you doing?” he asks. “All the better for seeing you,” I reply.
2. Wigmore Hall Director John Gilhooly is a brilliant public speaker
That’s why he’s Director of the Wigmore Hall, obviously. People like him don’t get into roles like that on a wing and a prayer, after all. Right from the get-go Mr Gilhooly packs in key messages about the Wigmore so quickly I can’t scribble them down.
In his bold address, he details a total of 960 events mounted by the venue in 2014/15 of which 400+ were learning sessions attended by 10,000 young people (5% of the total attendances).
He talks passionately about the Wigmore’s Dementia scheme and its ongoing commitment to working with organisations tackling homelessness and social exclusion. These are not worthy claims, but illustrations of how the arts organisation meets its purposes of making classical music available to as many people as possible.
Gilhooly underlines how the venue is acknowledging the changing demographic in classical music by trumpeting significantly subsidised concerts for 2015/16. Under 35 year olds will be able to get to a concert at Wigmore Hall for £5, something made possible, he explains, by significant legacies and donations.
For those over 35, the lowest ticket price has been lowered to £15 (and in some cases lower than that).
3. Wigmore Hall gets social media
There have been times when I’ve been slightly bemused by their social media strategy, but being in a room full of press-types and movers and shakers and seeing them snigger at various tweets the organisation puts out proves one very salient point. Their irreverent style is not only counter-intuitive, but it’s played to great effect with a knowing eye on its most influential audience – the classical music ‘aficionados’. If you’ve got them on-board, everything else is plain sailing.
4. Digital is recognised as the future
I’ve worked in digital for seventeen years now, coding a file delivery system for financial institutions wanting to buy data from the Financial Times, through to blogging for the BBC. All that time I’ve heard arts organisations saying they need to get ‘ahead of the curve’ (or some other nauseating turn of phrase), but never really believed them. Now it feels as though they’re all in line, they’re all sure of what the goal is and they’re all investing in it with apparent gusto.
So, building on their social media presence, the Wigmore has relaunched its website to make ticket-buying a more straightforward process (low-hanging fruit) and will in Autumn 2015 be announcing their plans for refurbishing their ‘digital infrastructure’ at the hall. What that means for the future is quite clear: streaming of concerts and I’m hoping that also means live streaming too.
There will be a time when an organisation’s digital strategy won’t be notable. That point isn’t that far off any more now. Which is good.
5. The venue’s getting refurbished too
Eleven years after the front of house was refurbished, so the back stage areas get the same treatment. The auditorium is deceptive. Elegant, plush and warm, the assumption is that everywhere backstage is exactly the same. When one hears there’s a refurbishment backstage in the offing, there quickly follows a desire to know what its like backstage at the moment. I’ll just leave that there hanging. You know, just in case there might be an invite sometime.
7. The in-Crowd has an in-Crowd
I adore being invited to press events. Really do. It’s nice to be recognised for what you love and some of what you do. There’s a sense too that your can help spread the word a bit, which is nice. I was taken by surprise by the company I was in and beamed slightly when I sat down with my notebook and pen. It’s a special feeling. I rather like that feeling of inclusion.
But, the occasion reminded me of one other thing I probably need to work on a little more. I need to get to know the others in the pack. I’m an introvert (no really, I am) so I’m always going to prefer to stand at the sides at such events and just observe. Something I should probably work on. Standing on your own polishing off a glass of cava looking at other people talking is never a good look.
7. Oh yes, the new season
I had trouble writing everything down here. What follows are the things that excite me:
– 600+ Schubert Lieder in multiple events over the next 2 years. That’ll do nicely thank you.
– Simon Rattle at the piano accompanies his mezzo soprano wife in a rare treat.
– Martha Argerich and Stephen Kovacevich celebrating the latter’s 70th year
– Julia Fischer and Stephen Isserlis
– Trevor Pinnock, Andreas Scholl, Caroline Sampson and Harry Christophers and The Sixteen