You may have done it before, but if not, organising an outdoor concert might be something new for you try. Obviously covid is forcing us outdoors more and more, but actually an Outdoor Concert might become a permanent fixture in your music department calendar. In this blog I will share some of my thoughts as I prepare for an outdoor concert.
Organising an outdoor concert is very different to organising one inside. Throw in the covid guidelines and you have quite na operation on your hands. Hopefully some of the ideas in this blog will support you in this process.
For those reading this blog in 2021, I guess the reason why is self explanatory. If we want to share our music making with anyone then it will need to be outdoors. But in fact there are more reasons to take out music outside and give our students that opportunity.
An outdoor concert is a wonderful thing because it provides a very different atmosphere for performance. Over the years I have performed in many different outdoor spaces and I find the audience reaction is always very different. I think of performing in Paris in a bandstand during a sunny April afternoon. Lots of people are out enjoying a walk, picnic or run. Suddenly they hear music and they stop and listening. The audience outside is constantly changing and it is bringing music into their lives.
Things to consider
There are a number of things you need to consider when performing outside. I will start by looking at the non-covid considerations.
- Weather is obviously important. Make sure you check and have two dates in mind just in case.
- Power is likely to be needed, but you need prepare for the worst. I have turned up at a Bandstand in Prague before and found there was no power. Make sure students who require power have another option to play! And you can buy some great battery powered speakers nowadays!
- One factor to consider is the wind! Music will quickly blow off of a stand and therefore every student needs 3-4 clothes pegs in their bag at all times! Rubber bands and magnets can also help.
- If you want to have anyone singing solos or performing a solo, you may like to consider using microphones and amplification to ensure they can be heard. It will of course depend on space and power.
- Setup is likely to take longer, so do factor that in. You will also want to consider how the musicians will hear each other and perform as a solid ensemble.
I am hoping that outdoor concerts continue post covid. But obviously we have some specific considerations during 2021 summer concerts. I have a concert planned for July 2021 and I wanted to share with you some of the things I am working through at the moment.
- Safety is of the utmost importance for any event during summer 2021. This is being clearly communicated to all those who wish to come to the concert.
- I am holding my concert on our school field, the largest outdoor space I have available to me. I am going to be marking out audience, performing and year group bubble areas. A quick chat with the PE staff and I should be able to get some white spray paint.
- The guidelines allow for an audience of 30, but you can have several groups of 30. I am aiming for 4 groups and each group will have a zone. I am getting everyone to bring a picnic blanket which they have to stay on at all times. This will help with social distancing!
- I am creating a one way system in the school so that each audience group has a separate parking area and entrance to the field.
- I am encouraging all audience members to only come along if they are in good health and I will ask them to consider taking a Lateral Flow test before coming. As it is outside the risks are minimised, but encourage the audience to think about what they can do.
- The concert is not going to be too long, but there will also be space for them to bring a picnic and drinks along. I have made the decision not to have soloists but instead focus on my main ensembles and choirs.
- All students will be in year group bubbles. This may affect the pieces we can perform, but I want to make sure they are separate and safe.
- I am setting up a stage outside and using a PA system with several speakers to ensure the sound is sent right round the field. It is surprisingly loud having tested it the other day.
Make something happen
Any concert in 2021 is going to be all about making something happen. You may not be able to put on a concert, and that is fine. The last thing you should be doing is beating yourself up about it. You may be able to do something online, but this can be time consuming and tricky. Do what you can, and make something happen that works for you. You may do something for individual year groups and you may do something that is within the school day for an audience of teachers. Just do your best to give students some kind of performance opportunity. And if you can’t put on any kind of event then you can still rehearse with groups and make sure they enjoy performing music to each other.
Organising an Outdoor Concert
Organising an outdoor concert will take a little more time, but the atmosphere will be fantastic. The audience can bring along a picnic and they will love hearing the live music. Covid risks are minimised when outside, and having some simple procedures in place will help keep the event safe. Encourage everyone to take responsibility and keep within the school rules. Chatting with senior leaders and creating a risk assessment will also help to keep the event safe.
I wish you all the best with whatever you manage to do this summer. I hope the weather is amazing for all of July and I know the students up and down the country will appreciate the chance to perform.
And as ever, if you need anything then please do get in touch. Use the comments section below to share your thoughts, ideas and outdoor concert stories.