The Collage Concert

by Ken Owen, Two Year Colleges Liaison

When I sang with the Utah Chamber Artists, a choir of around 40 singers, I fell in love with the way they staged some of their concerts. They call it a collage concert. I took the idea and have made an annual tradition of a “Spring Collage” concert each year with the choirs at Pierce College.

The word collage refers to art created by juxtaposing various different materials together. The concept is of multiple independent things being placed adjacent to each other to create a whole. For the collage concert, the concept is not only about multiple and different sounding choral pieces, but the physical presentation of the concert. Each musical selection is performed immediately after the proceeding. This is possible because each selection is performed from a different place in the hall than the previous selection. This also requires multiple groups, or soloists, or some kind of collaboration.

Let me walk you through our last collage concert as an example. The concert started with our chamber choir singing the national anthem from a tech balcony above the audience. This was followed by an announcement that goes something like this: “Welcome to our annual Spring Collage! If you haven’t been to one of our collage concerts before, let me explain how this will work as it will be different from a normal choir concert. The students will be performing from various places in the hall and each will start right after the last. This means that there will be no room for applause. I know this is difficult! The students are so wonderful we want to applaud, and we will! I just ask you to save up your applause. Deposit it in your applause bank until intermission when you can let it all out. Then again we will ask you to hold your applause for the second half until the end when you can erupt into volcanic applause and show them how much you loved all of it put together.”

Following the announcement the larger concert choir processed in while singing a simple 4-part harmonization of “Down in the River to Pray” while surrounding the audience. The second the concert choir finished the lights went dark, and the chamber choir sang “Come and Find the Quiet Center,” arr. Kirk Marcy, up in the tech balcony with only subdued lighting. While they were singing the concert choir quietly left the hall and prepared to go on the front stage. The lights went out at the cut-off as a spotlight lit up a solo violin and piano at the back of the hall (in the aisle behind the audience) for Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” During Ave Maria the concert choir quietly come on stage, in the dark. As soon as the violin was done the lights came up on the concert choir for “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal.” The staging list below will show the entire concert. Each space will be different.

This takes some extra planning and logistical practice, but yields a great concert experience. The staging list below may seem long, and if there was applause between each number and on-and-off time, it would be a tedious concert. But as one number moves to the next without pause the concert came in under an hour and a half. Our program still had themes, and the interpolated solos didn’t detract from the cohesion of the subjects. The first half was Americana and patriotic music, and the second half was love songs, and then popular music – including the final song from a video game with images from the game projected around the hall.

The other major piece, besides the performers, in the collage concert is the lighting. Our sound/lighting tech enjoys the creativity of the concert and does a great job. Part of the planning and logistical work involves getting lights and cues set for each place the performers will sing or play from. The tech’s timing in moving from one light setting to another is essential to direct the attention of the audience and mask the motion during numbers.

Spring 2016 Collage

MEMORIAL AND EARLY AMERICANA

Where Who Title Directions for others
BALCONY Chamber Choir National Anthem
SIDES Concert choir Down in the River to Pray Concert process in and out, chamber stays in balcony
BALCONY Chamber Choir Come and Find the Quiet Center Violin faculty moves in place
BACK Violin faculty Ave Maria concert choir gets on front stage
FRONT Concert Choir Hark I hear the Harps Eternal student soloist moves in place
BACK Student solo Roadside Fire Concert choir offstage, Chamber Choir on stage, screen down
FRONT Chamber Choir In Flander’s Fields with video montage of cemeteries piano in place at rear piano
BACK – Student piano solo Inquieto screen raises, chamber choir changes standing arrangement
FRONT Chamber Choir America the Beautiful Violin in place on side stage
SIDE Violin solo Allemanda from Partita 2 Concert Choir front, move piano in place, chamber off
FRONT Concert Choir Kyrie from Memorial cello student in place on side stage
SIDE Student Cellist Cello suite no. 1 Concert Choir remains on stage
FRONT Concert Choir Hallelujah, Amen

INTERMISSION

 

LOVE INTERNATIONAL

FRONT Concert Choir & guitar faculty Bachianas Brazilias
FRONT Guitar faculty Abendlied Concert Choir exits. Chamber in aisles
BACK Chamber & violin/piano Hebrew Love Song IV-V chamber leaves as fade out – leaving student in place for solo
Back student solo Roadside Fire chamber choir to front stage
FRONT Chamber choir La Rose Pianist moves to piano which is on stage behind the choir.

Concert choir moves into audience aisles

FRONT & AUDIENCE Chamber & Concert Choir Dirait on Violinist prepares to enter
FRONT Chamber Choir Hebrew Love Song II Concert Choir exits audience. Guitar sets up on side stage
Left SIDE Guitar soloist Fingal’s Cave Chamber exits to right side stage
Popular Culture
Right SIDE Chamber choir Africa Pianist set for solo
FRONT Piano soloist Working together
SIDE chamber And so it Goes Pianist prep for solo
BACK Piano soloist Scherzo Combined choirs move to front stage, projection prepared
FRONT Choirs Skyrim Images projected on side walls

 

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