I’ve just returned from the Outer Banks, where our summer festival is underway. Good opportunity for me to sound off on outdoor performances.
In the best circumstances, outdoor performances are a real delight: people are dressed casually and comfortably, eating and drinking on blankets and beach chairs, enjoying the slowly emerging stars while children run around and dance to the music.
Our festival has nine performances a week – four afternoons in an art gallery, and five evenings in an outdoor pavilion. This past week and next week, the featured evening piece is Wright Flight, a multimedia work that makes full use of the pavilion’s potentials.
On Monday night we were supposed to have our final dress rehearsal. Much of the country was experiencing flooding, and we were no exception. Checking on the radar that evening, we realized that the closest place we could have an outdoor dress rehearsal was in Oklahoma.
Opening night – Tuesday – was a washout. We had storms all day and night, so the performance was moved into the park’s film theater, which, surprisingly, had just enough room onstage for an orchestra. With all the rain, though, the audience turnout was minimal. Good thing, since we hadn’t had a chance to rehearse in the performance space.
On Wednesday it rained all day but was clearing in the evening, so we went ahead with the outdoor performance. Just before Wright Flight, the orchestra played Torke’s Adjustable Wrench. As soon as his piece started, the mosquitoes realized they had an optimal environment: wet ground and miles of human flesh. By the time my piece began, about half of the audience had fled.
Thursday – more rain, and another performance indoors. This one had a pretty good turnout, comprised, I suppose, of people who figured they weren’t going to see this piece they had heard so much hype about unless they braved the elements. Best performance of the week.
Friday was gorgeous: sunny, breezy and highs in the low 80s. But a storm arrived just as the orchestra launched into Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite, so one movement of that piece was all we got before the performance was shut down (it takes about an hour to move all the equipment into the film theater, which means this cancellation happened too late to move indoors). A complete bummer: I was planning to make a home video of Friday’s performance, because I’m getting tired of trying to explain how the piece works to people who haven’t seen it.
So, the final tally: four Wright Flight performances scheduled outdoors, one that actually took place outdoors to a small audience that came prepared with substantial insect repellent, two others moved indoors, one cancelled altogether.
Hopefully, Nature will adjust her intentions next week. But I won’t be there to see it — I’ll be here at home, working on a symphony — and a few other projects.