Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bridging the Gap – Multi Cultural Programming Challenges and Opportunities

The Michigan Philharmonic received a grant from the Knight Foundation to help fund a two day festival as part of a multi-cultural program celebrating the Music of “Bollywood”.   The grant brings together orchestra musicians from the western classical music tradition and Indian singers and musicians.  The final result will be an outstanding, colorful and unique, high-energy performance which showcases the ways in which music translates between cultures.  However, the planning process, which can be fun and interesting can also challenging at times too!

The Michigan Philharmonic has worked with our friends in the Indian community on several of these musical collaborations over the past 3 years and we have produced concerts in local venues for mainly Indian audiences.  Many of the cultural differences have been worked out over the course of our small collaborations.  This new, larger collaboration however, brings together even more people and other sponsoring groups – all invested in the project, but some with different ideas.  So much of the pre-planning work is to bring all parties together and make sure all ideas are heard and given consideration.

Over the course of the next few months I will address some of these interesting and lively discussions and the planning which takes place in order to bring together musicians from such varied backgrounds.

One of the most challenging of the cultural differences to overcome is establishing the length of the concert.  In the Indian tradition, 3-4 hours is standard for programming concerts, movies, etc.  Western audiences, of course, do not have this kind of attention span, nor can they sit for that long!  Finding a compromise is a continuous process with give and take on both sides but it appears that a concert of 3 hours will work for all and hopefully allow both Indian and Western audiences to be satisfied.

In my next blog I will address music selection for the concert.

Beth Stewart

Executive Director

Michigan Philharmonic

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