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Assessing the Audience Impact of Choral Music Concerts

May 10, 201710 May 2017

Arts education / Theatre / Social benefits of the arts

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Based on a survey of over 14,000 attendees at performances by 23 choirs (including the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and 22 American choruses), this report examines the experiences of audiences at live choral concerts. The goal of the research was to spur “critical reflection on how audiences construct meaning and memory from concerts of choral music, and how choruses can curate impacts through thoughtful program design”.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • “Current and former choral singers constitute 64% of all audiences surveyed”.
  • “Personal relationships fuel the audience for choral concerts.” In fact, “among the five youth choruses surveyed, four in five respondents have a familial or friendship relationship with a young performer, and 54% are parents or grandparents”. Among adult choirs’ audience members, 36% are performers’ friends or family members, a percentage that is much higher among choirs with volunteer singers (50%) than those with paid singers (25%).
  • Social motivations such as being invited to a concert or spending quality time with family members are a key driver of first-time choral attendance.
  • “The audience is a reflection of what’s on stage”, in that audiences choose to attend artistic programs that reflect themselves.
  • “Different artistic programs generate different impacts on audiences”.
  • “Involved audience members report higher levels of impact”. The most common form of musical involvement was “singing along to the music” (although this involvement was not strongly correlated with levels of impact).

The survey also “asked respondents to list up to six specific words describing how they felt during or after the concert”. The 34,400 individual words were grouped into seven categories, which the report calls “underlying veins of affect”:

  1. “Amusement (happiness, joy, thrill, festivity)
  2. Fulfillment and gratitude (contentedness, satisfaction, grateful, appreciative)
  3. Spiritual awareness (inspired, uplifted, meditative)
  4. Captivation, focus and stimulation (amazement, awe, excited, engaged)
  5. Relaxation (calmness, serenity)
  6. Pensiveness (reflective, thoughtful, curious)
  7. Empowerment (proud)”

Given that survey respondents were not randomly selected and that participating choirs were not chosen to be representative of all North American choirs, the report cautions that “results should not be understood as being representative of the whole choral field”.

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