Lets before going any further, discuss the word “art”.
It implies that there is creativity used or a specific skill when doing public performances, that we can study and apply so as to ensure a good performance and the enjoyment of your playing.
Even more important that your audience enjoys the music and are captured into a beautiful world or canvas of sound, colour and emotions.
First of all, there is the absolute need of having mastered your piece or pieces of music.
Of course, the level of performance required differs – whether you are playing as an amateur or as a solo classical pianist who has to play an existing work like a Beethoven sonata or a Mozart for example.
If you are playing as a jazz pianist the criteria is a bit different as the jazz pianist normally plays with a band, which makes it more relaxed and naturally enjoyable.
The pro of this is that the jazz pianist is so used to playing by ear, that improvising becomes as natural as breathing and playing actually becomes extremely exciting and not stressful, whereas with playing from a score or having memorised it, is much more difficult and intense.
For this performance, one has to be very well prepared and ready in emotions, mind, thought and concentration.
When playing on a stage at a concert hall, it is always stressful – especially when one has to play a solo concert.
It means that all the music heard is performed by the individual. The moment it is with an orchestra or band (as in the case of jazz) performing becomes much less stressful and a delight!
The greatest pleasure comes when one has performed a piece and were so engrossed in it, flowing with the music and actually becoming part of it, that the audience gets carried into the ”heaven-lies” so to speak.
The natural response of the audience will be a great applause, not because they have to but because they have been thrilled and taken away on a higher dimension or realm than normal!
Consideration number 1: Know your piece from every angle, preferably every bar.
Here as some other aspects to give attention to:
Preparation or warm up before performance.
It’s important to warm up – that is your fingers, before a performance. You can practise a certain passage within your piece as a technical exercise or do your normal technical exercise routine shortly before performing.
As I studied with the late Mr Josias V d Merwe – an absolute master in training students performance, he would let us do a fast finger run within the piece we were performing, with a metronome at a slow speed and then speed it up until the desired tempo with each hand.
This was enough warming up.
Be careful not to “over practise” just before performing.
You should and do know your work, so it’s just to warm up and maybe start each piece so as to put yourself at ease. Then leave the real playing for the stage.
If you could play it well once, you can do it again!
To repeat what Gert (my biggest supporter and friend) always said to me and it helped me greatly. That is true – so if you could play your piece of music beautifully at home you can do the same anywhere else! Again!
Relaxing review through your piece:
Another very helpful thing to do is to go and lie on your bed and “play” through your whole piece of music.
This way you can hear and feel exactly what you want to convey at each area of music.
Mind over matter:
Please talk to yourself and remind yourself that you know your work, can do it and that it will all be good.
I always think deep before a performance as this always helps!
But it’s important to get your focus onto the right things.
The focus is not so much you or rather “me!” as the whole world shouts today, no it’s actually about others!
Giving pleasure and enjoyment to the audience or people that thirsts for peace, joy and happiness.
At least the pianist can convey some of that to their fellow humans! What a pleasure when someone emails you with a lovely note of appreciation about how your music lifted them out of despair and gave them hope!
Nothing can be more satisfying.
When you walk up the stage, of course, you should be dressed appropriately and beautifully, but make sure that you are comfortable and have shoes that you often wear so that peddling does not become a nightmare.
See to it that you are shining and radiant giving something to others in your smile and friendliness. It’s much nicer to listen to a friendly musician than otherwise.
Always do a practice run on the piano you are going to perform on beforehand so that there will be no surprises.
When coming onto the stage, smile, you may even bow or recognise the people but keep your focus on the piano and your playing.
Keep your concentration.
When seated, take your time, feel if you are comfortable concerning chair height, and distance to the piano etc.
Wait until you are ready.
That also creates an atmosphere of expectation which is amazing and electrifying.
Take your time.
In your mind feel the tempo you will be playing, make sure it is not faster than you usually play, as nerves can make one increase speed drastically and then your fingers will have to fly to do all you normally did in a slower speed.
Fortunately adrenaline helps and you will survive!
So do take your time to prepare before lifting your hands to the piano.
When the first note starts, it should be as though something amazing – a most beautiful sound has suddenly started! If you watch many a classical pianist, this can be quite fascinating!
I remember at one of the first concerts where I heard concert pianist Celine Gaurier-Joubert perform.
The atmosphere was electrifying and with the very first note – we were stunned at the sound coming from the piano and this pianists ability to create a beautiful sound.
But she took the room, took the time, waited and then played!
The most important aspect of this art is being able to be so “In” the music, so taken up in the music which you are performing, that you do not really care about how your face pulls, or how your hair looks or how this or that or what people think, but you are creating while playing and taking people into heaven so to speak.
After your performance, there will be an applause.
Please do recognise it.
Bow or curtsy and enjoy and receive their thank you! It is deserved.
I remember once playing a Turina piano concerto with an orchestra.
I was so engrossed in the music, that at the end, when this dramatic Spanish piece ends with a big show and chords, I ran the stage and totally forgot to bow.
Fortunately, the stage master sent me back to go and bow, as the audience was mesmerised, as was I by this beautiful music which was written by this great composer!
So remember your bows and enjoy it.
After your performance, please do have a chat with your audience if at all possible. They enjoyed and will love to at least tell you that.
I have now shortly given you a bit on the art of performance on piano on the concert stage in the classical arena.
If you are doing jazz, these jazz cats are much more relaxed but do not underestimate their proficiency on the piano.
It’s quite a different feel and much more free.
The great thing of Jazz performance on piano means you can feel your way, in a sense be unprepared because everything is in any way done on the spot.
Of course, you need to know your changes and be able to hear the changes especially if you’re playing with a band – when other instruments are improvisation and the piano only then does the backing.
Enjoy and play – get lost in the music.
Whether you are playing solo or with a band – enjoy!