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Guide for Newcomers

Your first orchestral concert? Want to know more about what to expect? Then read on!

Feed Your Imagination: the power of live orchestral music

If you want to hear classical music at its very best you must hear it live in the concert hall. There’s really nothing to beat the thrill being part of a unique, never-to-be repeated live experience. And as part of the audience you are directly involved in the experience.

The other wonderful thing about live music is that it feeds our imaginations - it has the power to transport us out of our workday world into a virtual universe where anything is possible.

What is classical music and how are orchestras made up?

“Classical” music normally refers to more or less any Western music for orchestral instruments written between 1650 and the present - although confusingly it also refers to the style of music written between 1750 and 1810 (the time of Haydn and Mozart).

In general terms, the orchestra is normally divided into four “family” groups:

· Strings (first and second violins, violas, cellos and double basses)
· Woodwind (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons)
· Brass (french horns, trumpets, trombones and sometimes tubas)
· Percussion (anything from kettle drums or timpani to wind machines!)

The strings (first and second violins, violas, cellos and double basses) sit at the front of the platform, with different orchestras using different layouts, with woodwind and brass behind. The “heavy guns” of the percussion normally fire at the rear.

If the organ is used, the console is behind the strings, and, for a piano concerto, a piano is normally in front of the strings; often the conductor for a piano concerto conducts from behind the instrument, though sometimes he or she will play as well as direct.

I’m new to orchestral music, can you recommend a concert?

Much orchestral music by French and Spanish composers, such as Ravel and Debussy, is rich in melodies, beautiful orchestral textures and exotic rhythms. Alternatively you may prefer to try a concert which features works by three of the world's most famous composers - Mozart, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky - it's quite likely that you'll recognise some of the melodies.

Sounds familiar! - music you may recognise!

Ever wondered what that tune was? Regular concert-going will often provide the answers! The use of classical music in film and on TV is increasing, meaning you may well recognise one or two tunes in our series.

How are concerts structured and when do I clap?

Concerts normally start at 7.30pm and you will be told when to take your seats by pre-recorded announcements. Most often, concerts have two halves of approximately 45 minutes each with a twenty minute interval. Occasionally, one work will be performed without interval and the Box Office will be able to advise you when this is the case.

A standard format for concerts is first half Overture (an introductory, short piece), a Concerto (a three-movement work featuring a soloist - often a pianist or violinist) and in the second half a Symphony (a more substantial four-movement work for the whole orchestra).

Knowing when to clap can be tricky when there are several movements in a piece and generally concert-goers clap at the end of the whole piece. The concert programmes (available from stewards for £2.50 on the night) should give you some idea of the structure of each piece, but if in doubt, wait until everyone else starts clapping!

We show approximate finish times for concerts in each event listing on this website; alternatively the Box Office can advise you.

How can I find out more about the music?

Why not come along to a free pre-concert talk? These run before every orchestral concert at Leeds Town Hall at 6.45pm for approximately 20 minutes.

Concert programmes also give more information on the music and players and are available from stewards priced £2.50.

Alternatively, this website has online resources on composers and pieces (see individual concert listings).  We have also supplied weblinks, where they exist, to external sites giving more information on featured performers and composers.

What should I wear?

Whatever you like - there are no rules about what you should be seen in on concert nights.

Can I get a drink?

Leeds Town Hall has a bar and a coffee lounge which are both open to concert-goers from 6pm on the evening of a concert. In concert intervals these are enhanced by mobile refreshment points, selling tea, coffee and ice-creams.

There are many restaurants and bars in the vicinity of Leeds Town Hall.  Visit Leeds Live It Love It for more information.

Where should I sit?

There is a range of different priced seating throughout the Town Hall, all offering different views of the stage.

During concerts involving a chorus, the singers sit behind the orchestra. For normal orchestral concerts, those special seats are available for your use. They are unnumbered and unreserved, so early arrival is advised!

The City Centre Box Office will be able to advise you on the best tickets for the price you want to pay. They can be contacted on 0113 224 3801 or call in to the Carriageworks on Millennium Square.

Where can I park?

The nearest car park to the Town Hall is the 24 hour secure car park in The Light Shopping Centre, accessible via Great George Street.
Don’t forget to allow plenty of time for parking.

What happens if I arrive late?

If you arrive late for a concert don’t panic!  There will be someone to meet you, and take you to the coffee bar where you will be asked to wait until the end of the first piece before taking your seat.

Want to know more?

Why not email or phone us on 0113 247 8336. We’ll be pleased to help in any way.

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