Last night I conducted a concert in a new venue. It made me think about pre-concert rituals. It was a program that I really liked: Haydn 44 and Beethoven's Mass in C. The concert took place in the First Presbyterian Church in Naples. I got to the venue pretty early because I knew the parking lot was small, and I generally prefer to be early to concerts and rehearsals rather than stressing at the last minute. What was a nice surprise was that I had a real "dressing" room, which, given that this is not always the case with churches and run-outs, was a real nice treat. (The fact that the dressing room was called the "Robing Room" was not lost upon me) The room was of a nice size, and had a carpeted floor. I did something that I have not ever done pre-concert: I took advantage of the empty space, extra time, and carpeted floor to stretch! I really enjoy stretching, and try to get some good stretching done several times a week. I've noticed much improvement in my back and posture just by regularly stretching. The difference here was that this stretch became part of the pre-concert ritual in a way that it never had before, and I really liked it! It got me thinking about other pre-concert rituals.
- Quiet time on the way to the venue: When I'm driving or traveling to the concert venue, I don't want conversation to be initiated with me. I may be thinking about the rehearsals, or the music to come, or maybe I'm just letting my mind wander (less often). But when I have family or friends in town and we are going to the concert together, these thoughts are interrupted, and I have a hard time focusing. Whether I'm driving, or walking, and whether it is a few minutes or a half hour, it doesn't matter. I want this time for my thoughts.
- Day of concert rest: I need to spend a little time off my feet. I recently got custom orthotics and that has helped my foot pain tremendously. But I still will get tired on my feet, so if I can spend an hour or two on a bed or couch during the day, with my feet elevated, I know it will be worth it later. I also usually use this time to go through the music one more time, either physically or in my head. Maybe I check some tempos. Maybe I think about what I have to say if I will be addressing the audience. Maybe I look up some more background information on the pieces, refresh my memory for some factoids that I may have forgotten.
- Meals: I don't want to eat TOO close to the concert, but I am someone who has a fast metabolism, so I cannot NOT eat anything before the concert, as plenty of my peers do. I like to have a small but balanced dinner (usually protein and vegetables, skipping the carbs) a few hours before the performance. I will probably have some nuts or a granola bar with me in the hall in case I get hungry and need a little bit of extra calories for the second half.
- Coffee: I have always loved drinking coffee but I pretty much have one or two cups a day. On a concert day, I am more likely than not to have an espresso in the mid/late afternoon. Too much caffeine makes me jittery, but a little bit helps keep the focus there.
None of these are set in stone, and I have had to think hard to think about what I do, simply because every concert day is different in some way or other. I think I am pretty easy going and fortunate that I can adapt to whatever my day looks like. I also know that I have great focus once I'm out on stage, so I don't mind being backstage and talking with musicians and staff almost up until I go out on stage. Once I'm out there, 100% of focus is on music, and hopefully the rest of the day has gone in such a way as to make me physically and mentally ready to devote all my energy to the music at hand.