TRAVERSE CITY — Say “outdoor concert” to an orchestra manager and you’ll likely see the multi-tasker cringe.
Performing en plein air is notoriously fraught with disaster — from wind, rain and humidity that can hamper players and their instruments’ tonality, to audience distractions like rustling leaves and road noise.
“I have played in tents that leaked around the seams,” said Traverse City musician Rick Jaissle. “I can remember playing an Oktoberest and one of the seams from the wall to the ceiling leaked so the drummer had to wear a raincoat.”
None of that should come into play when the Traverse Symphony Orchestra presents its first outdoor concert since going professional 13 years ago. “TSO @ the Village at Grand Traverse Commons” will take place under a 20,000-square-foot “grand event tent” that can hold 4,000 people.
“We can cover everyone — audience and performers,” said Sam Porter of Traverse City-based Porterhouse Productions and Tent Venue, producers of the July 19 event.
That’s a load off Jaissle's mind. The TSO manager of operations and orchestra personnel is tasked with making sure that all the amenities present in a concert hall — from a place to secure instruments to separate changing areas for men and women — are provided for the orchestra outdoors.
“The biggest thing for us is the wind,” he said, adding that orchestra members will bring clothespins to clip their music to their music stands. “The wind does affect sound but one of the things about the tent we’re playing in is that it has acoustic capabilities. If you have a shape around you, then the sound can travel around the walls so it enhances the sound.”
Two outdoor rehearsals will help the musicians get used to the sound — having sound and light equipment onstage is another adjustment they’ll have to make — and their instruments to get used to the humidity.