crowd control for harpers

Dave & Laura McKinstry dalm at
Wed Sep 13 04:46:00 PDT 1995

I used to run a planetarium, and my best method for crowd control was crowd
involvement.  Of course, in a planetarium you have a captive audience, since
you very nearly lock the door behind them, and your greatest concern is not
having them walk off, but start snoring in the dark. Therefor, a little
brain-challenging keeps them active and keeps you from feeling like just
another thing to trip over in the dark.  I think there are some situations
where this will work, though there will always be the situation where you
are supposed to be background music, in which case you should assume
everybody loves you and you're doing your job well because they walk past
you as if they're not there, but they seem happy.

I always start with a "Where are you from?" question, then tie one of the
answers in to what I'm doing.  For example, say, "Is any one from out of
town?" and when you get a raised hand, say, "WHere are you from?" to which
you may get the answer, "Ohio." THen say, "Oh, I have a song about the banks
of the Ohio River.  Now you tell me, does the guy who wrote this song sound
like a psychopath, or is it just me?" Then launch into "Banks of Ohio"
which, by the way, DOES sound like a song written by a psychopath.  If you
can do this, I guarantee you will have their attention.  And they'll listen
even after the song is over,they'll keep listening, because, by gosh, you
play some strange music.  You'll also have them listening to words, which to
be honest, many people don't unless you give them a reason to, which you
just have.

THere are many good songs that you can use in this way.  Tie your question
into the music.  If you've got "The Courting of Biddy Magee" in your back
pocket, ask people how long they've been married.  Start with one year, go
to two, until you've identified the person with the longest marriage, then
say, "SIr (or Madam) this one is for you." THose of you who know the lyrics
will appreciate the humor.  This way, also, you are playing music you know
as if by request, and the people you are playing for, at least, will stand
and listen, because your music has become a gift horse and they're not going
to look it in the mouth. OR at least very few people will, and if anyone
does, (it's never happend to me, but nothing's impossible) you'll get
sympathy listening from the rest of the crowd, which still serves as crowd

This method can be used with non-lyric music as well.  For example, the
Skye-boat song, ("Over Sea and Sky") which, DOES have lyrics, but is often
played without them.  Find out if anyone has a baby, and tell them the song
is about a ship that will carry the infant that is the crown prince through
the sky (By the way, can anyone tell me what this song is really about? It
sounds like it's about death, but you don't have to tell them that.)  Ask
them if they can hear the wind in the music, then start to play.

One way or another, get the crowd involved in your music; find their cause
for interest, then give them enough information that they want to know more
by listening. Little tidbits that bring the music alive for them.  It will
help the musically challenged become connected with the music, and that's a
beautiful thing.

-Fenris (The Laura half of that Dave and Laura signature)

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