The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston reports that it recently had a favorable response when it asked audience members to turn on their cell phones and text responses to a world premiere. ROCO received 39 responses when it played the piece, Carter Pann’s Mercury Concerto, at its April 18 season-finale concert at Houston’s Church of St. John the Divine, led by Alastair Willis. Pann’s concerto, commissioned by ROCO and featuring ROCO principal flute Christina Jennings, received virtual bravos as well as references to “the powerful rumble of thunder at the musical pause, a sign of divine approval”—the concert took place during a torrential downpour. Concertgoers sent the texted responses during intermission by sending comments to a cell phone number. The orchestra says that the texting experiment began at an October 2008 concert led by JoAnne Falletta. Other ROCO initiatives undertaken with the goal of establishing a closer dialogue with its audience include a raffle for four concertgoers to sit onstage during performances, and encouraging patrons to “adopt” specific musicians by sponsoring a chair for the season for a specified donation, and by offering to provide housing and transportation for musicians who travel to Houston to perform. The 40-member ensemble was established in 2005 by Alecia Lawyer, who also serves as its principal oboe.

Posted May 15, 2009