We have now broadcast 128 concerts from an empty St Mary’s Perivale in less than a year, since June 2020. They have provided performing opportunities and financial support for musicians through the lockdown, and have enabled St Mary’s Perivale to remain an active concert venue through these unprecedented times. This has only been possible because of the superb video broadcasting system installed by our excellent technical team, led by Simon Shute, and comprising George Auckland, Andrew Whadcoat, Rob Jenkins and Truus Bos, ably supported by Roger Nellist, Andrew Goodhart and Richard Norris. More information on the events of the past year is available here. After so many concerts we need feedback from our viewers, so this short questionnaire was distributed by email to about 1480 people on 14 May 2021, and replies were received from 190 people. Although this is an indifferent response rate, the survey gives a useful qualitative assessment from some of our keenest supporters.
What do you particularly LIKE about our broadcasts ?
The most frequent response, from 63 people, was the consistently superb quality of the musicians, and (from 45) the excellent choice and variety of the music. Twenty one liked the ‘live’ nature of our broadcasts, and 7 also mentioned the option to watch the concerts later on. Twenty mentioned the informal ambience and conviviality of the concerts, and 12 the beautiful setting. Seventeen praised the sound and vision quality of the broadcasts, and 7 mentioned the interesting camera angles, particularly for pianists’ hands. Fourteen mentioned our support for young musicians. In other responses, 5 liked being able to enjoy the concerts from home, 5 liked ‘everything’, 4 thought the concerts were a good length, 4 enjoyed hearing performers talk about their repertoire, and 3 appreciated the 4 pm timing of the broadcasts.
It is gratifying that the amazing quality of our musicians and the variety and quality of music on offer are rated so highly, and we are pleased that our informal and relaxed ambience transmits so well through the ether. The positive remarks about our sound and vision, and camera angles, are a tribute to our superb technical team. It is interesting that our viewers enjoy watching ‘live’ events rather than the millions of recorded events available to view instead.
Is there anything you do NOT like about our broadcasts ?
76 respondents declared that there was nothing they took exception to. The most common fault was the occasionally ‘flaky’ internet, with ‘glitches’ in the live transmission, mentioned by 21 (16%) respondents, although some noted that these were becoming less frequent. 12 stated that the sound quality was indifferent, at least on some occasion, and 4 complained of the relatively poor visual quality of the livestream broadcasts. Other points raised by more than one respondent included criticism of the quality of our piano (3), the strangeness of having no audience (3), the inconvenience of live broadcasts at 4 pm (3), too many piano recitals (2) and too much standard repertoire (2).
The occasional internet problems relate to our old telephone line which extends over a golf course, and cannot cope with high definition broadcasts. British Telecom are currently installing a fibre connection which should solve these problems in the near future. And we are installing more microphones and sophisticated audio software to improve the sound quality of our broadcasts.
How often do you watch them ?
50.8% less than once per week
41% once or twice per week
8.2% 3 or more times per week
Do you watch them LIVE at 4 pm or later ?
Comment: We upload a better quality (high definition or HD) version of each concert later, but obviously there is a special ‘frisson’ in watching a LIVE event as it happens, from 4 to 5 pm, even with slightly inferior visual quality, with all the uncertainty which that can provide
Do you watch them on a TV, a computer or a phone ?
Comment: This is important information for our technical team, since the quality (particularly the sound) on most laptops, tablets and phones is sub-optimal and we will to adjust our system to cope with the various different devices.
Have you any suggestions re the choice of musicians and music ?
63 respondents declared that they were happy with the current balance of music and musicians. 10 emphasized the need to maintain the current variety in our programming. 10 were enjoying the jazz concerts. 8 wanted more chamber ensembles (trios, quartets etc) whereas 5 wanted more solo piano recitals. 7 suggested some vocal items, 4 wanted more 20 th century music, 3 requested more unusual instruments, 3 more lectures and 2 more wind music.
Comment: The varied responses seem to support the current mixture of music and musicians. Viewing figures are significantly higher for piano recitals and lower for big chamber ensembles, so we have tended to increase the proportion of piano music, but we will maintain the variety (including jazz concerts) and include some unusual instruments and occasional lectures, as requested, as well as some more adventurous repertoire.
We hope to resume concerts with an audience in the Autumn, depending on the Covid regulations. If so are you likely to come to them ?
Yes definitely 48.1%
If you replied ‘Yes definitely’ or ‘Possibly’ would you still come if you had to wear a face mask during the concert ?
Yes definitely 63.1%
Comment : This is a heartening response, and important information in planning the next few months. Most of those replying ‘no’ will be respondents living too far away to travel to the church. The wearing of face masks during the concert doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of our local supporters. It is too early to plan our re-opening in detail, since it depends on the Covid situation and the regulations in force later in the year, but we will be addressing these issues over the summer.
Have you any other comments or suggestions on our concerts ?
There were many kind and generous comments from viewers which are very gratifying for our team. A typical one is thus – Apologies for not coming to the concerts but I am a bed bound 92 yr old and you have my heartfelt gratitude for letting me hear such glorious music making! 12 emphasized that we must continue the broadcasts after we have resumed concerts with an audience, and 19 stated that they lived too far away to attend in person. 5 expressed some reservations re the Covid situation in the Autumn, and 2 mentioned concerns about inadequate ventilation in the church.
Comment : We are very grateful for the tremendous support conveyed in so many warm messages. We will indeed keep the broadcasts going indefinitely, and we are investing considerable resources to optimize their quality. Future concerts, whenever life returns to ‘normal’ will be aimed at both the audience in the church and our virtual audience around the world. As for the Covid risk, we will adhere to the regulations re social distancing and masks etc, and it will then be for everyone to assess any residual risk in coming to the church. This is likely to be vanishingly small in a vaccinated person, but no-one can predict whether this might alter over the summer.
Conclusions : We are grateful for all the positive responses and kind messages of support from our viewers, particularly re the quality of music and musicians. The occasional problems with the internet connection and sub-optimal sound are being actively addressed at the moment. When BT have completed the fibre link to the church, our broadcast quality will be markedly improved, and the extra microphones and audio software will produce improved sound quality. Otherwise our concerts will continue as before until the summer. Later in the year, we hope to re-admit our local supporters to the church, but it is too early to be dogmatic about this, because of the changing Covid situation and regulations. Ultimately it will be everyone’s personal decision as to whether they wish to attend a concert in person, rather than watching the broadcast at home. In any case, our broadcasts will continue as before, with at least 3 concerts per week planned throughout the Autumn.