Why Are Concerts In St Andrews So Poorly Attended?

Younger Hall is used for something, it turns out.

With the advent of spring and the winding down of second term, it is the time of year for groups and societies to showcase all of their work since January. Nowhere is this more true than with regards to St Andrews’ respectable concert scene; earlier this month the University of St Andrews Symphony Orchestra performed two astounding pieces by Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, and just this past week Scotland’s paramount national orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, graced Younger Hall with a rendition of Beethoven’s symphony Eroica. This Wednesday is the St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra Spring Concert.

However, for reasons unbeknownst to myself, orchestral concerts in this town, both casual lunchtime piano recitals and much larger events such as the ones mentioned, are always subject to notoriously low turnouts. Having witnessed both events in the past few weeks, I was struck first and foremost by the abysmal attendance; whole rows of Younger Hall auditorium (not necessarily a large venue to begin with) were empty, and still more people upped and left at intermission (apparently not even a vendor from Jannettas could have tempted all to remain for the full concert). With the StAFCO concert right around the corner, it is feared that this event too will be just as poorly attended.

What’s more: of those that do attend these events, older guests, likely a mix of St Andrews locals and members of the University faculty, drastically outnumber the amount of students in the audience. Though I haven’t reached out to Music Society for the official statistics of their last few concerts, I would estimate that at each concert there could not have been more than fifty students in attendance. For a University of over ten thousand students, that number is nothing short of unacceptable. 

So why, then, is this the case? How could a University whose students consider themselves to be so cultured, erudite, and appreciative of the fine arts shy away from the numerous and valuable opportunities afforded to them by St Andrews’ thriving concert scene? How can one blow anywhere from £25-£75 on multiple ludicrous balls yet not attend a symphony at Younger Hall for five quid per student ticket? 

Beyond that, it’s a matter of supporting your community. Each member of the multiple orchestras who have performed this spring has been rehearsing at least since January, all the while dissecting and refining their respective parts to the point of perfection over many long hours. I know that, generally speaking, the brevity of the common millennials attention span prevents one from being able to sit for a few hours to light classical or baroque music (the word soporific comes to mind), but surely one can at least put in the effort as means to support their fellow students and members of their community.

Like any play, art show, or almost any other event in this town, concerts require months of strenuous work to prepare, and the result is nothing short of magical. The works of composers such as Beethoven and Grieg (both of whom will be featured this Wednesday) are among the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, and it is disappointing that only a minute percentage of students decide to come experience it when the opportunity presents itself. So take a break from balls, polo, and revision this week and come to the concert on Wednesday to – hopefully – see what I mean.

I should also mention that it’s free. So what’s your excuse now?



27 thoughts on “Why Are Concerts In St Andrews So Poorly Attended?

  1. While I appreciate your attempt to get more students to attend concerts, I’d like to point out that Younger Hall actually seats 1000, so cannot at all be considered a small venue. Quite often, concerts look like they aren’t well attended simply because of the size of the hall (there may be hundreds of people there and it is barely half full). Also I’m not sure how many concerts you’ve been to, but I think saying only 50 students were in attendance is way below the true figure. Of course, still keen for more people to attend!

  2. I’m not sure I would agree that concerts in St Andrews are particularly poorly attended. In fact I would argue that, put in context of average concert attendance in the UK, St. Andrews does pretty well. Would also like to point out that neither insulting your target audience (“the brevity of the common millennials attention span”) nor trying to diminish the artistic power of the music on offer (“light classical or baroque music (the word soporific comes to mind)” seem particularly effective ways to encourage people to step outside their comfort zone and try something new.

  3. It’s true, orchestral concerts in St Andrews could be better attended and a lot can be said about how well the Music Centre and the SCO promote their concerts.
    However I would point out that the Music Society Symphony Orchestra’s most recent concert (the one the writer mentions) was attended by around 500 people. That’s enough to sellout the Byre Theatre four times and still have people leftover. The Younger Hall is the largest concert venue in St Andrews despite the writer saying it is ‘not necessarily a large venue’; the fact that some seats were empty does not mean attendance was poor. Compare the numbers to any arts event in St Andrews. More than half, the majority, of the people at the Music Society concert were students. As the writer admits, he did not ask the Society for statistics regarding attendance. This is plainly obvious to anyone who attended and to be frank the estimate of 50 students is woefully inaccurate.

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