Belgium: Concertgebouw Brugge

Concertgebouw Brugge, a venue in the pretty Belgian town that presents music and contemporary dance, takes its education and participation programmes beyond the usual post-show talks and standard school visits by putting the audience in the creators’ shoes.

Receiving an average of 15,000 visitors a year, the Sound Factory (which opened in 2011) is the venue’s flagship initiative. In collaboration with Musea Brugge, a series of sound installations dotted around the Concertgebouw provide an interactive space for visitors.

Works include Klankentoren by Aernoudt Jacobs, a soundscape containing 150 bell sounds taken from the towers of the city; and Refrakt, an audiovisual work by sound artist Esther Venrooy and architect Olivier Goethals, which uses the light and shadow of a staircase to create an auditory representation of the space.

 Concertgebouw audiences enjoying Sound Factory © Paul Willaert.

Concertgebouw audiences enjoying Sound Factory © Paul Willaert.

‘We opened the Sound Factory to enable a broad public to interactively learn about sound art, and thereby to make the link with contemporary serious music,’ says the venue’s artistic director Jeroen Vanacker. ‘Under the motto “anyone can compose”, we also wanted to stimulate everyone’s creativity with sound installations that can be played intuitively and without prior knowledge.’

Whilst visitors can freely explore the Sound Factory throughout the day, the Concertgebouw also offers intensive workshops using the space, which include a guided tour exploring sound, space and acoustics, followed by an activity using the Factory’s sound installations. ‘Even children and inexperienced adults say that they have discovered unexpected musical talents. And although everyone acquires some new knowledge, it is the delight in playing that is paramount,’ says Vanacker.

Youngsters aged 12-20 who want to take their interest in composition even further can create original works through ‘The Times they are a-changin’’ programme. Participants receive coaching from composers Bram Van Camp and Hanne Deneire, and the most interesting works from each age group are performed by the HERMESensemble during a concert at the venue.

‘We are convinced that a visit to the Concertgebouw has more effect if you are actively engaged in music yourself,’ says Vanacker. ‘An introduction to music should not be a purely passive experience. It is essential for one’s involvement to participate actively, and what better way is there than creating something yourself?’

There is also a real emphasis on using the architecture of the venue as a form of inspiration. The First Class Concerts, which are aimed at children aged six and seven, situate activities and workshops in several of the venue’s spaces. ‘This way they have a guided tour of the architecture of the building without being aware of it,’ says Vanacker. ‘And it goes without saying that the children are enthralled when they enter the Concert Hall or go up around the spiral to the top of the Chamber Music Hall.’

Children at Concertgebouw © Paul Willaert

Children at Concertgebouw © Paul Willaert

The venue plans to develop its education schemes even further through an expansion of the Sound Factory using new music software, and the preparation of a large-scale project for 17-year-olds which is set to begin this year. ‘Another very exciting project is a pioneering performance work we are preparing with our resident orchestra, Anima Eterna Brugge, and the CREW live-art group,’ continues Vanacker. ‘Wearing video goggles and headphones, both young and old will be able to take a virtual visit to the Concert Hall and an orchestral rehearsal. It’s a fascinating experience that’s already arousing great interest among fellow organisers in Belgium and abroad.’

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