Audrey’s Five Tips for Touring

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go on tour? Have you dreamt of hitting the open road with nothing but a set list and a smile? Well, we decided to do just that – for the fourth year in a row – and here are some of the most important things we learned this year:
1. Perform a surprise concert in your home town to kick off the tour.
The Rolling Stones have famously given one surprise concert before heading out on each of their tours; the Bigger Bang Tour rehearsals took place in a private school in Toronto, and a surprise concert took place at the Phoenix Club, where 1000 people saw their show first for just ten dollars per person, the club’s regular cover charge. This sort of a gesture might seem exclusively beneficial to the audience members who find out about it, but this was an incredibly powerful element to this year’s tour success. Performing our set list for a home crowd gave us the chance to get a performance under our feet in a familiar space and the opportunity to touch base with some of our most loyal fans before hitting the road.
2. Make one incredible set list. Stick to it.
The CSQ’s mandate to bring, ‘Chamber Music to the Masses’ often leads us to performing curious concert repertoire in incredible locations; previous tours have found us making flashmob performances in shopping centers, schools, and bustling small town main streets. This variety of performing continued to be at the heart of this year’s tour focus. However, instead of personalizing our repertoire to each location we visited, we decided to distill our favourite elements of previous tour programs and share one quality program with our audiences across the board. This choice not only allowed us more rehearsal time on fewer pieces, but it also linked together each community we visited in a more powerful way than ever before.
3. Go where you know.
We decided to start planning our August tour quite late in the game, only having a few months to confirm venues and send out promotional materials. Choosing locations for these condensed tour dates was challenging, especially with the added instability of having no external funding. But instead of throwing in the towel, we decided to create a list of ‘deal breakers’ in an effort to protect our fragile budget and ensure financial viability. And I am so glad we did. Each of our provincial ‘long-stops’, (Maple Creek in Saskatchewan and Brooks in Alberta) featured carefully-planned and publicized performances, with diverse audience demographics in attendance, a solid turnout at all of our ticketed events, and several invitations to return or to build to a new market in a neighbouring community. We started with the network we trusted and built this tour on a solid foundation.
4. Ask for feedback.
Performing contemporary Canadian repertoire was one of the new goals added to our list of touring objectives this year. The piece we chose was a perfect opener for the second half of the concert program, but we were prepared for the possibility that such a new world of sound might come to some audience members as a bit of a shock. And yes, there were some that professed their lack of favouritism with this piece, but the majority of our rural audiences not only enjoyed the contemporary piece, but expressed that it was their favourite part of the whole program. Lesson learned.
5. Tour with people you love.
Everyone knows that touring can be difficult. This year’s tour schedule was gruelling: being far away from loved ones, rehearsing intensively for five days, performing six shows in four days, travelling in the middle of the night from mid-west Alberta to Regina, Saskatchewan, and finishing with a recording session on the evening following our last performance, we knew that we had a long road ahead of us. But as daunting as it was, we were committed to making music and to becoming an impactful artistic experience for our audience members, and we had an incredible time. Our team of family, friends, and communities set the stage, and my CSQ colleagues / friends / musicians / tour mates were an irreplaceable, essential, indescribably important part of this year’s joyful, musical, wonderful tour. As once said by Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.’ Thanks to my colleagues and our support team for making this tour sing.