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Estimating Concert length

Dear Listers,

Interesting responses and great help. Thanks to all who responded to my query about incidental time:

"Do any of you have a rule of thumb or formula for calculating the incidental time (in between pieces and applause, etc.) for concerts? Of course this would vary alot, but I wondered if anyone has come up with a tried and true technique for figuring this out?"

Many thanks and bless this great resource!

An inexact science. When I time the pieces, I take what I hear to be conservative tempi, then round the timing off to the next 15-second mark after the end of the piece. Then I throw in some extra time, depending on how musch on/off traffic there might be, or audience size and response, or whatev4er announcements I might make from the podium (I do like to be somewhat interactive with the aiudience, but not long-winded!!). The in-betweentimedoes take up (ALWAYS) more than you think it will. So that a 90-minute concert including a 10-minute intermission might include only 60-65 minutes of actual music.

Brooks Grantier, THe Battle CreekBoychoir, Battle Creek, MI

I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for or not - but I usually figure 5 minutes per piece. For most of the programming I do this is enough time to perform the song and take into account applause and any 'rearranging' that might need to occur between numbers / choirs. In most cases this method usually has been 10-15 minutes more time than the concerts have actually taken. I hope this helps!
This has worked pretty well for me: I time each piece I plan to do. I add one minute between pieces if I plan not to talk between numbers, or two minutes if I decide to announce the program as I go along (briefly). You need to add an estimate of time need to get on stage or change groups, etc.

Fred Ford
East Brunswick, NJ

I take a stopwatch and time it at a concert, then use that as my rule of thumb.

Margaret Shannon
Program Annotator
Cathedral Choral Society
Washington National Cathedral
This comment branches off onto another subject......a formula would not apply to my programming. I'm very weary of programs with applause after every number. I run pieces together without a pause, arranging the sequence so that there's a meaningful flow. I often seem to have three sections before and after intermission, in a 90-minute concert.
This means less time for applause within a concert, but when it comes it's very warm and satisfying!

Ruth McKendree Treen
Chatham, Massachusetts
I usually figure about 90 - 120 seconds between numbers, depending on if there is applause or not. That may seem like a lot, but I like to allow the sound to clear and the singers to refocus before beginning the next piece - especially if there is a change of tonality, style, or rhythm. The ear needs time to absorb things. I also find that I tend to take things just slightly slower in performance than I do in rehearsal (it wasn't that way earlier in my career - but I now find that I want more room for the music to breathe in performance - without the time pressures of rehearsal.)

I'm sure everyone does it differently, but overestimating the length by a few minutes is generally less of a problem than underestimating it!

Charles Q. Sullivan
figure three minutes per octavo, usually that works for me inclusive of applause... extended work I use actual time given in the score. 20 octavo is an hour program. Just for estimation purposes.
Mike Wade

I usually program in 10 seconds for applause for each song without a solo,15 for songs with a soloist(s), 30 seconds for a major work, 30-45 seconds for end of an act. In addition, I count about 5 seconds preparation before the sound of each new song after the applause ends and the same before a new
section of a major work for preparation and focus of group and conductor.

Sometimes this holds true; sometimes it doesn't. The size of your audience has a lot to do with it. We rarely perform before more than 300 and sometimes before a considerably smaller audience.

Cindy Pribble
I figure from 10 to 15 sec. Between songs and 1 minute if choirs are coming on or off stage. I time students' introductions of pieces if such exist.

Mary Rago

Cynthia Powell
Music Director
Christ Church
Ridgewood, NJ

on November 9, 2005 10:00pm
Wow, this is a great conversation. I'm planning an Advent Lessons and Carols in December for my adult choir, children's choir, orchestra, handbells, drama team, dance team, and visuals. I really haven't a clue about the length. The only thing I can think to do is to time the musical elements during rehearsals and then ask my drama team director to time her pieces. I have a feeling though that I've planned way too much. It's supposed to be an hour and 15 minutes. But it will be at least an hour and a half I'm sure.
on February 6, 2009 10:00pm
The most accurate way to get a time for any piece without singing through each piece is to (beware, math involved): Take the number of beats in each measure and multiply how many measures in the piece, the divide that by the tempo marking. For instance a piece in 3/4 time with 212 measures and a tempo marking of 76 would take approximately 8 minutes and 22 seconds.
3*212=636 and 636/76=8.37 and convert the decimal to seconds and 8 min, 22 sec is the length of the piece. Good luck!