From the perspective of an audience member, it is easy to see (literally) that all concerts have certain staging requirements. For example, if an orchestra is featured, a plot map lays out the placement of podium/chairs/stands/risers, and if the concert is to feature piano, then of course a piano will be on stage, and so on. But, depending on the artist, there are usually a myriad of requirements that no one outside of our production team ever sees and which are in direct support of what happens out on stage. All of these requirements are spelled out in what is called a Technical Rider, which is provided by the artist’s management. “Tech” riders are vital for a performance to run smoothly and are welcomed by all MBF staff so that we know far in advance what is needed and expected of us.
While some tech riders can run for several pages, the most common rider is usually just a single page with a few bullet points outlining specific on- and off-stage requirements. To give one very basic example, string quartets commonly ask for 1) four music stands that can be adjusted to a very low height, 2) three chairs that slope forward, 3) one piano bench for the cellist, 4) water, juice and healthy snack foods in the green room, and so on. Common-sense stuff. No surprises. But, over the years MBF has had a number of very unusual requests. We once had a solo artist with a tech rider that stated that we must hand them a shot of whisky at the end of the concert as they walked off stage. In a rare moment, I must admit I wondered about this one, but in fact their manager telephoned the day before the concert to verify that this would really happen. And, despite my reservations about this particular request, the MBF crew never question anything in a tech rider and are always prepared.
Another unusual request found in a tech rider stated that the artist wanted four bottles of wine in the green room, two of which were to be from local vineyards. Still others have included nearly any dietary need or desire you can imagine, such as fine dark chocolate, particular fruits, club sandwiches, and full-course meals. Non-edible requests have included clothing steamers, hand towels and even assistants to aid in wardrobe changes during intermission. And, the list truly goes on and on. Even requests for tuning the piano vary. Solo pianists never care, but most string players typically like the piano to be tuned to A442 (the hertz frequency for the note A above middle C). Common tuning in the United States is A440 and in Europe/Asia it is A442. Keeping in mind how minute a difference between these two frequencies is, I am thus always amused when we get a (very rare) request for A441. A441? Really? No problem…got it covered.
So, it is extremely important to everyone at MBF to provide our artists with everything they need and to do our best to anticipate anything they themselves have not even thought of. Like the time a crew member asked an artist if he would like chilled or room-temperature water. He expressed significant surprise at the question because in his 40+ years on the concert stage, literally no one had ever asked him that before. Turns out he absolutely had a preference.
At first glance, all of this might seem quite silly, but I (and the entire staff) am very sympathetic to all requests. I travel extensively overseas, and have had many challenging experiences in my concert career. So, tech riders are vitally important for an artist to have a degree of predictability wherever they go. It is important that we also keep in mind that many of our artists spend as many as 250 nights per year in a hotel, so anything we can do to make their stay with us more comfortable is of the highest priority. We may be amused at some of the more unusual requests, but we never question them. So, as you enjoy the concerts this summer, know that everything before you is deeply choreographed, from everything you can see to everything you can’t see.
– Ned Kirk, Artistic & Managing Director