Trinity’s new 2019 Performance Diplomas Syllabus now only requires detailed programme notes at FTCL level. For this exam, the requirements are 1200-1600 words (as in the 2009-2018 syllabus), and the content of the programme notes might include the musical and historical context of the pieces, their structure and form, and significant musical elements contained within them.
Audiences (and examiners) enjoy learning about the thinking that goes into planning a programme. Your investigation into the pieces, and the construction of the programme itself, not only helps audiences’ understanding of the music and performance, but through actively engaging them as a listener, adds another dimension to their expectation and enjoyment.
If you have not performed in public already, you may go on to give lunchtime or evening recitals, for which the provision of programme notes is common practice. Whilst the main ‘consumer’ of the programme notes is your audience, the process of researching and developing your knowledge of the pieces enhances your ability to give an authentic performance and communicate the music to the audience/examiner.
Your programme can comprise as many works as you wish, whilst taking the time limit into consideration. These should form a balanced programme in terms of style and contrast whilst establishing your own artistic identity.
Having chosen the pieces you are going to play in your recital, it’s now time to think both about the bigger picture and the more intimate details.
There are certain themes that should be included in your programme notes. Suggestions of elements to include are:
Your audience is interested in learning about what you hear as significant about a composition. Choosing which details to illuminate and which to leave out is important – we don’t require the finer details of the inner workings of a piece, we’d like to know why you have selected it as part of your wider programme.
If you limit the learning process of your pieces to your own practice and teacher modelling, you will be missing out on different perspectives. To greater communicate the music through your performance and programme notes:
Use different kinds of sources. Some good sources are:
What you should and should not include:
Citation and Plagiarism
It is as easy for an examiner to type text into an internet search engine as it is you, so ‘cutting and pasting’ is really not advisable and could result in disqualification. In addition, copying someone else’s work will not give you anything in return. Plagiarism is the theft of the words and ideas of others by portraying them as your own. This is not to say you cannot use quotations and short extracts from other sources, but you must cite the author and the source.
In the same way that you want to look good on stage, the appearance of the programme notes should reflect the quality aimed for in every other aspect of the exam. Consider how you may best present the programme visually in order to convey the information required.
You might like to examine programmes from professional concerts, many of which can be found online. For example:
The programme can be accessed through the ‘Download Program’ link on the right hand side of that page.
Your programme should follow these guidelines:
Your programme notes should contain the texts and translations of songs, ideally in facing columns to allow the reader to cross-refer. Please note that these texts will not count towards the required 1200—1600 words for the FTCL diploma.
Our best advice to you, would be to undertake each aspect of your diploma with diligence and conduct sufficient research when putting together your programme notes, allowing yourself the time to produce something of which you can be proud.