Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Perfectly Practical #197 - Concert Etiquette


A couple of weeks ago, we attended the wonderful premier of Kermit Poling's fabulous orchestral soundtrack to the 1918 silent film "Tarzan of the Apes" and it prompted me to think about concert etiquette.

One of my favorite classes in college was required of all freshman music majors - a 1 hour lecture on concert etiquette.  It was invaluable.  Sadly, it was not a requirement for the freshmen once I was an upperclassman...and it was very evident by the audience's behavior that it should have been.

Not everyone has the fun of being a music major with a concert etiquette requirement, so here are a few things to be aware of at an orchestral concert.  Many of these concepts apply to other concerts as well:

  1. Get there and seated on time - Technically, when the hall doors are closed, no one should come in or out.  If one must enter or exit the hall, one may do so while the audience is applauding.  It is a distraction for the performers and audience if people are shuffling up and down and in and out.  The same is true for the intermission; come back with a couple of minutes to spare.  This goes for the performers as well (ah hem...Mr. Cello who made a ruckus running down the aisle to the stage and caused the concert to start late.)  
  2. Turn off devices - Or at least put them on silent.  I realize there are extenuating circumstances, like when we took Anthony to a concert with us and I had to keep my phone on vibrate in case the transplant call came in.  Generally, the phone being on does not constitute life and death situations.
  3. Know when to applaud - While the orchestra is warming-up, the audience is not expected to pay attention.  But as soon as the Concertmaster (1st chair violinist) walks out, the audience is to clap.  He'll take a bow and begin tuning the orchestra.  Applaud again as the Conductor walks out, the orchestra stands, and the Concertmaster and Conductor shake hands.  The Conductor will turn around and raise her hands to signal the orchestra to watch her.  Even if the sound stops, if the Conductor's hands are in the air, the audience is not to clap.  Wait for the Conductor's hands to drop before applauding; don't clap between movements.  If there is a soloist, the audience applauds as they take the stage and then again once the piece is finished.  Again, watch your program and their body language to let you know when a piece is finished rather than relying on the sound to stop to tell you when to applaud.
  4. Standing ovations are not required - Unless you find the piece particularly moving, a standing ovation isn't required.  It is supposed to be the highest honor, don't feel pressure to stand just because others are.  
Most importantly, enjoy the concert.  

This is part of WFMW.

24 comments:

  1. I love the idea of that class! I learned most of it following the lead of my parents when we went to concerts but even now there are moments when I follow the lead of the rest of the audience-particularly the clapping! Great post :)

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    1. That's absolutely the best way to learn Ms. Moira, from your parents through observation and experience. :)

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  2. Happy SITS Day! I hope you have a great one!

    These are some great reminders. I haven't been to a concert in a long time, but one of the things I love about them is the formal aspect of them. I love the respect that is given to the artist(s), at least when it is given. I was in band in high school and when we had concerts, so I remember what it was like to be on the receiving end. I know that I appreciate what they do so much because of my experience, and it is only right to give proper respect and use proper etiquette in this matter.

    On a side note, we went to a competition between bands during high school, and I remember one in particular where there was a sign posted about not going in during the performances, and we had arrived too late to hear some of our friends play (our bus was late). There was a man posted outside the door, and he informed us that they had just started and we were not allowed in under any circumstances. We couldn't hear the concert all that well, but we had no choice. It was enjoy from the hall or not at all. It was a case of learning the lesson the hard way: show up on time or wait until intermission and miss out, as it should be.

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    1. Our daughter's piano recitals have a doorman as well keeping people in/out during performances and many a parent or grandparent has also found out the hard way to be in their seat.

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  3. Love these reminders! I did theatre in high school, and I wish some of the audience members would have read your tips, especially about phones. It's like a blue beckon in the audience!!!

    Happy SITS Day!

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    1. Oh how I know that blue beacon well. Just because the performers can't hear you texting, doesn't mean they can't see you glowing. Thanks! :)

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  4. Congratulations on your SITS Day! I performed classical violin for quite a few years. Kudos to you for supporting musicianship.

    thefiftycoop.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks! We are a household of musicians so performing for and being a part of an appreciative audience is important to us.

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  5. I recently heard a radio interview on this topic, but specifically focused on coughing. It would seem that coughing at a classic music performance is frowned upon. Hard to control I would think. Visiting via you SITS day.

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    1. Interesting. I'm not sure that one can be fully responsible for coughing or sneezing at a concert. ;) In that case, I personally would try to stifle my coughing as much as I could then get to the closest exit as quickly as possible once applause has started and slip out.

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  6. This is an oh so important and little talked about or taught etiquette!! Thanks for sharing it!!

    Happy SITS day!

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    1. People and especially children aren't exposed to live music much anymore other than rock concerts or Sesame Street Live so there isn't the opportunity for them to experience and learn from that kind of audience.

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  7. Nothing makes me MORE angry than someone who comes in when the show has started. That's with everything....musicals, concerts, MOVIES....ugh inconsiderate people!

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    1. Movies are the worst about people texting, or worse, TALKING on their cellphones while the show has started. Dear, oh dear...

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  8. We are most definitely a musical family and I love going to the Meyerson here in Dallas. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips for those that are not accustomed to partaking in the fine arts. Hopefully it will encourage someone to step out of their comfort zone and attend a concert!

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    1. The Meyerson is WONDERFUL! That organ is to die for!

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  9. Oh this is so important. I have season tickets to the opera and every time I go, I am irritated by people who don't seem to have a clue how to behave. I'm thrilled that it's so accessible here in Austin, and there are so many wonderful performances to go to. I just wish everyone would use some common sense.

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    1. How nice to have season tickets to the opera. >Sigh...< That's what I went to school for and yet my peeps prefer the symphony and the ballet! Occasionally I can get them to attend an opera with me. :)

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  10. All excellent points. And what a great idea for a class.

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    1. It was a great class. It would be a great enrichment class for high schoolers to take.

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  11. I would say that #3 is the hardest for many on their first trip to a live symphony performance. It is so different from the concert experience many of us have had, it can be really confusing!

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    1. You are so right - very different from the average concert experience that most people have had. Basically, when a person enters or exits the stage - applaud and once the conductor turns around (after a piece is finished) - applaud.

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  12. Love this! My husband was a music major in college, and is now a musician, so I feel like I can appreciate this post more because of him and what he's exposed me to. :)

    Also, as a side note, I feel like the world today just needs etiquette classes on everything! For example, being a guest at a wedding, meeting your significant other's parents for the first time, or even just standing in line at the supermarket. ;)

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    1. Life is always interesting when you're married to a musician. :) Maybe there should be etiquette PSAs at the grocery store while one is waiting in line. :)

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Your turn! Let me know what perfectly practical comments you have.

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