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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.