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Etiquette 101: How to behave at a classical concert.

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
I know I am preaching to the choir here, but I am mad (Meaning, I know no one around here would behave like this... it's more a sarcastical thing that anything).

No, make that REALLY mad.

I went to the Nezahualcóyotl Concert Hall today (one of the best acoustical spaces in the world) to listen to Copland & Gershwin's works ("An American in Paris" was the highlight of the day, along with "Rodeo").

I was definitely excited. That is, until I saw the people I would be listening to the concert with.

So I feel compelled to write some simple guidelines about how one should behave during such an event.

1. Please abstain from opening gum wrappers, candy wrappers, or your little M&M bags. Especially *during* the presentation.

2. When the guy on the PA announces that *all* cellular phones must be turned off, he is talking to YOU. He doesn't think the world will explode if you turn your d**n thing off for 1 1/2 hours, and neither do I.

3. Acoustical concert halls are designed so that you can listen to a pin drop from across the room. This means that your "low level" conversations can be heard across the room, too. Even when music is playing.

4. If you are so sick as to need to sneeze or cough during the program, please stay at home. I know you want to listen to the piece, but I want to a) stay healthy and b) be able to listen to the music without sneezing & coughing during the show.

5. Avoid the "sheep syndrome" at all costs. This one happens when a movement ends, and someone decides to clear his throat. Before you know it, 1,000 people are clearing their own throats. No, it isn't stylish or the right thing to do. It's vulgar and disgusting. And no, you don't clear your throat every 10 minutes during a normal day, do you?

6. Speaking of movements. Thou shalt not clap after a movement ends, only after the whole work does. It's very bothersome for the orchestra conductor to be interrupted by some guys yelling "bravo! bravo!" every 3 minutes.

7. If you are going to be fast asleep during the show, please stay home. It's the worst offense to a musician to watch people asleep in their seats.

8. Logical conclusion to all of the above: if you cannot keep quiet, awake, stop eating, turn off your cell phone & beeper, not use a digital "alarm" watch and the like during 1 1/2 hours, please avoid live concerts. You make the whole experience a disappointing one for the rest of us.

Thanks. I had to let that off my chest.
post #2 of 50
So.......had a good time, huh?
post #3 of 50
And for the last time, Richard Wagner is pronounced 'Rickard Vagner' and *NOT* Dick Wagner!! And there are really 2 'T's in Mozart for crying-out-loud!!
post #4 of 50
fj, you hit the nail on the head.

it never ceases to amaze me how some people find it impossible to remain quiet for a few hours to listen to music.

i have season opera tickets and have heard (along with EVERYTHING fj mentioned):

shifting in their squeaky seat every 2 minutes

snapping their fingernails against each other every 5 seconds (i was ready to kill her after 3 hours of this)

tapping their feet impatiently (stay the **** home if you're so bored, *******!!)

trying to blow their nose "quietly", not quite getting the snot out, so keep trying for the next 5 minutes. just give it a good honk and put us out of our misery!!

someone obviously with the flu hacking and coughing, cough drops, etc.

sucking on said cough drops with a loud smack every minute (ooooh, i pity the next jerk who does that).

someone kicking my seat.

and my personal favorite, wringing your program in your hands for the whole show, and constantly pulling your sticky fingers off the glossy cover with a noisey pop every few minutes. why are you still holding on to it in the dark? why? WHY?

i know they probably couldn't help it, but why go to a concert with an oxygen tank that hisses the whole time all the with a tube that is suuuuucking the phlem out of your throat? i'll BUY you a ****ing stereo so you can stay home!!

i have concluded (present company excluded) that many people are STUPID and INCONSIDERATE. make me wonder why i even try to be considerate to them. well screw it. next concert i'm wearing my squeaky leather tux, bring a jumbo bag of chips and eat them with my mouth open going "MWAA MWAA MWAA!", and taking loud cell phone calls saying "HI! NOT MUCH, I'M AT THE OPERA!!", and shining my laser pointer on the singers, and making loud underleg noises from all the beans i ate for lunch! HA!


ahhh, i feel better. thank you.

post #5 of 50
Actually my two pet hates are people singing along during an opera chorus or people clapping the beat...
post #6 of 50
Guys, guys, aren't you taking this JUST a bit seriously? I sympathize with most of your complaints, but I think it's important that you cut people a little slack.

For example -- if people clear their throats in between movements, you can at least be thankful that they weren't doing it DURING the music.

Also, historically, clapping in between movements was apparently commonplace and composers often expected it.

There is a kind of fine line between requiring courtesy to the performers and to the rest of the audience and turning the concert into a stiff, formidable experience. The more people that have the perception that classical concerts are like going to church--the fewer people there are going to be who support classical music. And that is something to be very concerned about, IMO.
post #7 of 50
Quote:
Originally posted by shivohum
Guys, guys, aren't you taking this JUST a bit seriously? I sympathize with most of your complaints, but I think it's important that you cut people a little slack.
It's supposed to be taken seriously. If they don't know better they shouldn't be there. Perhaps a college-level music appreciation class should be required before tickets can be bought?

Quote:
Also, historically, clapping in between movements was apparently commonplace and composers often expected it.
This is the first time I've heard this. Regardless of what may have been accepted at one time it isn't acceptable behavior today in our society. When in Rome...

Quote:

There is a kind of fine line between requiring courtesy to the performers and to the rest of the audience and turning the concert into a stiff, formidable experience. The more people that have the perception that classical concerts are like going to church--the fewer people there are going to be who support classical music. And that is something to be very concerned about, IMO.
I disagree, there simply is no line showing courtesy to the performers or the audience. Classical concerts are *supposed* to be a "stiff, formidable experience"; they aren't supposed to be a rock concert! Where do you draw the line? If I were to, say, light-up a J half-way through a movement please don't tell me you defend such an action! Now, I'd be the first in-line to take a drag off that same J at a rock show! Hell, I'd probably be first in-line to do the same at the symphony but it's just not acceptable in that setting and neither is unwrapping candy, smacking gum, clapping, singing, or holding your lighters up during the slow movements.

I for one can sympathize with the list of greviences listed here. However I could never understand what people find in Opera! Or the Back Street Boys for that matter...
post #8 of 50
Next time guys, just do what I do and bring a hammer with you, and the 1st person to even breath the wrong way you just
post #9 of 50
Quote:
This is the first time I've heard this.
From http://www.guardian.co.uk/friday_rev...352700,00.html:

"In Beethoven's day it was different. One clapped routinely at the end of every movement of a symphony. According to one eye-witness, the audience at the first performance of the Ninth Symphony were so impressed by the Scherzo that they applauded while the music was still playing - as modern jazz audiences do after solos."

If people clapped during Beethoven's 9th and still were moved by it (indeed, their appreciation was -connected- to their applause), doesn't that tell us something?

Quote:
Regardless of what may have been accepted at one time it isn't acceptable behavior today in our society.
Is this really a good argument -- that just because things are done a certain way today, that they should always be done that way?

The article above makes a number of interesting points regarding this question, e.g. "it is perhaps better not to clap after every movement of a symphony, but to be inflexible about it rules out the possibility of spontaneity: moments of collective recognition that something special has just happened can be as uplifting and uniting at concerts as at football matches."

The article also mentions the fact that people routinely clap at the end of exceptional opera arias.

Quote:
If I were to, say, light-up a J half-way through a movement please don't tell me you defend such an action!
Again from the article: "I read recently that Ravel's favourite way of listening to performances of his own music was to leave the hall, and pace up and down the corridor smoking a Capriol cigarette. Apparently people used to stroll around and smoke at early Proms."
post #10 of 50
I agree with most of what has been said; it's difficult to enjoy the symphony or opera when people are being inconsiderate/noisy/etc.

That said, I do have to say something about this one:
Quote:
i know they probably couldn't help it, but why go to a concert with an oxygen tank that hisses the whole time all the with a tube that is suuuuucking the phlem out of your throat? i'll BUY you a ****ing stereo so you can stay home!!
Redshifter, while I can *totally* understand how that might bother people, you also have to consider that the person is probably using the tank in order to be able to live. And they have just as much of a right to enjoy the symphony as any of us. While the noises the tank makes are undoubtably annoying to those in the immediate vicinity, the only other option is for the person to stay home so as not to bother anyone. I think the person probably has enough problems just staying alive, without being denied the opportunity to enjoy the symphony (which may be that persons favorite thing to do, who knows?).

I mean this post in the best way; it's just that many people who aren't disabled, or don't have a disability, don't have quite the same perspective on such issues as those who do, or have a friend or family member who does.
post #11 of 50
As for talking during a show, it really annoys me too. I went to a college performance of the Emerson quartet, and some ridiculous football players had taken seats in the first row (ok, that is fine, let them come), but one of them was DIPPING! Skoal chewing tobacco and spitting in a cup the entire performance, if he did not weigh 100 pounds more than me, I would have kicked his ass. I absolutely could not believe it. It is not like he was a frequent concert goer either...I still don't know why the hell they came...I did not see one of them for the rest of the season.
As for way back when, the gallery used to be just that. People would walk around and talk, almost like a party. The music was intended to inspire more enlightened conversation, not to have any merit in and of itself. An interesting concept, but I would much prefer to listen attentively.
post #12 of 50
Ok, I haven't been to much operas or symphonies. But there are things that I really hate when in a play, especially when I'm performing! I hate it when people start taking PHOTOS!!!!! It's already written outside the play house that NO CAMERAS OR CAMCORDERS ARE ALLOWED. But no, people never listen, that kills me. As for the talkings, sneezing, coughings, snorings etc etc. I don't really mind when I'm on stage since I don't even look at the audience. But when I'm watching, everyone else pleeeeeeeeeease shut the ****** up! It is SO true that when one person coughs/sneeze, it becomes a chain-reaction and it doesn't stop. And also, don't turn you head and look what's behind you, there isn't going to be a chainsaw murderer behind you and there's nothing interesting to watch in the sound/light booth. So PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL GODS STAY HOME IF YOU CAN'T FOLLOW THESE RULES.
post #13 of 50
Quote:
Redshifter, while I can *totally* understand how that might bother people, you also have to consider that the person is probably using the tank in order to be able to live. And they have just as much of a right to enjoy the symphony as any of us.
you're right, you're right. if it was me, well i'd probably be too self-conscious to go... but your point is taken. but ask yourself, do you have the inner saintliness to turn a blind ear to the continuous sound of someone sucking the last ounce of soda out of their cup from a straw ("slluurrrp") for an entire opera, an opera you paid $70 to see? i really tried, i really did but after an hour of this... i guess i have to work harder at being a zen master.
but in all honest i really felt sorry for the guy, unless he did it to himself of course.

shivo-
in beethoven's day it was also customary to eat sherbet and hold conversations during the symphony. in fact haydn wrote a "surprise" symphony with multiple fake endings, just so he could interrupt the women in the audience (haydn's words, not mine) who would begin chattering loudly at the first sign of silence. it was rude then and it is rude now.

as for everyone coughing between movements, consider yourselves lucky you weren't going to concerts in the 1940s, when everyone smoked filterless cigarettes. i have a live furtwangler recording from the late 40s where it sounded like a tb ward between movements. seriously, it was as loud as the music was.. disgusting.

i will be the first to admit my standards for classical concert behavior are pretty high.. i set them by my own actions. but rock concerts are a different story. when i saw the vapors (my first rock concert) when i was 12 i was almost kicked out by security for dancing on top of the seats. when i saw the grateful dead at the meadowlands about 20 security guys chased about 200 of us deadheads as we smashed the fence and stormed the dance floor. i once saw a guy grab on to the giant inflateable pig at a pink floyd concert and get dragged for 20 rows before security pulled him off. didn't bother me a bit. but classical music--especially beethoven--is like church, you need to understand the decorum. and if it's not for you, well stay home then.

i'm getting better about being so sensetive though.
post #14 of 50
If someone clearing their throat is distracting, I say you're too easily distracted.

cajunchrist
post #15 of 50
Yes, some people get very touchy at classical concerts. Last week I attended a chamber orchestra performance of Mozart and some of the people looked huffy when I raised my hand and called out. "Excuse me. Could you stop playing a second while I put in a new minidisc? I don't want to miss recording the ending of this!"

What they hell? I thought everyone was there just to have a good time?
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