Sunday, 6 April 2014

Concert Etiquette: Too old-fashioned? Part I - Audience

[satirical] proper guide to concert etiquette by Carlos Rodriguez

  • It is most unacceptable to arrive to the concert venue with shabby and vulgar clothing. One must always take great care in the presentation of their person in formal occasions, as not to stand out in the audience, and prove an unpleasant sight to all other concertgoers.
  • Arriving late to a concert is of the utmost rudeness. One is to arrive at least ten minutes early, for a sociable glass of wine at the venue cafe and to be seated in one's allocated stall promptly and swiftly.
  • Special attention must go into turning off all mobile phones and electronic devices, as to not disturb other listeners and to ruin what is a rigorously aurally-demanding listening experience.
  • Tapping, air conducting and humming are all strictly prohibited.
  • All coughs shall be reserved until the end of a movement or piece.
  • Drinking or eating is not permitted.
  • Walking out of the auditorium to go to the comfort room is an utterly disgraceful lack of respect for fellow audience members and performers. A brief interval shall be given to allow for inconveniences.
  • There are strict rules for the clapping during pieces:
  1. Clapping is permitted only after the end of a piece (exceptions include opera performances whereupon one may clap after a virtuosic aria or the appearance of a diva. Of course, one is to wait after a sad or passionate number as to preserve the intimacy of the moment [see below]).
  2. A brief moment of silence is to ensue a sad or captivating number (audience's discretion), which is to last three to five seconds.
  3. Clapping between movements is most inappropriate (apart from the first movements of concerti and aforementioned operas).
  4. Pieces shall not be interrupted by clapping, especially cadenzas.
  5. Stamping is not permitted at the final applause, as it is a thuggish display.
  6. Female performers may be called "brava" after their stage exit. Only male performers are to be called "bravo"; calling a female musician "bravo" is gross disrespect. If more than one musician is in question, "bravi" is to be used.
  7. Flowers are not to be thrown on stage.
  8. The request of an encore is to be held until the third appearance of a soloist or conductor. Any earlier attempts are premature.
So, what do we think?

Although I was exaggerating there, many people actually treat concerts as fundamentally social occasions with incoherently strict social rules. I have come across all of these "rules" as a result, and I have something to say about them.

First off, let's acknowledge that they're not all silly. Turning phones off, clapping between movements, waiting for a second to clap (although not exactly three to five seconds!) and not being a pain in the concert hall by coughing are all reasonable expectations. 

Is this sacrilege, or do we not see this enough?

This whole situation boils down to one premise: concerts are for listening to music. The only "rules" (I prefer guidelines) that apply are those that go towards making it a better experience
for all.
Therefore, calling a female performer "bravo", throwing flowers on stage, wearing normal clothes, clapping between movements (this one is debatable), clapping after cadenzas, drinking, discreet tapping, stamping during applause and requesting an encore are okay.

Or so it should be.

In most concert halls, the guidelines are simple: turn phones off, arrive in reasonable clothing, do not disturb other audience members and do not take pictures.
This is perfectly alright. The problem is that there is a social stigma to going to concerts, especially among the newbies of the classical concert world. "Is there a special handshake?" "A special clap?"

Rest assured, no special clap is needed.

This needs to stop. Live concerts are special, intimate affairs, and we can't have people not wanting to come. 

So what I want to say, is that concerts are simply places to listen. If any rules are unrelated to this, then they are useless and fussy. In an ideal world, they would change in all the posh concert venues. But... as that's not going to happen anytime soon, I suppose, we have to take matters into our own hands, making concerts more accessible and free.
We need to behave like this in our own concerts, talk about this to friends, and voice this wherever we go. 

In conclusion, we want modern, friendly and vibrant concerts, as it was in the days of Mozart and Haydn. 
And I say amen to that.

...Next installment:
Concert Etiquette: Too old-fashioned? Part II - Musicians