This post is later than usual — let’s just say it took me a while to write because, as a musician, this is a topic about which I have very strong opinions. Hang in there with me, ok? This is kind of a long one…
As I briefly mentioned on Friday, Joel and I went to a Midcoast Symphony Orchestra concert over the weekend. Let me just say right off that the orchestra, guest artist and conductor were all amazing — I’ll get to them later. The people sitting behind us, however? Not so much. Unless you factor in their spectacularly bad manners… I’m not kidding. These may have been the WORST audience members I have EVER had the great misfortune of being seated near. See? I’m getting all shout-y — that’s how upset I was by their behavior. So, in the interest of being productive, as opposed to just bitching, I’d like to present this brief primer on formal concert etiquette:
10. It is impolite to wear hats or caps during a concert (or even inside, for that matter, but I digress).
9. It is impolite to eat or drink during a performance. Chances are the performance venue has rules about that sort of thing anyway.
8. Arrive a little bit early for the performance. Give yourself plenty of time to enter the performance space quietly and find your seat without disturbing the other audience members. Always say “excuse me” if you must pass in front of someone while going to or from your seat. Also, do not leave at intermission — stay for the entire performance.
7. Once you are seated, be aware of activity on the stage. Shortly before the performance begins, the concert master will enter to tune the orchestra; the audience must be quiet while the orchestra tunes.
6. It is customary to applaud when the conductor enters.
5. Applause is the appropriate way to show appreciation for a performance. Whistling or screaming are not appropriate at any time. Many larger works (such as symphonies or concertos) have more than one section or movement — do not applaud between movements of a large work; wait until the entire piece is finished. If you are unsure whether it is the appropriate time to applaud, watch the conductor and wait to clap until s/he turns to face the audience.
4. Turn OFF your cell phone/pda/pager. Period. Just turn it off. You are not indispensable — the world will continue to turn on its axis if you are unreachable for a few hours. If you are indeed indispensable, perhaps you should stay home/at the office.
3. Do not stand or enter or exit while music is being performed — it is very distracting to the performers and to the listeners around you. If you arrive late to a performance or if you absolutely must exit (and then re-enter) for any reason, wait until a piece is finished and the audience is applauding.
2. If your child becomes restless and disruptive in any way, remove them from the performance space until s/he can be quiet. If s/he cannot be quiet and respectful of other listeners, do not return to the performance — wait in the lobby or leave. And perhaps next time you should consider a babysitter.
1. Never, never, ever talk, or even whisper, while music is being performed or between movements. Also avoid other distracting noises including, but certainly not limited to: humming, fiddling with candy wrappers, tapping feet/ fingers/ programs, gum chewing, noisy jewelry, etc. Talking and making noise is inconsiderate and distracting to other audience members. It is also distracting and highly insulting to the performers who are trying to work.
Ok, I think I’m done ranting.
Aaaaanyhoodle, the concert was excellent! Midcoast Symphony Ochestra is an all-volunteer ensemble which is clearly dedicated to professional-level performances — they were incredible! If you’re local, I highly recommend attending a performance — they have one more concert this season; ticket prices are very reasonable. Their regular conductor is Rohan Smith, but Saturday night’s program was guest conducted by Yoichi Udagawa, who was on the conducting faculty at The Boston Conservatory when I was a student there. His hair has grayed quite a bit since then, but he is still as enthusiastic and personable and sincere as I remember him. He’s one of those guys whose love of music (not to mention his smile) is contagious…such a delight!
The program Saturday night opened with the Maine premier of Riveting Rivets by Boston-area composer Lachlan Fife. Admittedly, I tend to be initially-skeptical-but-ultimately-receptive to contemporary music and this time was no exception — I was worried the piece would be minimalist and atonal and unlistenable, but it was unique, interesting yet very accessible. Joel liked it too (but he likes Philip Glass so he may not be the best gauge for the average listener… ) And here’s something really cool: Lachlan Fife was actually in the audience for the performance! Maestro Udagawa acknowledged him and the audience gave him a very enthusiastic applause.
After the Fife, the orchestra was joined by pianist Max Levinson for Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Levinson was amazing. A-ma-zing. Truly. Although I couldn’t quite see the piano keyboard, I could see his hands most of the time. There were times during the performance where his touch on the keys looked to be so light, it was difficult to believe he was still making sound come out of the piano. But then, toward the end of the first movement, he was playing so intensely that he was lifting himself up off the piano bench! And near the end of the third movement, he was playing so fast, his fingers were a blur! His performance was breathtaking — technically impressive, yet sensitive and beautiful.
The concert closed with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. Not too much to say about that — it’s Beethoven, right? So it’s great by default. I especially enjoyed listening for the constant (some might say incessant) long-short-short rhythmic pattern as it made its way around from section to section of the orchestra. The rumble of the cello section (there were 10!) was particularly impressive!
Ok, I’ve gone on long enough…thanks for bearing with me through this! It was a great concert, we had a great time, I’m sure we’ll attend more of their performances down the road. You should, too.
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