Should Audiences be 'Allowed' to Clap Whenever They Want?

An Orchestra Executive Calls for a More Relaxed Concert Experience

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When Franz Liszt performed, the audience got so caught up in the moment that it would applaud and cheer after every movement. Sometimes people would even clap during the performance. Liszt then might start to improvise and work the crowd like a Vegas performer. Nowadays such behavior would be unthinkable. But should it be?

In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Richard Dare, the CEO and managing director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, argued that classical concerts have become too devoid of such spontaneity. Audiences are stifled by ritual and protocol, he said, and are afraid of clapping between movements and attracting the scorn of fellow patrons. Dare's article, "The Awfulness of Classical Music Explained," was widely shared on social media and unleashed hundreds of comments.

In this podcast, Dare tells Naomi Lewin what he meant by the article, and explains how he'd put his arguments into action.

Also joining us is Philip Kennicott, the art and architecture critic of The Washington Post. He wrote a pointed response to Dare's article, contending that silence should be maintained as a sign of respect both for the musicians and fellow audience members.

And we hear from Kenneth Hamilton, a pianist and author of After the Golden Age: Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance, which explores 19th-century concert-going, when audiences were more at liberty to talk, eat, cheer and shout in the hall.

Weigh in: Do you prefer the sound of silence at a classical performance? Or should concerts be more interactive, less reverential? How can they appeal to younger audiences?


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Comments [79]

Mia from Canada

Dear retired US Cultural attache. I think you mean " it's not their fault". ' Their', not 'there'.

quote: "I often say, "Classical music isn't for the crass, and shouldn't be." It's not there fault, really."

What a crass jerk! He and his kin are chasing away live audiences who are expected to dress and sit like stiffs.

retired US Cultural Attache

Jun. 05 2014 04:52 PM
Ronald from Oldwick NJ

Clapping is a confirmation of poor listening. We live in a society that moves so fast that audiences have little patience when listening. A performer can communicate much better if he feels the audience is listening carefully. Although the audience may have good intentions, clapping can interfere with a precious moment. This is music of great value not a circus act. I would like to know the opinions of Keith Jarrett and Krystian Zimmerman regarding this matter. I don't feel this is the best way to increase the audience of classical music. I attend 50 to 60 concerts a year. If clapping is permissible, I will attend fewer concerts. Maybe instead of smoking and non smoking sections, we will have clapping and non-clapping sections.

Jun. 10 2013 01:58 PM
Mick from London

I think they should not only be allowed to clap, but to jump up and down, dance, sing, flick their lighters, and light up a big fattie if they want. That will bring people running into classical halls. And if you gave them a hooker at the door you could really up attendance.

Apr. 17 2013 09:16 PM
Stephen P Brown from USA UK & beyond

As a performer:
1. It's great to know when we've done something that resonates with the audience. The best way to let us know is to clap, so go ahead whenever you feel so inspired.
2. If I'm doing my job right, you wouldn't want to clap in certain places as it most certainly would spoil the moment - it's up to everyone on stage to help the listener be affected by the music. It's our fault if someone wants to clap in the middle of something gentle, for example.

Sep. 08 2012 10:22 AM

"I often say, "Classical music isn't for the crass, and shouldn't be." It's not there fault, really."

What a crass jerk! He and his kin are chasing away live audiences who are expected to dress and sit like stiffs.

retired US Cultural Attache

Jul. 09 2012 10:45 PM

Really? In the middle of a movement? When the horn player gets through a difficult passage? When your favorite singer gets to your favorite part of a duet (even though the duet is still going)?

Doesn't make too much sense to me.


Jul. 01 2012 02:25 AM
Gregory Wasserson from NY

Yes, clap whenever; classical music is about life and joy; stillness and silence are hallmarks of death! SHOW SOME LIFE CLASSICAL MUSIC LOVERS! THEN YOU'LL ATTRACT YOUNGER PEOPLE AND NOT LOSE WQXR LIKE WE LOST 96.3 FM ON THE DIAL!!!

Jun. 28 2012 06:00 PM
mitchw from Eastchester, New York

Maybe if we weren't subjected to a pack of hoary standards, audiences would have less trouble just sitting there quietly until the bitter end. Yeah, that's right, Q2 listener here.

Jun. 27 2012 08:49 PM
William Sternberg from Stuart Florida

I would'nt want to be in any venue or part of any group and not be permitted to respond to the pleasure of music. I would think even the most jaded artist appreciates listener reaction and expression.

Jun. 27 2012 12:38 PM
Rick (CutTime) Robinson from Detroit

There is a time for everything. A time to sing along, a time to dance your butt off... and a time to be still and let music take us on a ride. As a symphony orchestra member, I see the need for BOTH the traditional concert experience, which has evolved into a MEDITATIVE experience, and an OFF-THE-PEDESTAL experience such as in a bar, club, cafe, restaurant or a casual concert. Each should be clearly marketed for traditional or casual audiences. The casual concerts can be amplified. We have the technology. If you want the pure experience, go to the traditional concerts. More people deserve more choices with this beautiful and powerful music.

Jun. 25 2012 02:38 PM
cj raymond from nyc

how do the performers feel about this? perhaps noise from the audience interrupts their concentration?????

Jun. 25 2012 10:01 AM
Jeannette from New York

Bravo, Rednose from Oceanside. Well said!!!

Jun. 24 2012 10:46 PM

Should Audiences [b]e [sic] 'Allowed' to Clap Whenever They Want?

Jun. 24 2012 01:36 AM
David from Flushing

Baroque operas and oratorios suffer greatly when there is applause at the end of each aria. It can make for a very long performance and interrupts the flow of the music.

I see movie theaters have resorted to movie etiquette instruction before films with such helpful advice as do not talk during the show. Perhaps this is needed at concerts/operas as well. The Met used to have "The audience is urgently requested not to interrupt the performance with applause" printed in the program.

Jun. 23 2012 08:50 PM
Cameron Stevens from Denver, CO

I think they should get a general consensus from the performers, if they would be disturbed if applause came at non-traditional times. Then, they should make an announcement at the same time as the one about listening devices. I think that would be the most respectful. As for my own personal preference, I think applause after movements or breaks should be allowed. The urge to applaud should not be quashed. In this day and age with the arts being crushed, we should encourage any positive reaction to whatever is being experienced. As a performer, I would appreciate the break to 1) rest and relax and compose before the next section 2) use the applause to give me energy that may be lacking when having to perform so long without a response

Jun. 23 2012 07:35 PM
Jan Maarchellos

Unless you applaud before the aria etc is over, which is annoying, people should applaud when they like at an Opera. But I prefer to hear the entire piece with even long compositions. Every movement heard because waiting makes it more intense and if you are truly thrilled by the performance... Standing ovation. Bravo!

Jun. 23 2012 05:38 PM
James Roberts from Jacksonville, ALabama

ALl type of musical concerts qualify as "entertainment", and on that I think all can agree; but not all forms of (musical) entertainment are created "equal". Thanks to more-or-less universal education, the stylistic awareness of classical audiences is far and away superior to that of audiences in the nineteenth century. Once concerts became a diversion for the madding crowd, a whole different set of standards set in. Perhaps we shouldn't, but we can assume to a certainb degree that the 17th century moneyed classes had a certain seveloped sense of what art was about as they sat en salon with their peers. Public concerts threw all that out the window, and that was what Liszt and his friends faced across the footlights. Besides which, Fr. Franz was a supreme egotist and surely thrived on spontaneity from his audiences. Today we are educated to see "high art"--read classical concerts--in a somewhat different light. Entertainment surely, but of a decidedly different nature. Of the many things to consider are the distraction to fellow attendees whose ability to concentrate with little verbal or even physical (admittedly harder) manifestation may be better than yours; the effect of such distractions on the concentration of the performers,with the resultant compromise ion the quality of the performance; and probably the most important factor, the degradation of the unified artistic experience for the audience from having their concentration broken between movements of a multi-movement work. A complex work of art in many parts deserves to be perceived in its totality, not piecemeal. Distractions such as were commpnplace in the 19th century (etc.) render that unified perception virtually impossible. Let's see now, have I left anything out...?

Jun. 23 2012 11:48 AM

I love the idea that concerts be labeled so people know if that can express their appreciation throughout. What shall we call these concerts?

"Applause Approved"
"Can Clap"
"Ovation Allowed"
"Applaud At Will"

Got one?

Jun. 23 2012 11:32 AM
Patricia A. O'Connor from Westfield , New Jersey

I think the audience should leave that decision up to the orchestra and conductor. I am in favor of applauding between movements but, if it is distracting to the performer, the audience should show its approval and appreciation at the end. I am NOT in favor of audience members' leaving before having applauded so they can be the first to their cars or the subway. This action is nothing but rude.

Jun. 23 2012 10:37 AM

Well the comments here certainly cover the entire range of ridiculous to quite thoughtful. Those of you comparing an expression of appreciation to a bodily function are really quite juvenile and contribute nothing to the conversation.

How difficult would it be to announce the performers (or dance companys)preference prior to the start of a show? This way the wide range of opinions amongst the attendees can be nullified and their behavior mediated by such a clear request.

Jun. 23 2012 07:33 AM

There seem to be many concert issues which are jumbled under the misleading banner of "good taste" - I hear the "Church Lady." Applaud between mvts., if a performance deserves it. Mozart was not offended. In a letter from Paris he gloated that the aristocratic diners applauded DURING a movement in appreciation of a clever return of the first theme and witty modulation. Do audiences still catch that a theme is not in the original key? If we don't get the games M. played, are we really so cultured just because we listen to Mozart?

The reverential approach dates to the 19th Cen. (blame Wagner). The German middle class, to prove its superiority to aristocrats, against whom it competed, created the quasi-religious, uninterrupted listening style. It was snobbery, intended to out intellectualize the aristocrats. (Why does Andras Schiff believe Schubert intended his pieces to be heard without interruption? Ouija board?)

Everyone does not have to listen to "classical music" (whatever the melange of the canon may be). It's snobbish to assume that listening "classical music" evidences cultural or "spiritual" superiority. "Classical music" is for the crass as well as the urbane. Much Lizst and Carmina Burana work BECAUSE they are crass and over the top - and fun. But fun is taboo! The canon contains works whose composers intended various listening strategies. Beethoven programed single movements of his works. If the late 19th Century's affectations vanish and more people attend concerts, then I'm all for it. Noise during a performance so others can't hear is rude. However, silence is not a universal concert value. I attended a concert of Chinese music; people cracked nuts loudly and cheered Cantonese opera. The audience was cultured. The emcee incorrectly identified a Soong poet and the audience corrected her with one voice.

The ubiquitous standing ovation means nothing anymore. The standers consider themselves truly cultured and knowledgeable.

Concert attire is a matter of class and age distinction. Tuxedos are a remnant of the 18th Century aristocracy. Do those who insist on the aristocratic surface of "classical music" listen to the music more than those with fresh ears? I attended Ligeti's opera, "Le Grand Macabre" just before Halloween. Much of the audience was in costume. One person had a toy machine gun with a large penis coming out of the barrel. (A comment on the militaristic mindset, for an apocalyptic opera by a composer who narrowly survived the Holocaust?). The Grim Reaper sat behind me. The audience cheered after the opening toccata, in the spirit of 17th Century opera. They understood Ligeti, and showed appreciation. The audience absorbed the music, but was not reverential- an appropriate performance by musicians and audience. Music is always about something. When it becomes sole about class and snobbery, count me out.

Jun. 22 2012 05:28 PM

I like to listen to music and have my own internal thoughts and feelings. Is there some reason I have to scream and shout if I'm happy? Can't I be moved in silence? When I go to the art museum, I don't like it when people walk through talking loudly and not really looking at the paintings. I don't care if they look at the paintings, but if they stop me from enjoying the paintings by distracting me, why can't I be bothered by that? Also, hasn't anyone else ever been awed when a hall filled with 3000 people are so moved by a piece that they are all totally silent? What a magical feeling that is with everyone in the hall, performers and audience, connecting on an emotional level. When else can you have 3000 New Yorkers (for me) having the same deep feeling all at once, let alone being quiet. Just a cough breaks that spell....

Jun. 22 2012 03:20 PM
Donald Waits from New Orleans

HERE, HEAR, MICHAELB FROM MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS! As a former long-time resident of New York and a constant concert goer, I was fortunate to have seldom experienced the boorish behavior some of us have been describing. There was, however, the lady that sang along with Luciano Pavarotti in 1970 and was soundly head-slapped by another lady behind her. Very funny!
Another remark that MichaelB said that stands out: "It is not about YOU!" The world is constantly changing and evolving, not always for the better. The cult of self-worship has come a long way with the advent of much of our current technology. A person with no manners would be the same person with or without a cell phone. The device merely gives him or her an ADDITIONAL tool to annoy everyone else.
I have "had" to attend several rock "concerts" in the past and the vibe was always the same: no one came to HEAR the performers, but merely to look at them and party-down. There were no fuddy-duddy rules to distract the audience from its own agenda. As far as "elitist" pricing goes, the events were much more expensive than any classical experience. The accusation of "us" being "uptight" is actually the reverse. It is the mindless obsession with self-involvement that is "uptight" about seeing people in suits or showing respect for others in a concert setting that is truly UPTIGHT. If one is made "uncomfortable" by simple politeness, then go somewhere else.

Jun. 22 2012 09:50 AM
MrGedge from Shokan, NY

Just as we say "Raise the standards" in education will lift every student up, it doesn't. It ultimately leaves more and more without.

I often say, "Classical music isn't for the crass, and shouldn't be." It's not there fault, really.

Many in our society have never been exposed to culture, proper behavior or the concept of taste, except in their mouths. The town park concert, with blankets and picnics were once the mainstay of summer culture. This was where children learned how to behave in a concert setting. The parents would call their kids back to the blanket and model proper concert behavior for them. Now, either the parents aren't teaching this behavior, the concert venues don't exist, or audience expectations are set at the ballpark, Rock concert or WWF.

It is ok to talk back to a television show, but not to a large movie screen with hundreds of other people watching. If adults aren't going to stop texting, allowing their children to run around the concert halls, stop shouting out their child's name from the audience, taking pictures whenever they feel the desire to, etc... How can we ever expect the younger generations to learn proper skills - if there are no consequences for uncivil behavior? We are a society of "Rights" without the "Responsibilities" that go with them.

Please keep civility in place in the concert hall. Please don't lower the standards any farther.

Our cultural heritage,literacy and civility is more important now than ever before. Rather than lowering standards, how about lowering prices?
Where and when does our society finally draw the line in the sand? I know.... good luck with that.

Jun. 22 2012 08:40 AM

Loved hearing an audience member shout out in Italian, "That's the way we sing it at La Scala!" after hearing Leo Nucci sing his great aria in a performance of "Don Carlo" at Zurich Opera in 2005! The audience love hearing this and began clapping! It was a rare moment.

Jun. 22 2012 05:34 AM
Mark Goldstein from 11211

I am in agreement with Mr. Dare. I too believe that the traditional classical music concert hall experience is stifling. Much like going to church, It obligates the audience to endure the long, quiet, dull movements in perfect silence and the fast exciting more interesting movements without so much as tapping the front neighbor's seat in cadence with the music or humming softly to one's self to show the extent of immersion in the experience. I like to rock gently in my seat not only because I'm immersed in the sublime beauty of a performance but also to get the feeling back in my toes. Poor circulation is a medical issue that I must address. I firmly believe that an inspired performance should be cheered and a less than stellar performance, booed; preferably at the conclusion of the particular movement just performed. I feel this motivates the performer to do a better job next time. If a performer can't stand the criticism than he/she doesn't deserve to be on the stage, but perhaps would be better suited to the recording studio as was the eminent pianist Glen Gould's preference. BTW he was well know for humming to his own performances.

Jun. 22 2012 02:47 AM
CPM from New York City

This is the question: Do "Classical" musicians want to expand their audience and foster a legacy of performing beautiful, enthralling and vital compositions, or do they want to cling to a dwindling audience of musicologists and aging fans, and remain, for the general public, curators of sacred concert hall museums?

I am an actor and a classical music addict. On stage I'm infuriated if someone coughs loudly during a delicate moment, but I'm incredibly invigorated when an audience applauds after a scene. This is never distracting. It is a focusing and channelling force for me, no matter what the nature of the subsequent scene. I've never met an actor yet that feels differently. A "movement" in a concerto, symphony, or chamber piece is, on an emotional level at least, the equivalent of a "scene" in theatre or opera. This is why the uninitiated at the concert hall are the ones who have an incredible impulse to applaud after a thrilling first movement. They feel and recognize the impact of the soaring ride they just took but they are immediately made to feel awkward and unschooled regarding a strange and stoic set of concert-going rules. Their very first urge to applaud great music is snuffed. Think about it from an audience development standpoint and take a cue from the brand new fans, the first-timers. It is at least counterproductive to discourage applause.

If Mozart attended a concert at Carnegie Hall today (and a brilliant performance at that), after the first movement he'd either get a kick out of the entire audience apparently playing a "silent treatment" joke on the musicians, or he'd wonder if the cocktails in the lobby were laced with a mind numbing narcotic.

Jun. 22 2012 12:49 AM
Harry from Brooklyn, NY

I have two experiences to report. Last month at Zankel Hall, Andras Schiff gave a concert designed to appeal to children and adults; guest artists were the Salzburg Marionette Theatre. Schiff began with Bizet's "Children's Corner." When enthusiastic young concert-goers applauded after the first movement, he made an admonitory gesture, and all applause was withheld to the end. When Schiff returned to the stage for the second item, Schubert's Kinderszenen, he first walked to the edge of the stage and addressed the children seated in the front row. "I am now going to perform a special piece," he explained. "It comes in many sections, but the composer wants us to hear them all together. So please listen closely, and if you enjoy it, applaud at the end." Excellent explanation, elegant request, fully honored. Followed by a ravishingly beautiful performance (from memory, pace Liszt), which reduced most of the audience to tears.

In the ballet world, similar issues arose when Jerome Robbins made a ballet to Bach's "Goldberg Variations." When the piece was new, an announcement was made (reportedly on the insistence of the choreographer) at the beginning of each performance: "To enhance your enjoyment of The Goldberg Variations, we suggest you withhold your applause for the end." Robbins, as a man of the theatre, starts with spare, analytic dances for the ensemble. As the piece progresses, the dance becomes more impressive, and half-way through the company's stars start appearing in virtuoso tours. By this time, audience members would overcome their reserve and cheer each section. Robbins clearly expected this, creating a climax but not a conclusion with the emphatic cadence of the concluding Quodlibet. The audience cheered but a couple in black leotards returned for the Aria da capo.

In short, performers have the right to ask audiences to withhold applause if they choose to do so in advance, but it is really tacky -- and counter-productive to attracting new listeners -- to criticize audiences after the fact. Golf players insist on silence; baseball players take energy from cheers. Different sites, different rules. Just make them explicit.

Jun. 22 2012 12:01 AM
Mary Heller from Poughkeepsie

Good heavens NO! I enjoy the mood of the music and clapping is distracting and annoying.

Jun. 21 2012 11:19 PM
Mary Heller from Poughkeepsie

Good heavens NO! I want to concentrate on the mood of the music without being interupted.

Jun. 21 2012 11:14 PM
Donald Waits from New Orleans, La.

I will go so far as to say that too many people do not have enough spine to speak out against twits who Twitter, sing along with Verdi, kick the back of their seats, put their feet on the seats in front of them, fart, talk, grunt, or clap in order to show how "cool" they are. Here in New Orleans we have the "Mardi Gras" hoot, usually used by drunken tourists to demonstrate how hip they are. Dave Fiahberg had a wonderfully funny song, 'I'm Hip", that perfectly described an idiot at a jazz performance. "Poppin' my thumbs, diggin' the drums.....".
Some performers are beginning to call attention to the rude attendees who whip out their iPhones and immediately begin texting or talking the moment the band begins. These musicians are not afraid to speak out against rude and completely distracting behavior. Rudeness is NEVER O.K. EVER! By ANYONE! Thankfully, bartenders are now beginning to refuse service to anyone talking on a cell phone while ordering drinks. It has come to that, friends.
As to applauding and hooting during a classical performance or in between movements, THAT is a rude distraction to everyone else. Why? Because the experience is SPECIAL and calls for SPECIAL behavior. The concept that NO art experience is special is not shared by ME or anyone who loves music. Showing respect is not old-fashioned. If a fine-dining restaurant requires a jacket, but YOU are wearing cut-offs and flip-flops, then DON'T GO THERE. The owner/manager wants to provide that SPECIAL dining experience not found at the local hot-dog cart.

Jun. 21 2012 09:05 PM
Marilyn Brace from Ocean, New Jersey

One consideration I believe of when to clap (or whether to clap between movements) is what do the performers do when someone claps in the middle of something? Do they feel they must get up and bow. That is very disturbing to the mood that is created by the performers. I understand that you can get caught up in the moment especially if the soloist (or ensemble) has done a superb job. No one should be judged for that. A tiny bit of flexibility should be allowed.

Jun. 21 2012 08:48 PM
Monroe from Brooklyn, NY

What's the big deal. Music lovers applaud in the middle of OPERAS all the time!

Jun. 21 2012 08:45 PM
Mimi Michel from New York City

Well, I must say that although I’m very knowledgeable about when to applaud, I recently got so caught up in a wonderful performance that I totally forgot myself and started to applaud after a concerto first movement. Just couldn’t help myself. So while I think there’s a technical difference between innocence (ok, some snobs would call that ignorance) and sheer enthusiasm, such applause should not be unthinkable. We should really be asking the artists what they think. Does it disturb them to think they have an audience of ignoramuses? Or, do they love being rewarded for a superb performance (not just technically perfect, but artistically inspired)?

Jun. 21 2012 08:16 PM
arturonoyola from Mexico City

It's not a matter of being too "reverential". It's a matter of simple respect for other people. One should be able to listen to the music from beginning to end without loosing concentration or whatever. Applauses are just sheer agression to other people when one wants to express oneself in complete contempt of others. And by the way, this executive is utterly wrong: concerts have not "become" too reverential. It has always been like that. Always. Concerts might have "become" too disrespectful, that's all.

Jun. 21 2012 08:13 PM
Constantine from New York

As far as applause is concerned, I am quite conservative. I agree that it breaks the mood if it is done anywhere except at the end of the work.

And please save your love-making for home. It's distracting to those around you.

As far as dress is concerned, however, I do not go to concerts to see how the musicians are dressed. They are perfectly entitled to be comfortable and dress casually, as I do ("business casual," except maybe in outdoor performances).

Jun. 21 2012 06:57 PM

I fully agree with Michael B in all aspects. Let's keep the respect and reverence in the concert halls that the conductors, musicians and concertgoers deserve. How sad it would be to see this tradition goes down the drain.

By the way, too bad these remarks can't be censored before they are posted to avoid being subjected to any distasteful comments.

Jun. 21 2012 05:10 PM
judley from Brooklyn

Unfortunately clapping and cheering after an aria and standing to applaud at the final curtain and perfomers' bows afterward have become routine and embarrassingly meaningless. But what else can we do to differentiate between the good and the great?

Jun. 21 2012 04:52 PM
Rednose from Oceanside, NY

Every note at a "classical" concert is a potential moment of exquisite beauty; how dare anyone propose an etiquette that condones noise that would adulterate it. Even silence is part of the music, including breaks between movements. (Note that composers sometimes diminish or eliminate these breaks. Hence, the need for absolute silence.)
Concerning the traditional behavior at the opera and ballet: I, for one, find that the frequent interruptions very much interfere with the continuity of the performance.

Perhaps incorrectly, I believe that a large majority engage in these outbursts not so much out of emotional ecstasy as a need to impress whomever. Those who are genuinely transported should be capable of restraint, out of respect for the artists and that part of the audience that values artistic endeavors as a unified whole.

Jun. 21 2012 04:42 PM
Polly from St Petersburg FL

It may be the secret knowledge of experienced concertgoers that is so irksome to newcomers. Perhaps programs should have explicit directions about applause and noise... "We appreciate your applause but please wait till after all movements are finished / till the conductor puts down the baton... " I don't recall seeing a program that actually spelled it out.

I absolutely adore going to live classical concerts and opera, getting swept up in the music. But I also appreciate being part of the communal aesthetic experience, despite occasional distracting noises. That said, cell phones ringing during a performance are the worst!!

Jun. 21 2012 04:33 PM
Ferdinand Gajewski from new Jersey

Should audiences be allowed to fart whenever they want?

Jun. 21 2012 04:12 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Bernie from UWS:

(a) Who said that entertainment can only be enjoyed YOUR way, and anything else (for instance, silence and respect) is invalid?

(b) Who said it was "sacred" -- that's pejorative spin.

(c) It's not "just" entertainment; it's also art. (Yeah, "sacred" art)

(d)Have you considered a new form of entertainment? It may be time....

Jun. 21 2012 04:06 PM

Classical music and opera performances are areas in which self-inhibition ought to reign supreme. One of the points of the concert is that the music, not the audience, is paramount and therefore the kind of noise Mr. Dare wants returned to the concert hall is unwelcome. I sat through a performance of the Mahler 8th once where a person altogether too near to me sang along. I suppose Mr. Dare might find that ok, but I didn't. I came to hear the NY Philharmonic and their guest soloists, but instead, I heard singing from that fool sitting down the aisle from me who evidently felt no need to come in, sit down and shut up. So I say, "No, No, A Thousand Times NO!" to any attempt to change current concert hall etiquette into something more closely resembling the Worldwide Wrestling Federation's Monday Night Raw as Mr. Dare advocates.

Jun. 21 2012 04:02 PM
Bernie from UWS

I'm sorry but classical music is not a sacred ritual that demands such utmost silence. It's entertainment! @Carl, if you can't handle the applause, maybe it's time to consider another line of work.

Jun. 21 2012 03:57 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

An interesting discussion and an old one. I appreciate those who wish to express their enthusiasm between movements, but there is much to be said for not interrupting the mood of the entire piece.

But there is also something to be said simply for respecting the etiquette that has developed over the years, even if it used to be different long ago.

Of course, we want new listeners and new supporters, and longtime Classical concertgoers need to be forgiving and give the benefit of the doubt to new attendees -- give them a chance to learn the ropes and don't be harsh or scolding.

But that's different than caving in and changing the protocol in Classical concerts. (Which also includes dress, and other aspects of behavior.)

And to this point, for those of you who are new to the world of Classical Music, please don't compare it to rock and please don't try to impose or bring rock standards of behavior to the Classical world. As a longtime Classical Music lover, I DON'T WANT THE CULTURE OF ROCK! I don't want mindless, cheering, hooting & hollering at "my" concert venues. I want to hear and I am there to hear... THE MUSIC ITSELF. That's what I love.

I'm sincerely happy that you found your way to "our" world, and I hope you learn to appreciate and love this music as much as "we" do, but don't come to "our" world and try to get us to accommodate YOU. It is for you to accommodate yourself to OUR way of doing things, whether you agree or not. If you don't well, Bruce & Mick, and the rest and their hordes are out there waiting for you to return to the fold.

In other words, to the newbies of Classical Music, it's not about you.

BTW, to the commenter that compared the concert hall to Yankee Stadium (saying they were different, not equivalent) I'll go you one better. Not even Yankee Stadium (nor all the other sports arenas) are what THEY used to be. Used to be when you went to a ball game, you got to watch and listen to the game itself without being audibly accosted by booming, LOUD music and unceasing RAH-RAH nonsense.

It could also happen to Classical music. The downward slope is a slippery one, and it ALWAYS starts with someone accusing traditionalists of being fuddy-duddies and uptight. Pretty soon, it's the lowest common denominator pop culture crap of the week.

Elitist? Maybe, but still better than 99.99% of what's out there.

Jun. 21 2012 03:55 PM
Carl Sayres from Seattle, WA

All music consists of three parts - silence, sound, and silence. And the most magical parts of the experience can be the transitions between.

As a performer, I may choose to lengthen the silence at the end of a piece. Until my hands leave the keyboard, until I release the tension - I'M NOT FINISHED YET! When people start to clap prior that moment, I feel completely disrespected. The audience may have enjoyed it, but they were not actually interested in what I have to say.

Jun. 21 2012 03:48 PM
w.Pagenkopf from Flushing, NY

No! Most audiences are not knowlegeable enough.
Clapping after each aria in an opera destroys continuity and
most of the time lately, is not deserved.
Orchestral works perhaps if tuning or a particularly rambunctious movement may require a pause but that does not mean time to applaud. In fact some rather famous performers give performances that could stand a booing.
Applauding someone for just coming out on stage should also be a no no. Yes we work hard and relish encouragement but it should be earned each time and not relegated to just showing up. That goes for recognized artists and debuts.
Continuity takes precedence over applause.

Jun. 21 2012 03:40 PM
Otto from New York, NY

Before even shifting in my seat between movements, I take my cue from the conductor. It's generally a very clear signal that the "mood" has ended for conductor, orchestra, and audience when the conductor ends the maestro's stance and rejoins we mortals. That said, there are times when I would love to somehow register my appreciation for the very special work a soloist has done, rather than have to wait to the end of the performance.

I also love the rhythmic applause that occurs in European concert halls and wish that that could occur spontaneously from time to time in the U.S. as a special signal for and recognition of a well-felt performance. It suggests to me that there is a unified appreciation by the audience of the work they just heard.

Forms of appreciation can work two ways--it is disappointing at the end of a performance to see the expressions on the faces of many members of the NY Phil. They seem to be saying, "Yes, four more movements and I'm out of here!" A smile that suggests, "I really enjoyed playing for you" would not be out of order.

Jun. 21 2012 03:23 PM
sailnightingale from New York City

I savor those few short seconds of silence after the piece has ended to fully assimilate the beauty of the emotions that were performed through the insight of the conductor interpreting the composer's intentions. I could use a few more moments -- just a slow listener.

Jun. 21 2012 03:21 PM
Mary Louise Murray-Johnson from Heidelberg, Germany

Be Quiet Please!

And - hopefully arrive fully clothed in appropriate attire - no bags or back packs either - wouldn't it be respectful of the musicians if you at least partially matched their evening clothes in what you wear?

Mary Louise Murray-Johnson
Heidelberg, Germany

Jun. 21 2012 03:20 PM
Billur Olgay-Akipek from New York, NY

It would be very distracting for the musicians as well as the audiences,..No, audiences should not be allowed to clap whenever they want.

Jun. 21 2012 03:04 PM
Samantha from bklyn

It is human to want to express your enthusiasm when you hear something that moves your heart. It makes me sad when I hear first time classical concert patrons go with their hearts and generously applaud after a movement only to be intolerantly shush'ed into compliant silence by correctly-schooled fellow patrons. I do believe that these modern conventions of silence can short-circuit the audience's emotional engagement with the work. Classical was until very recently a much more popular form of music. And I credit the extreme stodginess of the current concert hall environment with dwindling audiences.

In earlier periods of classical music composers and audiences were in a dynamic relationship and if some of that spirit is welcomed back into modern classical performances I believe young people would be more apt to feel the creative energy that has made this music endure for so long.

Jun. 21 2012 02:57 PM
Thano from Tappan

A concert hall ain't Yankee Stadium. We go to listen, to savor, and to appreciate the music that others make for us. Anything that gets in the way interferes with that experience. It boils down to this: does the right to express yourself freely override the right of others to enjoy the music without interruption? Here's where a concept comes in that might be new to some: consideration for others.

Jun. 21 2012 02:50 PM
Peter Scott Cameron from Toronto & Brooklyn

It is an interesting debate...but I do have to say that I am seeing considerable grandiosity and elitism here in terms of "required" behavior and demeanor etc.
Of course, one would not want to interfere negatively with a performance, and I would not like to reduce someone else's enjoyment with my responsiveness. Yet, music is an emotional, expressive art.
I love classical music and yet I seldom go to concerts because the atmosphere is absolutely stifling. "Stuffy" does not really describe it.

Jun. 21 2012 02:49 PM

Today it seems any rule, any tradition or any general mode of behavior must be challenged as out dated, stuffy, restrictive or whatever. Most frequently these traditions have developed for very good reasons. To learn appropriate behavior is part of the communal experience, communal respect and respect for the artists. Fortunately or unfortunately, these days any boob has music at their fingertips in the form of recordings and can summon the greatest listening possible to which they can ignore, abuse, criticize, compete with or listen to with rapturous attention. This has led some to downgrade and dismiss the public and communal ritual of actually hearing music live which is a far more unique and precious experience, and for many, a quasi-religious one given that great art is happily slowly replacing the dictates of blind belief and hypocrisy of religions. Listeners who may be unaccustomed to public manners, respect for others around them and understanding of the extreme work, sensitivity and artistry that it takes to create such an experience and the historical import of these works, not to mention the hefty price that seats can cost (like young children, culturally deprived individuals or those foreign to customs and traditions) may find traditional modes of behavior restrictive or even confusing at first, but it should not take long and much concert going to realize the interruption and annoyance to those around you of behaving badly: talking, eating, chewing gum, rattling jewelry, talking on the phone, singing, tapping one's foot, kicking the chair in front of you, etc. etc. in short doing anything except listening and not making a nuisance to others of yourself. I also dress appropriately out of the respect and admiration of the artists' efforts, the social milieu I will be encountering and a certain self respect that demonstrates I actually care about how I look and the impression I make on others. The very worst we can do is "dumb down" artistic events, "jazz" them up or succumb to "anything goes" on the totally false and self defeating premise, however slickly presented, that important standards should be sacrificed or lowered in the hopes that they will somehow attract new audiences. If the attracting of such new audiences depends on demeaning the experience, those audiences are either being mislead, disrespected or treated to an inferior experience of the art.

Jun. 21 2012 02:39 PM
Gail Flannigan from New York City

The intrusion of applause between movements is as obtrusive as a cell phone ringing for both the audience and the musicians. It most certainly breaks the mood and transition. When did we start to toss out all courtesies in our culture? Maybe when we accepted wearing ripped jeans and shorts in our concert halls?

Let's pass on some proper etiquette to neophyte theater goers. Those who applaud at concerts between movements are simply ignorant of behavior that involves sensitivity to other people. What a surprise!

Jun. 21 2012 02:38 PM
Mike Keenan from NYC

I find any noise in a concert hall, either during the performance or between movements, distracting. A classical concert strives to create a mood with the individuals in an audience. Extraneous noise, clapping, coughing, unwrapping candy, etc. spoils the mood the musicians are trying to establish. Classical music is contemplitive. NO NOISE PLEASE.

Jun. 21 2012 02:28 PM
Neil Schnall

When you are hosting a performance in the privacy of your own domicile, i.e., an audience of one (or with your own invited guests) assuming you are fortunate enough to have the resources to support it, yes, you may eat, drink, laugh, cheer, shout or whatever you want to do. If, however, you are in a public space, attending a performance as a member of an audience comprised of the public, you have entered into a social contract. This obliges you to behave in a way that is considered appropriate to the context. Your ticket is license to participate in silence. It is not liberty to behave however you please, if that behavior is disturbing to others in that space. This is what a social contract entails. You are at liberty, of course, not to go to such concerts if you cannot control your behavior.

Jun. 21 2012 02:23 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

There is a double standard at work in the "classical" world, in that opera performances -- while not subjected in these parts to the excesses of the legendary Italian claques -- are constantly interrupted (and expected to be so) by applause at the end of arias, duets, or, at times, other ensemble pieces. While this is usually in places where it is expected, or where there is a moment where the conductor can hold things in stasis, it is still "in medias res." It also happens in jazz concerts (another "serious" musical genre that is losing audience), after solos in the middle of pieces. However, there it is usually low-keyed. I remember rock concerts from my former life, where people tended to wait (after perhaps applauding the opening of a favorite tune) till the end before applauding. Now it seems that the crowd's response drowns out what it thinks it's reacting to, and the experience is diminished.
with "classical" music, say a string quartet or a lieder performance, do we really want the disruption of constant outbursts of applause or that awful "woooo" noise, such that the rest of us can't hear what we paid to hear (i.e., the music)? While I see no problem with applauding at the ends of individual segments of a unified work, the mad outbursts during the performing, however Franz Liszt may have taken them, is not what I want to hear.

Jun. 21 2012 02:22 PM
Bernie from UWS

I would welcome concerts that were more like Liszt's time. You should be able to eat, drink, laugh, cheer, shout if you like something the performer does, etc. As the one guest here says, that was the way things were done for centuries and only in recent years did it all stop. Why should it have though? It's made classical concert-going a lot less fun. Let's bring back the spontaneity!

Jun. 21 2012 02:06 PM
Peter T Greene from Battle, East Sussex, UK

An interesting debate. I do not worry too much nowadays if people applaud between movements, especially after attending operas. In Opera, the culture is that the audience applauds after every rendition by one of the principals of a key aria in the production, even though some of us find that this disturbs the continuity of the performance and story line. Perhaps someone can explain why there is this apparent difference between the lack of acceptability of applause between movements in symphonies and its acceptability in the middle of opera performances.

Jun. 21 2012 02:03 PM
Laura from New Jersey

While there are times when spontaneous outbursts of applause may be acceptable, as in opera performances, there are often times when such applause breaks the mood or relationship of works that the conductor has worked hard to achieve. As a choral singer, I've taken part in many concerts where a number of individual pieces were crafted to form a cohesive unit of song or instrumental theme. Perhaps this was done through subject matter, or through the tonal/key relationships of individual pieces, or another form of progression. To applaud between individual numbers (or between different movements of a requiem or other lengthy work) would break the continuity that was intended in presenting the set of musical pieces as an entity.

When a set is planned this way, we request in our program that all applause be held until the end of the final piece in the set. This leaves no question in the audience members' minds about when to applaud - as long as they read the program.

Jun. 21 2012 02:03 PM

Neil schnall's commentaar about reminded me of aan funny(?) story. A friend of mine ons a date was brought to a classical musical. In trying to impress his date, he jumped up and applauded after the first movement of a concerto. Of course, he was the only one standing!

Jun. 21 2012 01:56 PM
AFH from New York City

Go to a ballet performance at ABT. Every jump, every pirouette, every lift is met with wild applause. It's like being at the circus, but at a ballet, the music is integral to the experience. So be thankful that concert audiences wait at least until the end of the movement (altho i think think they should wait until the end of the piece).

Jun. 21 2012 01:53 PM
Neil Schnall

A concert is an interactive experience that does not necessitate demonstrative behavior. Attentive concentrated listening IS audience participation. The fact that this may be difficult for some people does not exonerate them from appropriate behavior in a specific setting wherein respect for the performers and other audience members is an understood prerequisite. It should not be the obligation of the performers and/or presenters to cater to lower standards of behavior than have become the norm.

It should not be challenging to behave in accordance with the context of one's surrounds. If you are in private, you may yell, scream and stamp, talk or text on your phone, clap along with whatever music you wish, air-conduct, or whatever suits your fancy. If you are in a concert hall to hear live performers, you have every right to sit in silence. If you are ignorant of the appropriate moment to applaud, take your cue from others around you who may be more knowledgeable. It's not necessary to be the first to clap.

Jun. 21 2012 01:18 PM
Mat Dirjish from New York, NY

Audience appreciation/participation is wonderful and should be encouraged to a reasonable extent. What is reasonable? I believe it's reasonable for the audience to hold its applause until the end of a work made up of short movements. Works with fairly long movements, hey, why not clap for each one. Also, it would be more than reasonable to ask any audience to refrain from the pactice of throwing rotten vegetables and fruits at the performers unless absolutely necessary.

Jun. 21 2012 11:57 AM

Having been an organist/choir director and most of my performances having taken place in churches, it seldom happened that people applauded between movements. Often they would applaud between pieces. At one performance I played the Stations of the Cross by Dupre with a reader doing the poems between each station. At that particular time I asked in the program that the audience keep the "applause of silence" until the performance was completed.

re: coughing. My experience has been that during soft, emotional pieces people cough not because they have a cold but because of the emotion of the moment. Notice, for instance the next time you're at a performance of the Mozart Requiem during the lacrymosa. Happens most every time.

I feel that between pieces, that if a performance is especially good, people almost must applaud. By the way, this is almost always done at the Opera.

Jun. 21 2012 10:55 AM

I would vote for silence until the end of a performance. I always get a kick out of the bursts of coughing between movements. People force themselves to hold off until there's a pause. Some folks hold the cough until they're blue in the face. Amusing. And don't forget to pick up cough drops in the lobby.

Jun. 21 2012 10:09 AM

The "protocol and ritual" of a concert don't seem too onerous: sit down, shut up, and listen to the music. Applaud when everyone else applauds. How hard is that? It's only hard when people find it difficult to cope with the fact that the performer, for the moment, is the center of attention, not them; sociopathy and narcissism are endemic in today's society.

Jun. 21 2012 09:30 AM
Barbara from Long Island

Being a musician, there is nothing worse than people applauding over the music you worked and practiced so hard perfecting. Comparing classical music to pop and rock is a joke since they are totally two different genres and have totally different cultures. Almost anyone can produce pop music (ever watch the Disney channel??) but to perform classical music is not an easy feat. I feel that to maintain the dignity of the art, I agree with Mahler and feel that reverence for the composers and the musicians is called for.

Jun. 21 2012 08:44 AM
concetta nardone

Do not know if the Italians still do it but there was time, years ago, when they would boo, throw things, mutter really nasty words, etc.

Jun. 21 2012 08:38 AM
Jeff from Jerusalem, Israel

Two comments:
1. Possibly there was more spontaneous applause in the past because at that time this was new music-the Rock and Roll of its time. And I don't think I need to say how loud the audiences are at Rock and Roll concerts.

2. That being said, customs evolve over time and although it is appropriate to acknowledge the artistry of the performance it is better done at its conclusion. Aside from disturbing the concentration of the performer, others in the audience have also paid to HEAR the performance. If they can't then there is no reason to come and pay for it.

Jun. 21 2012 06:09 AM

Hey Donnie. Re.

A nod might be OK, but if a performer is in his/her zone and expecting a performance to flow in a certain way, this could be a problem. Not insurmountable, but a problem nevertheless.

I don't applaud between movements.

Jun. 21 2012 03:40 AM
Daniel from Merion, PA

When I was a young child I loved to sing along with whatever music was playing but it drove me absolutely mad if my younger sister would do so (OTHER people really can't sing along very well). I still have to suppress the urge to sing, whistle, hum, tap and conduct along with any great piece I happen to hear at the concert hall because I realize that it would bother me if others did so and while I really think a compromise between the two approaches would be most appropriate (i.e. that I and nobody else would be allowed to sing along with the orchestra) I realize it's highly impractical.
I think since we go to a concert and are many times familiar with every note of the piece it is a very different listening experience from that experienced in the days or yore when people listened more often to "new" music which could be the reason that it's hard not to expect to hear every note at the concert hall and be disturbed by interruptions.

Jun. 20 2012 11:38 PM
Donnie Darko from Chelsea

I was at the NY Phil last weekend and audiences were applauding between the movements of every piece on the program. A man in front of me kept looking at his wife and huffing and rolling his eyes every time. It was kind of amusing the first instance but it got annoying. Shouldn't he be glad that there were newcomers in the hall there to support the artform he presumably enjoys?

What I also dislike are the artists who don't acknowledge this applause when it happens. You don't need to do a formal bow (which I think are overdone in the first place) but you should at least smile and nod at the applause. This isn't a rock concert where you can just cop an attitude!

Jun. 20 2012 08:14 PM
RG from Boston

To Barry --

Oh dear, aren't we in a twist! Sorry, I didn't realize you were THAT guy.

Jun. 20 2012 07:27 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

To RG from Boston-

Perhaps you missed the tinge of sarcasm within my comment. BTW . . . concert hall monitors are called ushers and the conductor wields a baton unless it's Kurt Masur who is standing on the platform or rather, podium.

Jun. 20 2012 07:22 PM
Jim Stewart from Rochester, NY

I hope we find more ways to make classical music more accessible from the standpoint of listener participation... including showing appreciation and being caught up more often in the emotion of the momment. One of the things I love about opera is the genuine audience response, in the moment, to an aria well sung. OK, I'm 65 and still a cultural snob, but I can go with loosening the "rules" a bit. Maybe not a philhamonic mosh pit (Is that dated?), but some more room for spontaneous response.

Jun. 20 2012 07:18 PM
RG from Boston

I'm a relatively new classical music lover, and I find the stiffness of some of my fellow concertgoers quite off-putting. It's a live concert, people, not a wake! Now, I'm not saying I want people whooping and hollering endlessly (although crowd-surfing could be interesting), but I think throwing shade at someone because they clapped after the first movement of Mozart's 39th Symphony (as I would) is just plain silly. Being in a concert hall is an electrifying, passionate experience, and that's what I want to experience in full when I spend my money and time enjoying a great orchestra or soloist.

I don't want to spoil anyone's else evening, but I shouldn't have to stifle or synchronize my emotions because some killjoy insists we all adhere to some arbitrary code of behavior that only seems to exist at the symphony.

If an engaged, enthusiastic audience worked for Liszt, it would certainly work for me.

and having to sit on my hands for some arbitrary rule enforced

Jun. 20 2012 06:42 PM

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