Thursday, January 12, 2012
What NOT to do at a concert.
You all know I'm something of a music nerd. Ok, a big, huuuuuuge music nerd of epic proportions. It's alright -- I'm just going to go ahead and own this fact. Because it's kind of sexy that I can tell you the precise notes which make up the major harmonic third of a dial tone. Right?
(F + A. Work it, girl.)
As you can imagine, I attend a lot of recitals, concerts and other musical performances. I also enjoy participating in these events. It's a hobby of mine. Some moms like to scrapbook or make cute things or bake delicious desserts -- I like to sit on uncomfortable auditorium chairs for hours and listen to the works of Handel, Grieg, Foster and Whitacre. It's cool.
Recently, I went to my younger sisters' high school choir concert. The choral music program at the school they attend is stellar. Award-winning, critically-acclaimed, you get it. The house was packed to the brim as usual and everyone was very excited for the concert to begin.
Before the performers took the stage, the house manager read off a list of concert etiquette reminders (as is customary at most performances). This list was also conveniently printed in the program. However, these precautions didn't prevent multiple interruptions -- blaring phones, bawling babies, premature applause, obnoxious catcalls -- from disrupting the concert. In fact, it seems these types of things are always happening at the concerts I attend.
AND THIS MAKES THE MUSIC NERD IN ME FUMING MAD. All-caps, bold, underlined MAD.
So today, I am going to educate you, the masses, on what NOT to do at a concert of any kind.* I say this out of love and understanding. I don't want to offend anyone. I just want abolish ignorance. Okie-dokie!
1. DON'T leave your cell phone (or pager, or homing pigeon) on. There is nothing worse than being completely enveloped by a gorgeous pianissimo (super-quiet) phrase of Romantic era music when suddenly, your reverie is shattered by a MIDI version of "Fergalicious." Seriously, people. This is uncalled for. When you get to a venue, sit down, make yourself comfy, then take your phone out from wherever it may be and SILENCE it. Heck, just turn it off if you can. Or leave it in the car. And refrain from texting during the performance, because phone lights happen to be really bright and distracting.
2. DON'T clap before a piece is completely finished. And what I actually mean is, wait until the conductor's hands are AT HIS SIDE before applauding! I get it -- you loved the piece; it made you cry and it made your heart soar. I really do get it. However, music is not just sound, but also silence. The conductor knows just how many seconds of pure silence to add after the last note sounds to create a wonderful aural experience for you. So let him tell you when to clap. If you're at a recital and there is no conductor, wait until the performer appears "at rest." You'll know when it's OK if you are paying attention.
But even if you can't tell, it is better to err on the side of more silence. Let yourself and the rest of the audience soak up the moment. Let that final massive chord ring in the air for a bit. It's much more exciting that way, I promise.
And NO to catcalls. Just ... no.
3. DON'T bring children who cannot sit still and remain quiet. I'm probably going to upset some people with this one. But as a music lover and mother of two small children, hear me out.
Bubby and Smush have not yet attended their first musical concerts. Yes, even 4-year-old Bubby stayed home with a sitter while I sang in the last EVMCO performance. Some might find that cruel -- she didn't even get to see her own mother sing! Well, Bubby is a very bright and good little girl, but she's not the best at sitting still. Plus, she has an early bedtime. So why would I subject the audience members around her to endure her tired grumblings and constant movement? It would be inconsiderate to her as well as the patrons and the performers.
I had a nursing baby for an entire year. And for that year, I missed quite a few concerts. C'est la vie.
Concerts are often recorded. And guess what? There is no way to edit out the high-pitched shriek of a toddler from a live recording. Trust me; I've tried.
Here's the good news: YOU get to decide if your child is well-behaved enough to sit through a performance without causing a disturbance. If you've paid for their ticket, no one is going to keep you from entering the hall with your little one. But, if you do allow your small child to attend, please sit near an exit in case he becomes upset. And when this happens, leave quickly. Don't say, "My kid will quiet down in just a few seconds." Because 10 minutes later, you're going to have a lot of angry concert-goers casting nasty glares in your direction.
Audience members pay a lot of money to see their loved ones do their thang up on stage and/or have a cultural experience. And even in the case of free events, the performers have worked tirelessly for months, sometimes years, to prepare for these performances meant to enrich your life. So be respectful in your actions.
No one is more important than the performers. Even if Barack Obama attended Highland High School's choir concert, he would still be less important than the teenaged singers on the stage. This is why they would be on stage with bright lights shining on them and he would be sitting the darkened house amongst the peasants. Duh.
Attending a professional concert can be a life-changing experience. I, for one, would have never joined my high school choir if I hadn't gone to that first concert during my freshman year. Ten years and hundreds of musical experiences later, singing in a choir is one of my greatest passions and joys in life.
Go to concerts, enjoy them and have a great time. But please, be courteous of others. Don't be selfish. Don't be ignorant.
These are generally good rules to live by. And they make you look gooooood.
*Unless you are watching the Backstreet Boys or Jimmy Eat World or something, because then you are permitted to scream and cry and jump up and down and dance and all that. We're talking mostly about classical performances here.