I’ve been going to classical music concerts for as long as I can remember. At this point in my life, I attend about 40-50 concerts each year. But apparently, I’ve been clapping wrong this whole time.
That is, if Joy Weaver is to believed, I am most definitely applauding incorrectly. How to do it properly is one of a handful of classical music concertgoing tips for the wealthy in Weaver’s latest article for Affluent magazine. (I’d link to the article, but linking encourages clicking, which increases pageviews. Google it if you must.)
Yes, sadly, such a magazine exists. Its mission statement includes the reminder that “money may not buy happiness, but it definitely buys ‘happier,‘” and later goes on to discuss the etymology of the world “luxury.” (Lux = Latin for light, meaning Affluent must naturally be “a beacon of light that helps bring [rich people] more awareness, enjoyment and, hopefully, even more wealth and abundance [of money, time and spirit] then they ever thought possible.”)
Enter Joy Weaver, if that is her real name. An etiquette expert who, as I’ve learned, “frequently appears on Good Morning Texas” and name-drops Zig Ziglar, and who has penned (pen by Tibaldi, no doubt) an article for Affluent entitled: “Symphony Etiquette: Protocol of the Hall.”
It’s nauseating. As someone who has devoted his life to making classical music more accessible to as many people as possible, I couldn’t help but reprint Joy’s article here with a bit of translation/amplification.
“If you are a patron member of your local symphony, or if it is your obligatory duty to attend a concert just once a year, it is of utmost importance to help enhance the experience and not be an embarrassment to yourself and everyone around you without even knowing it.”
Technically, this isn’t exactly a complete sentence. Lop off those introductory phrases and you end up with a subject and verb that don’t make sense alongside one another. But that’s not even the point. The thesis here seems to be: “you probably can’t leave your giant castle without making a total ass of yourself and because you’re so rich and powerful and important, no one has the guts to tell you you’re making an ass of yourself.” How sad for you and your bags of money.
“Good concert etiquette helps both the audience have a wonderful musical experience and helps the musicians perform to the best of their ability.”
In other words, pay attention to the thing for which you bought tickets. Everyone around you will be grateful you’re not telling stories about the time you had to fire three pool boys in one week while Mozart is playing. However, to suggest that you have some sort of magical powers that can make the musicians play better is nonsense. Even you, with all your bags of money, are not that important. They perform well because they’ve invested (see, I’m using words you can understand) thousands of
dollars hours in a practice room, honing their craft.
“Tips to remember before leaving home for the concert:
Dress the part! Dressing up is more common for the classical and traditional symphonies and business attire is acceptable for the pop series. Check with your local symphony; different regions of the nation are more casual than others where casual dress is acceptable.”
Yes, this is true–if you’re going to a concert to bank some credit with the culturati. If you’re simply going because you want to hear some Beethoven because you like it, make sure your naughty bits are covered and go get your Eroica on. If you want to ensure you look out of place, wear a tuxedo with a black bow-tie and order the most expensive glass of champagne at intermission.
“Babies and small children should be left with a caregiver. Think of the frustration of those who are trying to escape the chaos of life for a few hours only to find their seats are behind Kate, her date and her eight very young children.”
Nobody likes your kids anyway. Plus, you’ll score some points with Michael Tilson Thomas.
“It is best to check with your local symphony to find out if there is a certain age for children to attend. Also, most symphonies have children’s musical programs throughout the year.”
Seriously, why did you even have kids in the first place? Save the money you would spend on tickets and put it in their trust fund. Then when they’re older, they’ll be able to buy premium Ecstasy at the club. Heaven forbid your little ones be allowed to experience the music of Bach.
“Tips to remember when arriving at the concert hall:
There is no “fashionably late” when you are attending the Symphony.”
Tell your driver to “step on it.” And offer him a little extra protein in his gruel if he can run over a few poors on the way.
“Turn off anything that beeps including your digital watch beep, cell phone, pager, and text toy. If you are so important that you must have your cell phone “on” then by all means place it on silent – not vibrate, which is called “manner mode,” and minimize the light on your display.”
Good advice here, mostly. But what exactly is a “text toy?” It sounds kinky. I suppose that’s why you’re supposed to leave the kids at home?
“Tips to remember before entering the concert hall:
If you have a pesky cough in your throat, make sure to take unwrapped cough drops with you. Many symphonies supply lozenges at their information table. Remember: You do not want the embarrassment of unwrapping cough drops in the middle of the concert.”
Little-known fact: the pocket lint picked up by an unwrapped cough drop provides 75% of your recommended daily intake of fiber. Which means, you better skip the Metamucil on concert days. You do not want the embarrassment of leaving skid marks on your concert hall seat.
“One more thing: Hearing aids above a certain volume “whistle,” creating ambient noise disturbing the audience and musicians. It is a good idea to check with your symphony to see if an alternative assisted listening device is available for the performance.”
When I’m writing and I get really lazy, I just put quote marks around words to emphasize them and then use other words to describe the opposite of what they mean. Yes, I know that the “whistling” caused by hearing aids is a disruption of ambient sound, not a contributor to ambient sound, but whatever, at this point I’m just trying to hit my word count, okay?
“When entering a row, the etiquette rule is to enter facing the people in the row, in order not to put your backside to their face. This way you can look them in the eye and say excuse me if necessary. Note: If by chance you have to get up or move or any reason, wait until between selections when the audience is applauding.”
By “one more thing” last paragraph, I really meant “more than one more thing.” But since I don’t have a delete key on my computer *and* no one edits this, I just left it in. Anywho, this thing is mostly about not rubbing your ass up on someone on the way to your seat. Better to go junk-to-junk.
“Very important! Don’t talk or whisper during a performance. Concert halls have excellent acoustics, and even a whisper can be heard a row or two away.”
One more thing. But seriously, shut up, dude! (This does not apply in Avery Fisher Hall. Everyone knows you can’t hear anything in that shoebox.)
“Applauding made simple
“How to clap
The art of clapping- Remember, the appropriate way to clap is holding your hands slightly to your left and clapping small brisk claps. Never clap in front of your face. For a standing ovation – stand, lift your elbows high and slightly to the left, then clap small and briskly.”
Here I’m going to distract you with multiple headings (and italics wheeeeeeeeee!) instead of a proper transition. Then, I’m going to tell you you’re clapping wrong. Truth be told, you’re not clapping wrong, but I wanted to include something extra snooty in this piece, which could have the potential to make you feel like you’re doing something wrong, which would make me feel better about myself for castigating you, you badclapper. Never forget, I want it up and slightly to the left.
“For whom to clap
Always clap at the entrance of the Concertmaster, any soloists, and the Conductor/Concert Maestro, at the end of each piece.”
I liked the italics so much last heading that I decided to stick with ’em. After the concertmaster, soloists, and conductor have entered and you’re waiting for the “Concert Maestro,” it is totally appropriate to stand up, belch a little bit, and ask in a loud voice, “Hey man, where the $*@& is the Concert Maestro?” Someone (perhaps the conductor) may suggest in a stern voice that such a thing doesn’t exist, but don’t let that deter you. Just get louder and more belligerent with each denial. Eventually the “Concert Maestro” will appear.
“About the Concertmaster:
This person is the First Chair Violinist and is second in command of the entire orchestra. At the beginning of the concert, the concertmaster will come onstage. The audience claps as a welcome, and as a sign of appreciation to all the musicians.”
I paraphrased this first sentence from Wikipedia and used strange capitalization techniques because I’m so lazy and just don’t care that much. You also shouldn’t care about this moment in the concert. All that’s happening is some self-important schlub (who’s probably living paycheck-to-paycheck, by the way) is delaying your opportunity to drink champagne at intermission.
“About the Conductor/Maestro: It is customary to applaud when the conductor first comes out on the stage. He or she will bow to acknowledge your applause and the concert will begin.”
Here the “heading” goes within the paragraph and don’t act like I owe you an explanation. Do pay attention to this moment, though, because you’ll need to recognize this person’s face. He or she (let’s be honest, “he”) is the one who will be pretending to laugh at your jokes at the reception afterwards.
“When to clap
Most classical works are broken down into parts called “movements.” There is often a brief pause between each movement, almost like chapters in a book. The tradition in the concert hall is that applause should only occur when the work is finished and not in between movements.”
Oh snap! Italics! I brought them back. You thought they were out of style, but like the way you clap, that’s wrong. Speaking of clapping…yeah, we don’t do that. Not in between movements, anyway. I mean, it’s been that way for like hundreds of…um…months. It’s not like an audience at any of Tchaikovsky’s concerts clapped in between movements…or demanded that Beethoven encore a single movement immediately…or rushed the stage at a Haydn concert…or cheered during a performance by Mozart…or Brahms…or Mahler…or Stravinsky. For goodness sake, we’re talking about art here. How dare you have an emotional response!
“To find out the number of movements in a particular piece, turn to the program page in your Playbill program. Applause should occur only after the last movement and the conductor has dropped his hands and has turned around to acknowledge the audience. Another way to tell is when the conductor turns around and smiles to the audience.”
In other words, it’s more virtuous to squelch any emotional response you may be having to the music than to let it spew forth like the time the waiter accidentally made you taste the 1984 Dom Pérignon instead of the 1982. (What was he thinking?!?) Point being, if you feel something, push it deep inside and never let it out. Also, I need to point out that for a conductor: “turning around to acknowledge the audience” is totally different than when a conductor “turns around and smiles to the audience.” It’s night and day, folks.
“While some are fans of Mahler Symphony and others only look forward to the Pop Series the symphony should be experienced by everyone. Now that you know the basic protocol of the concert hall, you can experience the symphony with comfort and confidence – enjoy!”
I realize that when I say “fans of Mahler Symphony” I betray the fact that I don’t actually know what I’m talking about at all. More important than that, though, is that I’ve now given you 768 words of caution, admonition, pre-condemnation about how to not screw up your symphonic experience for yourself and others. I do this so you can feel comfortable (not too comfortable) and confident (in a self-conscious way) about coming to Mahler Symphony. So, come! Just don’t bring your kids, clap at the wrong time or in the wrong way, wear the wrong thing, say something stupid, grind with your neighbor, smell funny, unwrap your lozenge, or show any appreciation whatsoever of this amazing artistic experience you’re about to embark upon. I mean, seriously, what is this? Jazz?