Interesting piece on Radio 4’s arts flagship Front Row this evening, concerning etiquette at classical concerts. There has been some consternation among the classical faithful that a new breed of concert-goers are filling the seats, and they simply don’t know when to applaud.
Etiquette has it that one doesn’t at the end of movements, only at the end of whole pieces. When asked what the history of this convention was, one composer noted that it ‘had arisen during the 1920s, when music began to move from the church to the concert hall, and the piety of the church came with it.’ When to stand, when to sit, where the hell we are in the prayer book – church-going does nothing if not refine your sense of when the right time to do something is.’
What’s lovely about this is that we’re seeing a reversal: the concert hall has become the church: 30 or 40 years after churches became worried about trendy new people coming in and spoiling the altar cloth, it’s the grand classical halls that are now worried about ruffians ignorant of convention. What’s been their response? To offer an ‘alternative service’ – check out the ‘Night Shift’ concerts given by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Whatever our position, this asks the question of all of us: what is our reaction to those who receive in a different way to us? Music, worship, art and gifts. Is our mode of reception preventing others from sharing?
See also from the archives: ‘On Music‘